Theories of Development and Thought in Children

Theories of Development and Thought in Children


The concept of cognition in the child in terms of development is used for mental activities including recognition, understanding and learning of the world. The ability of the child to understand and evaluate life has its own characteristics.

Developmental theories in children

Piaget’s Cognitive Theory is considered to be the most comprehensive and effective approach to children’s thinking abilities. However, other theorists also explained the cognitive development of children. The theories of Heinz Werner and Jerome Bruner include some fundamental assumptions:

  1. The process of obtaining information includes active learning.
  2. The development and isolation of primitive and reflex responses are followed by development.
  3. The development is linked to the previous stages, while supporting the next step and taking place in the following stages.
  4. Behavior has biological foundations and emerges with appropriate environmental warning.

Heinz Werner Theory: 

Orthogenesis, which is the basic concept in Werner’s theory in terms of child development , involves differentiation and hierarchical integration, which are the two main characteristics of development. According to the principle of differentiation, primitive and generalized movement systems are differentiated and fused with other systems and generalized movements occur. According to the principle of hierarchical integration, developments are rather advanced systems replace the less advanced systems.

The approach parallel to this principle is the genetic spiral principle. Accordingly, when the child reaches maturity, occasionally there will be a temporary regression to the previous development stage. Werner’s 3-stage growth assessment includes sensory motor development, perception development, and thinking development.

Jerome Bruner Theory: 

In terms of development in children , Bruner focuses on infancy, pre-school, school age and adulthood in his studies. Piaget and Bruner agree on the principle that human development consists of a series of progressive and different stages. Bruner examines human development in three stages: The Period of Movements, The Imagination Period and the Symbolic Period

  • Movement Period:  Baby’s knowledge is realized through repetitive motor activities with the objects he knows. Basic operations in gaining information, looking, orienting, handing, catching, such as behavior. Looking at the objects by focusing is the most basic information process.
  • Imagination Period: The  child represents his world objectively and evaluates his environment. At this stage the child uses his imagination.
  • Symbolic Period: The  person creates the symbols or the idea is made with symbols. The child’s speaking skills develop. Abstraction ability is evolving.

Jean Piaget Theory: 

Jean Piaget , an active researcher who studied his environment , tried to prove that children were not miniaturized models of adults. Reflex behaviors coming from birth are enriched with life. These are placed in the child’s mind as a schema. Baby’s use of previous schemes in new situations is the assimilation. The child adjusts the previous scheme and adjusts it through adaptation.

According to Cognitive Development Theory in child development , children experience a 4-stage process from reflex level to thought level. The transition from one period to another is slow and does not affect all aspects of the child’s functions. At each stage there is both vertical and horizontal development. As we approach the new stage with vertical development, horizontal development and common behavioral patterns are internalized.

Sensory Motor in terms of Child Development (0-24 months)

It covers the first 2 years of life. Reflex behaviors are characteristic with this period. It consists of 6 sub-development stages:

Reflex Stage in terms of development in children (0-2 months):  There is intense reflex experience. There are changes in existing reflexes.

Rotary Reactions Stage (2-4 months):  Develops baby diagrams. The bottle image is the basis for the absorption behavior. As the previous schemas are repeated, new schemas are created. The coordination of the schemes is important: the scheme of the suction and the capture scheme are in coordination. Monitors and captures objects with sight and capture schemes

Second Stage of Rotary Reactions (4-8 months):  Gain awareness about motor movements and their consequences. The continuity of movements is at the forefront, for example rattle swing. They are not in a position to understand the environmental consequences of child behavior. Object continuity is observed at the primitive level.

Fourth Stage (8-12 months):  Characterized by the coordination of the second rotary responses. The idea of ​​intent and behavior is gained. New objects are added to previous schemes. The game has clearly gained importance.

Fifth Sub-Stage (12-18 months):  Actively attempts objects around. Object continuity is at the maturation level. Prior to this step, the rotating reactions are in repetition as long as they reach the same results. At this stage, the reactions are in the test state as long as the results are different, for example, the rattle is attempted to produce different sounds at different positions.

Sixth Stage (18-24 months):  Schemes are generalized. The ability to represent objects has improved. It is used together with concrete sensory motor. They classify objects in a primitive way and use them as symbolic or representative, for example the car from the matchbox. In this period, imitation plays an important role in mental development.

Pre-Processing Period (2-7 years):  Transition to this phase does not occur suddenly in mental development. It is examined as 2 sub-periods.

  • Conceptual Period (2-4.5 years): Symbolic processes are enriched and language development and representative skills begin to be used. According to Piaget, language is a symbolic function representing concepts. Schemas are enriched and become self-centered for the child. Begin to load meanings into objects. This can lead to communication difficulties between the child’s unique way of thinking and his environment. He can solve a problem, but he can’t make a statement.One-dimensional thinking which is typical in this period in terms of development in children prevents the perception of conservation. The reasoning of the child is transductive. The concept of reversibility and conservation is yet to be understood and implemented. For example, because it is attached to a single dimension of the object within the perception area, it considers that the proportion of water in the long container is higher. In liquid and material preservation samples, the assessment of the child takes place based on some perceptual properties of the stimuli (such as a long container or rocket-shaped paste).

    The child is egocentric enough to evaluate events in any subject with his own perspective. It is called animism to attribute vitality to inanimate assets. For children 4-6 years old, everything is alive. Things are moving for 6-7 years old children. For 8-10 years old children are living things on their own. Children over 11 years old only know that animals and plants are alive.

  • Intuitive Period (4,5-7 years): The  child thinks by trying the complex situations. At the point of thought and reasoning, it can still evaluate only one dimension. Although the capacity to think concretely, mind processes are limited. When he turns to a process, he uses his mental ability to adapt.

Tangible Operational Period (7-11 years): 

It is concurrent with the child starting school . Volume, weight, mass conservation principles begin to be understood. Inversion, multidimensional thinking, the concept of equality, the ability to queue objects develop. Uses abstract symbols. The most significant cognitive feature in this period is multiple classification. It can classify objects presented in 3 different sizes, such as size, color and shape, by any feature. You can sort objects by size, for example from large to small. The child in this period tends to learn by making, living, sensations from the sensory organs.

Abstract Operational Period (11+): The  abstract thought has begun in the child; It tends to establish hypotheses that it does not know or experience, from the previous cognitive balance environment. It is based on mind processes, hypotheses and recommendations. Thinking about possibilities beyond time and space, he can construct reality accordingly.

The characteristics of abstract thinking which is the result of hypothesis without observing in terms of development in the child are as follows:

  1. Evaluation of the relationship between reality and what is possible
  2. Adapter analysis capability
  3. Suggestive thinking ability
  4. Deductive thinking ability with hypotheses

Adolescent’s sense of humor and humor has reached the understanding of adults. Adolescents develop their own principles apart from the existing rules and create unique rules independent of others. It symbolizes symbols and evaluates words beyond their own meaning with other concepts. These issues should be considered in terms of child development .

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