Developmental psychology

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Developmental Psychology, also known as Human Development or Development Across the Life Span, is a branch of psychology that deals with mental and psychological development of humans from conception to death. Among the topics addressed in developmental psychology are learning, maturation, critical periods, cognitive development, social development, moral development and aging. Almost all theories in developmental psychology are presented in a series of stages, such as Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stages of development.


Freud’s Psychosexual Development Theory: Proposed by Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939), the theory suggests that over the course of childhood, sexual impulses shift through various stages:

Oral Stage, from birth to one year of age

Anal Stage, from one year to three years of age

Phallic Stage from three to six years of age

Latency Stage from six to eleven years of age

Genital Stage during adolescence

Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory: Proposed by Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980), this theory suggests that children learn by interacting with their environment and during that learning and interaction, cognitive development takes place:[1]

Sensorimotor Stage, from birth to two years of age The sensorimotor stage is characterised by building on reflexive actions, and then the individual acting to either maintain or repeat sensations of interest. The major learning accomplishment here is establishing a sense of object permanence.

Preoperational Stage, from two to seven years of age The child intentionally experiments with physical objects. They increasingly develop a sense of planning and internal representation of physical objects through assimilation and accommodation. At this stage, they have trouble decentering to consider more than one object characteristic at a time. Develops language and concepts.

Concrete Operational Stage, from seven to eleven years An increasing ability to mentally manipulate the internal representations of concrete objects. The child is able to decentre to consider more than one characteristic at a time of an object. Develops a sense of conservation of quantity.

Formal Operational Stage, from eleven years of age and on The child is able to use abstract thought and logical reasoning.

Erickson’s Psychosocial Theory: Proposed by Erik Erikson (1902 – 1994), this theory expanded upon Freud’s psychosexual stages and also put forth the idea that development must also be understood in context with the culture that the individual is maturing in and Erikson went beyond childhood in his studies and stages of development:

Trust vs. Mistrust, from birth to one year of age

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, one year to three years of age

Initiative vs. Guilt: from three to six years of age

Industry vs. Inferiority Diffusion: from six to eleven years of age

Identity vs. Identity Confusion: adolescence

Intimacy vs. Isolation: young adulthood

Generativity vs. Stagnation: middle adulthood

Ego Integrity vs. Despair: old age


  1. Piaget, Jean. La Psychologie de l'intelligence. 1947, Armand Colin, Paris.