Cognitive Development in Childhood

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 4
Words: 1096
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


The module is devoted to analyzing the theories of cognitive development, the roles of nature and nurture, and the impact of research on education. Children accumulate the necessary for facing their needs knowledge through the process of cognitive development.

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Thinking is an exceptional mental process because it involves such vital activities as problem-solving, reasoning, creating, conceptualizing, categorizing, remembering, planning. Children’s’ cognitive development changes drastically through the years. The researchers revealed that a few years are drastic in terms of the children’s cognitive development. Their perception reality of 3-years old and 6-years old children differs significantly.

The research on child’s development usually strives to answer the following questions:

  • How nature and nurture are combined in cognitive development?
  • Which qualitatively distinct stages are inherent to the cognitive development progress?

There are three main types of child development theories: Piaget’s stage theory, sociocultural theories, and information processing theories.

Nature and Nurture

Using the term nature, scientists describe the biologically inherent endowments. In other words, the combination of genes that a child receives from parents or ancestors. On the contrary, nurture is used to define the environmental, social, and physical factors affecting children’s development. The researchers believe that nature and nurture are interrelated. Cognitive development would be impossible without any of these factors.

  • Nature and Nurture Combination Example. Researchers figured out the dependence of nature and nurture through visual attractiveness and temperament experiments. The examination showed that both nature and nurture affect children’s cognitive development. The more attractive infant is likely to get more care and attention from the parents. Therefore, the cognitive development of such a child will be higher from both: environmental and genetic perspectives.
  • Another experiment is correlated with the development of depth perception. It was devoted to examining whether children can perceive their distance to objects in the environment. The formation of the visual experience primarily depends on both nature and nurture. None of these aspects can be excluded because their combination contributes to the efficient cognitive development of the child. For example, children with visual genetic distortions are likely to have problems with the perception of distance. On the other hand, when the child is isolated, having no object around to analyze, the situation stays the same.
  • Another example of the combination of nature and nurture is the children’s own cognitive development. The formation of their personality is directly connected with the decisions children make from the very first day of their lives. Each action, when genetic peculiarities interact with the environment, affects cognitive development. For the child, the process of gaining knowledge is itself the combination of nature and nurture.

The children’s choices during the first years of their lives significantly affect cognitive development. Many decisions are made for them by their parents. Thus, nature and nurture are combined in cognitive development.

Stages of Cognitive Development

The researchers also examined the nature of cognitive development to state whether it is gradual and continuous or sudden and discontinuous. In order to elaborate on this issue, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget proposed four discrete stages of children’s cognitive development. These stages are separated according to the children’s age.

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  • The sensorimotor stage characterizes the children up to two years. During this period, children have only visual and physical interactions with reality. They do not understand the essence of objects’ existence. For example, if the thing is removed, the child will not figure out that it still exists. In the sensorimotor stage, the child gains information through manipulating the objects.
  • The preoperational reasoning stage lasts from two years old to seven. This stage involves more complicated processes such as using language and primitive decision-making. However, during this stage, children cannot comprehend dimensional thinking. The most vital in proportional reasoning is that thinking is still dominated by perception.
  • The concrete operational reasoning stage involves children aged from six to twelve. During this stage, children start to express the inclinations of logical thinking. However, they are still able to control only a few emotions. In other words, they lack objectiveness in their reasoning. Children believe that their point of view is the only correct one.
  • The last, formal operational reasoning stage evolves the adolescence from the twelve years old and throughout the rest of life. During this stage, children develop the reasoning of mature adults being ready to solve all complicated issues involving scientific reasoning.

Piaget’s theory had a significant impact on the research in cognitive development. It allowed analyzing the stages of child perception and thinking. Moreover, it was stated that this theory could be applied in practice to enhance the more efficient education of children. However, this theory was criticized by many outstanding researchers. For example, Diamond and Baillargeon considered Piaget’s approach as having poor reliability and validity. Later experiments showed that children are able to develop thinking stages faster than Piaget supposed. The varied environmental conditions influencing children’s cognitive development may also contradict the theory. Some children may develop particular skills earlier under specific conditions. However, Piaget proposed the general classification of the stages. This research allowed to create the base in examining the children’s cognitive development.

Application to Education

Children’s education can be more efficient when the knowledge about how they study and learn new information is applied. For example, the phenomenon of phonemic awareness allows children to learn the language faster. According to the practical research, phonemic awareness skills training results in a higher IQ and social class background. Cognitive-developmental research can also be applied in teaching mathematics. Children engaged in numerical activities such as Chutes and Ladders game have a higher level of cognitive development. This is related to the development of the multisensory foundation necessary for the knowledge of numerical magnitudes. Such games allow children to develop numerical magnitudes skills the ability to read printed numbers and solve arithmetic tasks. Understanding how cognitive development works, parents and teachers can use particular games or techniques to develop the thinking of children.


Cognitive development is a highly researched and debatable question. Even though much research has been held on this issue, additional exploration of this question is required. Children are the future of society thereby, parents and teachers should ensure their efficient cognitive development. Based on the developmental stages, which Piaget proposed, the researchers gained valuable data and developed new educational approaches. However, this theory has drawbacks and lacks proven repeatability. Thus, the exceptional cases should be described in detail while using Piaget’s theory. Research allows people to understand the process of cognitive development and apply gained knowledge in practice. Moreover, the understanding of brain functioning also contributes to the general progress of society.