Stages of Psychological Development in a Child

From birth to young adulthood, children have a life separate from their physical being.

The stages and ways children learn follow the physical milestones of development, with babies learning by using their senses and children in school learning by experience, trial and observation. Depending on how the child’s parents interact with her, she develops a good sense of herself or she views herself as lacking.

Piaget: Sensorimotor

Jean Piaget, a child psychologist, described how children learn about their environments in different stages.

Babies, from birth to approximately two years of age, learn about the world by using their senses and motor skills.

Children in this stage learn from sensory cues. Let him see your smile when he does something you want him to do; let him hear your calm voice when he is scared or not feeling well, according to the Honolulu Community College website.

Children also develop object permanence, learning that objects continue to exist even when they don’t see them, according to the Learning and Teaching website.

Piaget: Pre-Operational

List of the Cognitive Development of Early Childhood

Learn More

Children who are just beginning to talk enter the pre-operational phase.

In this stage, the child is oriented only to the present. She hasn’t learned how to think about past or future.

The child in this phase is strongly influenced by fantasy or how she would like the world to be, according to the Honolulu Community College website.

At this age, the child is still egocentric, seeing only her viewpoint. She is not yet able to see things from someone else’s viewpoint.

Piaget: Concrete Operational

The child in the first grade begins to enter the concrete operational phase. He begins learning how to think more abstractly.

He also progresses to the point where he can think logically about things he sees, e.g., water coming out of a pipe is running. In order to learn, he needs to be able to question what he sees, then try to talk about what he is observing, according to the Honolulu Community College website.

Erickson: Infancy

Developmental Characteristics of Toddlers

Learn More

Infants are learning to develop ego strength and how to trust their parents.

The infant whose parents consistently meet her needs learns she can trust others to provide for her immediate needs. On the other hand, if her caregivers are inconsistent in meeting her physical needs, she learns she cannot trust others and begins to view herself as worthless, according to the Learning Place Online website.

Erickson: Early Childhood

The toddler at this stage of development has to learn how to do things for himself--when he is given these opportunities, he begins to develop autonomy and a strong sense of self-worth. It is during this stage that he learns the power of the word “no.” While this is a trying stage, it is also important for him to develop and learn to use his own mind.

Two important concepts affect the toddler at this time: as he is learning to do things for himself, if he is told he is wrong or bad, he learns to view himself as shameful and his self-concept is low, according to the Learning Place Online website. If he is not allowed to do things for himself, he also learns to doubt his abilities, according to the Hawai’i website.

Erickson: Play Age

The three-year old begins to grapple with the Oedipal conflict with her same-gender parent. During this phase, she learns to identify with the role society has assigned to her in order to resolve this internal conflict, according to the Learning Place Online website.

She also begins to mimic the adults in her life, making up play situations with her toys and playing out various roles.

When she engages in her play situations, she is using initiative in learning about the different roles she sees. If her instinctive desires are stifled by her parents, she experiences guilt.

At this stage, she is also developing conscience, according to the Hawai’i website.

Erickson: School Age

The child in this stage, sometimes called the “latent” phase, learns several new skills. He grows in knowledge and utilizes industry in order to learn everything he needs to know. If he is told that he is inadequate or that he falls short in some way, he develops a sense of inferiority, according to the Learning and Teaching website.

The child of this stage begins to expand his world beyond his parents and family. His social life begins to expand.

The child in this phase wants to experience accomplishment. He is also learning new social relationships and rules of society. Successful navigation of this stage gives him a sense of ability and competence, according to the Hawai’i website.