17 Mar 2022


Cognitive Development Concept Map

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Academic level: College

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Optimal growth of children is vital to the society and hence it is crucial to comprehend the cognitive, emotional, social, and educational development of children. Cognition being the mental activity and behavior that enable us to fathom the world around us includes functions of perception, thinking, learning, and memory. Various factors affect cognition in child development including social, biological, environmental, and motivational factors (Wohlwill, 1980). An apprehension of infant growth allows us to acknowledge the importance of the cognitive development children undergo from birth through childhood and into adulthood. Various theories have been postulated that try to explain the patterns of cognitive growth perceived in children. This article goes into child development from age 0-8 in four different stages explaining the development theories.

Infant stage (0-2Years)

In the sensorimotor stage, children can build an understanding of themselves and reality through manipulation of objects and sensory experiences (Piaget, 1964). The baby can distinguish between itself and other objects, helping them understand their existence through individual perception. They can afterward attach names to objects after understanding the differences between themselves and different objects. Language development takes place at this stage with the receptive language coming into use in the first year, later on followed by productive language in the second year. The learning process occurs through the processes of adaptation and equilibrium according to Piaget.

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The former involves children adjusting their behaviors to correspond to the situational demands while the latter involves matching of a child’s readjustment functioning to environmental requirements. It helps draw lines between personal perspectives and reality, which helps them make possible adaptations and decisions. Adaptation involves two processes, assimilation, which is the praxis of previous abstractions to new ones, and accommodation, which is the alteration of previous notions when presented with new information.

The aspect of hope - trust and mistrust, comes from the parents nurturing capacity and care of the child. It manifests itself in the form of visual contact and touch whereby optimism, confidence, security, and trust develop if the child is properly handled. If mishandled, mistrust and other negative attitudes evolve in the child. The Dynamic Systems Theory, on the other hand, explains the development of movement in children (Wohlwill, 1980). Movement, on the other hand, comes from the cooperation of various subsystems within the environment, child, and task.

Toddler (3-4years)

In the preoperational stage, speech develops, and the child uses holophrastic speech whereby they utter words that exude complete ideas. In the third year, telegraphic speech develops, and the child uses short complete sentences to communicate. Toddlers are not able to conceptualize intellectually and rely on concrete physical situations (Piaget, 1964). Although they struggle with logic, they still learn through pretend play and take sides with other people’s points of view. In the autonomy vs. shame stage of the Erikson’s development stages, the child has the chance to build self-esteem and independence (Perret-Clermont, 1980). Depending on the care the child gets as he or she learns new skills and distinguishes the right from the wrong, various character traits start to show such as temper and defiance. At this stage, the child is most vulnerable when they experience low self-esteem due to an inability to learn something.

Attachment comes about after interaction with those around the child. It is a psychological connection whereby there is an exchange of care, comfort, and pleasure between the child and caregivers. The early childhood experiences are crucial in future behavioral developments. It is a human nature propensity to create emotional bonds with particular people. Both Attachment and Erikson’s theories are psychological in nature hence they are interrelated.

Constructivism and social-cultural theories are both concerned with learning activities that the children engage. The former however postulates that the child should attend to the cognitive and learning representations of the individual while the latter is concerned with ways in which discovery is a way of enculturation (Perret-Clermont, 1980). Behaviorist theory, on the other hand, supports the social, cultural theory in that a child learns from the environment of those around him or her. Virtues are encouraged through reward while wrong doings are punished. The Social learning theory creates a bridge between cognitive and behaviorist theories since it encompasses memory, motivation, and attention. It posits that children learn from each other through modeling, observation, and imitation.

Kindergarten (4-5years)

In the concrete operation stage, the physical experience builds up, and accommodation is increased. Thinking becomes more abstract and conceptualized as the child creates logical structures to explain their physical experiences (Piaget, 1964). The struggles come in when dealing with hypothetical concepts. The children understand that thoughts are independent and not shared hence; they accommodate other people’s opinions as well as mind their feelings. It is linked to behaviorist theory whereby punishments that follow negative deeds enable a child to differentiate the good from the bad. In this way, the child understands the wrong from the right and hence minds other people.

In microsystem level of the Ecological System theory, the environment surrounding a child influences their lives. It includes the parents, teachers, among others (Perret-Clermont, 1980). The child becomes part of this system, and they influence each other. The purpose stage of Erik’s model complements this since the children have a desire to imitate the adults and take the initiative by creating play situations. The agents influencing the child’s character, on the other hand, mould him or her using behaviorist theory. Attachment to those around the child also occurs depending on their interactions. In the process, the child continues to mature through Gesell’s theory of maturation.

Elementary (7-8 years)

In the competence stage of Erick’s model, the child is capable of creating, accomplishing tasks, and learning and as a result develops a sense of industry. It is a social stage, and hence problems such as low self-esteem and competence arise when they experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy or inferiority among peers (Perret-Clermont, 1980). All other factors affect the child in the same way as was in the kindergarten stage.

The mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem levels of the Ecological System theory also kick into place in this age bracket. The mesosystem involves relationships and interactions between the different Microsystems in one’s life, for example, the school and family life. In the exosystem, there is an opening whereby situations that the child does not have any active roles in affect him or her. Macrosystem involves the actual way of life of an individual (Wohlwill, 1980). It creates a direct link to the social, cultural theory and attachment theory.

Different theories describe deeply how teaching and learning are efficient and enables one to understand the two and appreciate their importance in Early Childhood Education. The theories are all interrelated in one way or another, and a single theory cannot effectively describe the cognitive development in children. Together they bring out the complete picture with explanations for psychological, social, and cognitive factors.


Perret-Clermont, A. N. (1980). Social interaction and cognitive development in children . Academic Press.

Piaget, J. (1964). Part I: Cognitive development in children: Piaget development and learning. Journal of research in science teaching , 2 (3), 176-186.

Wohlwill, J. F. (1980). Cognitive development in childhood. Constancy and change in human development , 359-444.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Cognitive Development Concept Map.


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