Developmental Theories

Theorists consider that emotional, social, cognitive and moral skills develop in stages.

  1. Psychosocial – Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is most widely used. At each stage, children confront a crisis that requires the integration of personal needs and skills with social and cultural expectations. Each stage has two possible components, favorable and unfavorable.
  2. Psychosexual – Sigmund Freud considered sexual instincts to be significant in the development of personality. At each stage, regions of the body assume prominent psychologic significance as source of pleasure.
  3. Cognitive – Jean Piaget proposed four major stages of development for logical thinking. Each stage arises from and builds on the previous stage in an orderly fashion.
  4. Moral – Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is based on cognitive development and consists of three major levels, each containing two stages.
Stage Erikson Freud Piaget Kohlberg

(birth to 1 year)

Trust vs. mistrust Oral Sensorimotor (birth to 2 years)

(1-3 years old)

Autonomy vs. same and doubt Anal Sensorimotor (1-2 years); preoperational (preconceptual) (2-4 years) Preconventional

(3-6 years old)

Initiative vs. guilt Phallic Preoperational (preconceptual) (2-4 years); preoperational (intuitive) (4-7 years) Preconventional
School Age

(6-12 years)

Industry vs. inferiority Latency Concrete operations

(7-11 years)


(12-18 years)

Identity vs. role diffusion (confusion) Genital Formal operations

(11-15 years)



Source: Lippincott’s Review Series