Developmental Theories of Freud Piaget Erikson

The sample essay on Freud Piaget Erikson deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.

The developmental theories of Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson

Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson are all respected theorists in the study of psychology. All three have theories that help to explain why and how children develop into adolescents and adult hood. Although all three provide their own theories on this subject each theory shares similarities and differences with one another.

Having a better understanding of each theory and the theorist will lend a better understanding to developmental processes that go into a child growing to an adult.

Jean Piaget is best known for his theory that suggested children think differently than adults. His theory proposed that children’s cognitive development developed in stages. The stages began with the sensorimotor stage (Birth to two years), where children are concerned with mastering concrete objects.

During this process infants rely on their senses, such as touch, and their movements to learn to manipulate things close to them. An example used is that a reflex infants have is to close their hand and grasp an object when it is placed in their hand, during this stage children learn to purposefully reach out and grasp objects at will.

Which Theory Of Development Do You Prefer: Piaget Or Erikson’s Stages? Why?

Infants learn this process and build on it leading into the ability to throw things and when they get older they will obtain the ability to use their imagination with objects such as using an object to imitate a different one.

Get quality help now

Proficient in: Developmental Psychology

5 (339)

“ KarrieWrites did such a phenomenal job on this assignment! He completed it prior to its deadline and was thorough and informative. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The second stage is the preoperational stage ( 2-7years) in which the mastery of symbols happens. In this stage children obtain the ability to represent objects that are not present. A child will be able to use things like blocks to build imaginary cities, or play games like house and doctor. Certain objects take on the ability to be other objects even though the child knows that is not what they are in reality.

Another part of the second stage according to Piaget’s theory, is that children do not possess correct logic because they are only able to view the world from one perspective. If you show a child a container holding sand that is long and flat, and a container holding sand that is tall and thin the child will believe that the quantity is different even If they are the same just in different containers.

Children in this stage do not have an understanding of the why things work. That happens when they begin understanding operations. The third stage in is theory is the concrete stage ( 7-11 years) where children learn the ability to reason and how to work with classes, relations, and numbers. In this stage, if you show a child a similar example as the sand in the containers they will be able to understand that even though they look different the amounts are the same. Children in this stage learn the ability to see things from different perspectives and angles. With that ability their view of the world grows much greater and more profound. The final stage which is Formal operation otherwise known as abstract thinking (11years up) where children learn to master the process of thought.

Similar to gaining the ability to see things from other perspectives, children in this stage gain the ability to predict how different situations or problems may turn out. “Complex ideas like “love” and values are not just repeated concepts as in the concrete stage but are abstractly constructed using multiple sources. ” (Mossler, 2011, section 1. 5) He used the term “little scientists” to describe children and the way they view the world. They are basically discovering and experimenting with everything that they encounter and learning how to make it work.

Understanding that children are not simply small adults is critical in understanding Piaget’s theory. According to Piaget children learned the world around them by experiencing the different stages at their appropriate times. He believed that there was no way a child could skip a stage and that everyone went through them at the same strategic points throughout life. He made the connection that “In the same way that children cannot be forced to walk before they are physiologically ready, they cannot perform certain intellectual tasks either. ” (Mossler, 2011, section 1. )

Sigmund Freud stressed the importance of childhood events and experiences, but almost exclusively focused on mental disorders rather that normal functioning. He said child development is described as a series of ‘psychosexual stages. Freud outlined these stages as oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital. Each stage involves the satisfaction of a libidinal desire and can later play a role in adult personality. If a child does not successfully complete a stage, Freud suggested that he or she would develop a fixation that would later influence adult personality and behavior.

Freud mostly based his theory from his therapy sessions with his adult patients consisting of many with various psychosomatic disorders. According to Freud’s theory these patients were experiencing physical symptoms because there was a psychosexual stage which they had not fully fulfilled. “He believed that our most basic instinct is to derive pleasure by giving in to our innate aggressive and sexual impulses. ” (Mossler, 2011 section 1. 5) Freud described humans as having three essential components that built personality. The three components were the id, the ego, and the superego.

He described the id, as being what governed an infant’s drive to overcome their primitive biological desires. According to his theory infants had no other goal than to release the tension that built up when their selfish needs do not get met. In this theory the view is that a person spends their life simply trying to overcome the aggressive and sexual impulses that are caused by the id. The second component is the ego which develops during the second and third year of life. The ego is rational whereas the id is demanding at all costs.

Freud said that it was the ego’s responsibility to satisfy the wants of the id. The ego plays the role of a referee in a sense, where its goal is to both satisfy the id to keep frustrations at bay while doing it in a real and socially accommodating way. A primary example of the ego doing its job would be when a child wants a toy another child has, instead of simply taking it which is the want of the id, the ego forces the child to ask for a different toy, or to wait until the other child is done with it. This is otherwise known as the reality principal of the ego.

Freud calls the third stage that develops between the ages of 3 and 6 the superego. This stage is the stage that takes place as the child’s personality matures and rules of morality set in. This component has two parts. The first being the conscience which is what governs the difference between right and wrong, the second being the do-ideal which drives the personality to obtain perfection. According to Freud it is inside the different psychosexual stages that the interaction of the three parts of personality develops. Each stage is focused on a different body part or particular function.

The oral stage gets its name because Freud says that the center of pleasure for an infant is their mouth. Infants are notorious for putting every object they can get their hands on in their mouths. According to Freud placing objects in their mouth provides gratification such as having contact with a nipple or food. Freud said that within the second and third year the focus of a child moves from their mouth to their anus. His reasoning was a child learns to not give into their want for immediate gratification and learns to use the toilet.

Freud’s theory says that if a certain stage is not fully satisfied during development that this will lead to a fixation on that area as an adult. “Babies who receive inadequate warmth and closeness due to the lack of breastfeeding might develop an eating disorder. A fixation at the anal stage results in obsessive orderliness and attention to detail, or hoarding behavior (the retention of objects, like controlling bowels).”(Mossler, 2011 section 1. 5)

Freud states that maladjustment occurs when there is a lack of nurture from parents or there is an inappropriate interaction.

He contrasts that with a well adjusted adult coming from a parental situation where the gratification was well balanced. Erik Erikson disagreed with Freud’s theory and said that humans are formed and challenged by the environment. He said that there crisis developed because there would be a psychological need and a societal pressure that would clash. “For instance, a fourth-grader has a need to achieve, but may have a teacher who puts unreasonable demands on performance. Perhaps the child has a learning disability or is simply asked to complete work that is too difficult.

Erikson would theorize that a crisis would develop between the demands of the person and the demands of the social environment. ” (Mossler, 2011 section 1. 5)

Erikson is also credited with being one of the originators of Ego psychology, which stressed the role of the ego as being more than a servant of the id. According to Erikson, the environment in which a child lived was crucial to providing growth, adjustment, a source of self awareness and identity. Erikson pointed out that what might be a crisis in one culture may not be perceived as such in another.

He made a point that some things such as individual effort and competitiveness may be awarded in the American culture but not in a culture where the focus is to work cooperatively and the attention be more group oriented. For reasons like this and the many different cultures the same crisis of intersection would not apply universally in development. Erikson’s goal was to focus on psychosexual development, unlike Freud’s theory that focused mostly on psychosexual urges. Erickson believed it was important to focus on the importance of “self” within society, as well as how people interacted. For instance, in elementary school a child is motivated to learn new skills and attain a sense of competency; conversely, there is a risk of acquiring a sense of inferiority when the child feels socially incompetent or unproductive. ” (Mossler, 2011 section 1. 5)

According to Erikson’s theory, a person is constantly evolving and developing their personality throughout life. Erikson seen development as taking place in eight stages and did not see it as a stage that needed “completing” so much as a need to deal with the crisis and conflict that developed in the next stage.

There are several similarities and differences between the three theories. Similarly all three break development down into stages. Erikson’s greatest innovation was to form not five stages of development, as Sigmund Freud had done with his psychosexual stages, but eight. Erik Erikson believed that every human being goes through a certain number of stages to reach his or her full development, theorizing eight stages that need to be accomplished from birth to death. Erikson continued Freud’s genital stage into adolescence, and added three stages of adulthood.

Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson are all respected theorists in the study of psychology. All three have theories that help to explain why and how children develop into adolescents and adult hood. Although all three provide their own theories on this subject each theory shares similarities and differences with one another. Having a better understanding of each theory and the theorist will lend a better understanding to developmental processes that go into a child growing to an adult.


Mossler, R. A. (2011). Child and adolescent development. Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Cite this page

Developmental Theories of Freud Piaget Erikson. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Developmental Theories of Freud Piaget Erikson
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7