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Assignment 2: The Theories of Piaget and Kohlberg

Many researchers have written about child development, but none are quite as well known as
Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg. Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory and Lawrence
Kohlberg's moral development theory have been essential for researchers to gain a better
understanding of child development. While these theories are unique in explaining
different types of child development, they have many similarities and differences as well.

Jean Piaget's cognitive theory states that a child goes through many set stages in his or
her cognitive development. It is through these stages that the child is able to develop
into an adult. The first of these stages is called the sensorimotor period in which the
child's age ranges from 0-2 years old. During this sensorimotor period of a child's
development, the child's main objective is to master the mechanics of his or her own body.
Towards the end of this period, the child begins to recognize himself as a separate
individual, and that people and objects around him or her have their own existence. The
child, however, does not have a sense of object permanence meaning that when an object is
taken away, the child no longer believes that that object actually exists. As the child
nears the end of this period of development, he may seek an item that has been hidden in
the location where he or she last saw it, but does not look elsewhere (Smith). During the
preoperational period, which lasts from age 2-7, the child has come a long way in his or
her cognitive development since his or her birth. In this period, the child has a very
basic understanding of the inner workings of his or her mind and is ready to interact with
their environment in a more symbolic way. A limitation during this period is known as
egocentrism. The child has a hard time realizing that though there are many other people
and things in their world, none of them are more important that the child himself. The
child believes that his point of view is the only point of view of the world. This is
caused by his inability to put himself in someone's else's shoes (Smith). The concrete
operational period, spanning between the ages of 7 and 11, is marked by the onset of logic
to the young mind. The child is able to mentally manipulate objects and events. In other
words, he or she can imagine squashing a clay ball into a flat circle and then reshaping
the clay into a ball again (Smith). The child also begins to see how things are bigger and
smaller in relation to each other and also has an understanding of the understanding of
the idea of conservation. The final period of cognitive development is found in children
ranging from ages 11-15 and is known as the formal operational period. In this period, the
child has a clear understanding of the logics of his own mind, has become relatively
skillful at both language and math, and has come to be able to formulate hypotheses to
test against his or her environment and other people. This period essentially contains no
limitations since the child keeps developing and learning on his or her way to becoming an
adult. Although Piaget's theory does have its flaws, his work has greatly influenced
developmental psychology with this working theory of child development.

Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development was dependent on the thinking of Jean
Piaget. Kohlberg believed that people progressed in their moral development through a
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