AP Psychology
Developmental Psychology:
Freud, Piaget, Erikson, Vygotsky


  1. Stage theory v. Continuity
  2. Freud - Psychosexual stages
  3. Erik Erikson - Psychosocial stages
  4. Jean Piaget - Cognitive Stages
  5. Lev Vygotsky - Sociocultural Approach

Stage Theory v. Continuity

  STAGES – developmental period during which characteristic patterns of behavior are exhibited and certain capacities are established.

  •   Individuals must progress through specified stages in a particular order because they build
  •   Progress through these stages is strongly related to age
  • There are major discontinuities between stages in typical behavior

Sigmund Freud

- We will get to Freud more in Ch 12 with personality but for now you need to know:

  • Basic foundation of personality is set by age 5
  • ...Little changed after that

Erik Erikson

Erikson overturned Freuds theory in ht emid-20th century. Claimed development continues across lifespan.

8 stages – each brings a PSYCHOSOCIAL CRISIS – a turning point – each crisis was a tug of war between two tendencies and the resulting balance dictated personality moving forward.


1. Trust v. Mistrust – first year of life, infants are completely dependent on others. IF basic needs are met an infant develops trust, optimism.

2. Autonomy v. Shame & Doubt – 2-3 yo – personal responsibility for feeding, dressing, and bathing self. Toilet training begins. If it goes well child begins to feel positive autonomy, but if parent is never satisfied the child will internalize that and feel shame and inadequacy.

3. Initiative v. Guilt – Ages 3-6 children begin making their own decisions and that sometimes goes against parents rules. Parents need to support this emerging independence while still maintaining structure and rules. Too much discipline leads to guilt, too little leads to children not respecting others.

4. Industry v. Inferiority – Age 6-puberty children venture outside of the secure and nurturing home environment. School is a place where productivity is valued, and students interact with a larger social group (peers, friends, teachers, other adults). Success here leads to a feeling of efficacy and accomplishment, failure leads to inferiority.

5. Identity v. Confusion – SEE ADOLESCENCE

6. Intimacy v. Isolation – SEE ADOLESCENCE

7. Generativity v. Self-absorption – SEE ADOLESCENCE

8. Integrity v. Despair – SEE ADOLESCENCE

Erikson's Theory:

PRO: accounts for transitions AND continuity; draws connections between childhood experiences and adult personality; provided the basis for a great amount of research

CON: Depends heavily on case studies that are not always generalizable; relates “typical” developmental patterns that do not account for individual personality differences

Jean Piaget

COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT is the transitions in youths’ patterns of thinking, including reasoning, remembering, and problem solving. Piaget is more interested in HOW children use their intelligence than how MUCH intelligence they have. Stage ages are approximate and transitions between stages vary.

1. Sensorimotor period (birth-2) - Children learn to coordinate their sensory input with motor actions, gradual appearance of symbolic thought. Begin by responding instinctively, end by using mental symbols to think about things (coincides with development of language). Integral in acquisition of mental symbols is OBJECT PERMANENCE – knowing that objects continue to exist even when we don’t see them (PEEK-A-BOO!)

2. Preoperational Period (2-7) – Ability to think symbolically continues to progress, but Piaget focuses on the shortcomings children in this stage have.

  • Conservation – Ability to know that physical quantities remain the same despite changing shape or appearance (water experiment with different shape beakers). Problem understanding conservation is because of:
  •   Centration – tendency to focus on one feature of a problem and ignore other aspects
  •   Irreversibility – inability to envision reversing an action. Can’t imagine what it would be like if the water was poured BACK into the original beaker.
  •   Egocentrism – thinking characterized by a limited ability to share another person’s viewpoint (i.e. Does your sister have a sister?). --> Egocentrism has an interesting feature – ANIMISM the belief that all things are living, have human qualities (Why is the sky mad?)

3. Concrete operational Period (7-11) – mental operations begin during this time period, the ability to manipulate mental structures, must be tangible objects

  • Reversibilty - mentally undoing an action
  • Decentration - focus on more than one feature of a problem simultaneously à ability to think about more than one thing at a time leads to a decline in egocentrism and an ability to master conservation, master hierarchical thinking

4.  Formal Operational Period (11-adulthood) – Young people begin thinking in abstract concepts. They are not DONE developing, but their development will be one of degrees rather than TYPE of thinking

Lev Vygotsky

Vygotsky was not well known in the western world during his prime because he was a citizen of the Soviet Union. His main text wasn't even translated into English until the 1970s. EMPHASIZED CONTINUITY RATHER THAN STAGES.

DISAGREES with Piaget that children drove their own development through exploration, emphasized social interactions with those around them.

DISAGREES development was universal, emphasized that it was culturally dependent.

Piaget viewed language as just another step, Vygotsky believed it was the crucial component in how you viewed the world

Important terms:

More Knowledgable Other

Zone of Proximal Development



Eriksons 8 Stages (a bit slow...)