Freud, Piaget and Bronfenbrenner Views on Child

Freud’s psychosexual theory

Freud has been prominent in two connected but different ways. He developed a theory on how human mind is structured and operates internally, and how human behaviour results from the understanding of the human mind. From these two theories he developed a theory of how human sexuality starts from a very young age and developed through various fixations.

The cataleptic processes in the mind and also the unconscious conflicts and motives which cause behavior are focused in Freud’s psychosexual theory. This theory consists of three main components namely: dynamic or economic component, structural component and stage component.

In dynamic component, Freud took up the concept of energy and applied it to human behavior. He identified the psychic energy which operates different parts of the body of organism. According to Freud the source of the energy is instinct or unlearned psychological drive. For him the sexual extinct became a major life extinct which is necessary for the survival of the species hence the word psychosexual.

In structural component, Freud emphasizes three parts or levels of personality. These parts are the Id, the Ego and the Super-ego. The Id is an inborn biological structure whose purpose is immediate gratification and reduction of tension through the leisure principle. It is illogical, blind, demanding, insistent, and unconscious, disorganized, cannot tolerate tension and never matures. According to Freud the interaction between individuals and the environment forms the Ego.

It is ruled by the reality principle, does realistic and logical thinking, plans and formulates plans to satisfy needs it is the seat of intelligence and rationality and it shapes and controls the blind impulses of the Id. Super-ego is the legal stem of character it is moral and presents the internalized standards, values and norms. It has two basic components, the Ego ideal and the conscience.

The stage module views five stages of psychosexual development of personality. These stages include the oral stage which occurs between birth and two years. The primary area of focus during this period is the mouth and the lips which are used for sacking and eating food and anything that a child gets his or her hands onto. The second stage is the anal stage which occurs between two years and four years of age. At this stage the anal area becomes the source of focus. The child finds elimination quite pleasurable. The third stage is the phallic stage. It takes place between four and seven years of age. In this stage the child is captivated with urination which is found to be pleasurable.

The stage is important in resolution of the Electra and Oedipus complex. The next stage is the latency stage which occurs between the age of seven and twelve years. During this period the sexual development is suspended and the child’s energy is channeled to other behaviors e.g. developing fondness with others and setting up ties with same sex parent. The last stage is the genital stage. This occurs at thirteen years of age and above and according to Freud it is the final stage of development. At this phase sexual themes are revived and the adolescents begin to desire members of the e opposite sex and to assume the responsibility of procreation (Shore 1997).

Freud asserts that if these stages are not psychologically completed, individuals can be trapped by them and may lead to defense mechanisms as a means of managing fixated behavior.

Piaget’s cognitive stage theory

Piaget was a biologist and helped to understand intellectual development. He viewed how children’s minds work and answered the question on the characteristics and capabilities children that allow them to adapt to their environment. According to Piaget assimilation and accommodation are the key ideas responsible for adaptation.

Adaptation is ones inborn tendency to adjust to his or her environment. Assimilation is the process of taking in new experiences from the environment and interpreting them by incorporating them into our existing schemata. Accommodation on the other hand is the process of modifying or altering the existing schemata in order to incorporate new experiences.

Piaget also described the stages of individual cognitive development. Cognitive development in children involves changes in cognitive processes and abilities. He discussed four stages of cognitive development as below.

Sensory-motor stage: this lasts from birth to the age of two years. At this stage children make use of the inborn skills and abilities e.g. grasping, sucking, listening and looking. They develop a sense of self to learn more about the environment. The sensory- motor stage is divided into six sub-stages characterized by development of new skills. These comprise of , spontaneous effect activity which is between (0-1 month), primary circular reactions that lies between(1-4 months), secondary circular reactions (4-8 months), co-ordination of reactions (8-12 months), tertiary circular reactions (12-18 months) and early representational thought (18-24 months).

Pre operational stage: precedes from the age of two to six years associated with language development. Children are more proficient at constructing and using mental symbols to think about objects, situation and events they encounter. At this stage the child is egocentric i.e. cannot take the point of view of others. The child also lack conservation (Inhelder and Piaget 1958).

Concrete operational stage: starts at the age of seven up to age eleven. Piaget believed that children at this stage can apply their operations only to objects, situations and events that are real or imaginary. They develop logical thinking and can go from a specific experience to of a general principle. They are able to safeguard mass, volumes, numbers, area and liquids. Formal operational stage: this begins at age twelve and lasts into adulthood. Individuals at this stage develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Thinking is not tied only to imaginable or observables. Creative responses, systematic problem solving and logical reasoning are developed.

Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory

Significant structure from which to scrutinize the value of early childhood policies, practices and programs on the lives of children and their families are entailed in the bio-ecological theory of human development by Bronfenbrenner.

In his model of ecology of human development, he acknowledges that individuals don’t develop in isolation but in relation to their family and home, society, community and school. Bronfenbrenner argues that these ever-changing environments and interactions among these environments are key to development. He has been the leading theoretician of human development over the past fifty years. His ideas on human development symbolize the basic model used in all of the developmental systems theories.

The major point about bioecological model is child centeredness. It begins by focusing on a child’s experiences because according to Bronfenbrenner, the child’s early experiences are the drives of human development. According to Bronfenbrenne, he asserts that the development of a child occurs through the processes of multipart relations between active child and objects, symbols and people in his or her immediate environment.

To be successful, the interaction must take place on a moderately regular basis over a long period of time. Important settings where a child spends most of his or her time include the family, childhood education and health care centers and sites of community learning like the play grounds and neighborhood.

According to him, human beings requires an active participation in interaction with symbols, objects and people in their immediate environment in order to develop socially, morally, intellectually and emotionally.

He asserts that a child is judged by what she or he experiences in the places she or he spends most of her time in. For example there should a person to provide play materials for the child, one to talk and read with the child and one to teach the child appropriate ways of living. The experiences learned by the child from the people and objects in these settings are primary agencies of human development.

The relationship with important adults in a child’s life determines their development. It is more about the changes the child experiences in between settings.

There are four major components of bioecological model as identified by Bronfenbrenner. These components include, process, person, context and time variables (Bronfenbrenner, 2004).

Major points of similarity between the three theories.

Freud, Piaget, and Bronfenbrenner in their above discussed theories, all gives their views on the development of a child right from the time of birth to adulthood.

The three theories discuss how of a child’s interaction with his her immediate environment affects his or her development. For example, according to Freud an individual will experience an arrested development at one of the stages of psychosexual stages if the people he or she interacted with during that stage under or over gratified the need, according to Piaget, one’s experiences in the physical environment i.e. the family and the community will influence his or her cognitive development and according to Bronfenbrenner, the experience that a child gets from the immediate settings acts as the drive to his or development.

All the three theories emphasizes on the development of the mind either of a child or an adult. For example the structure and operation of the mind are focused on Freud’s theory, Piaget’s cognitive stage theory viewed how children’s minds work and Bronfenbrenner’s theory on the factors that determine the development of the mind.

Freud, Piaget and Bronfenbrenner all suggests that in some the society plays an important role in children’s development, for instance for a child’s development to be successful he or she must first understand how his or her society operates so that he or she may adjust his or her behaviors to fit in the society.

Major points of difference between the three theories.

Freud’s psychosexual theory focuses mainly on how human sexuality begins from a young age and developed through various stages, Piaget’s cognitive stage theory focuses on the intellectual development of an individual while Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory focuses on the overall development of human beings.

The cataleptic processes in the mind and unconscious conflicts and motives which cause behavior are focused on Freud’s psychosexual theory focuses on , Piaget’s cognitive stage theory focuses on the characteristics and capabilities of children that allow them to adapt to their environment, while Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory focuses on the experience a child acquires from interaction with the objects, symbols and people in his or her immediate environment.

Interaction of cognitive, physical and emotional development on the overall development of the child

Child development may be defined as smooth progressive changes or growth that take place in a child during the life span from birth to adolescence. The change occurs in series involving cognitive, physical and emotional development.

Cognitive development is a mental activity through which children acquire knowledge, reason, solve problems, perceive and develop language. Physical development refers to bodily changes and may changes in weight, body size, hearing, bone thickness and in the motors. Emotional development refers to changes in the way a child his or her feelings and reactions about self and others.

Emotional and cognitive development act with and upon each other to process to process information. The delays in the emotional development of a child will also result not do well cognitively , the same applies the other way round.

For children to develop well emotionally, a safe and protected environment should be offered to them to help them discover their actions and feelings. Fresh and exclusive concepts should be favored by the immediate surrounding that entails both physically and cognitively motivation and at the same time maintaining familiarity.

Physical development such as play contributes to cognitive and emotional development. Skills such as problem solving, language competence and interaction are developed as a child plays with peers. Children also understand, express, share and control their emotional experiences with others.

As a children develop physically, the learn to play with others. This helps them to improve their mental skills. Through imaginary or fantasy play, a child develops abstract thinking. They get rid of aggression and learn to control aggressive urges. Physical development requires the body to identify and employ external experiences and emotional stability to feel secure about exploring new ideas (Bergen, 1988).

Emotional development relies on judgment to understand situations and identify peoples responses and transform their behaviors. Why the understanding of normal child and adolescent development is important. Child and adolescent development covers a period of eighteen years. Over this period a child develop in numerous ways. Out of these numerous ways, different stages of development are of prime importance.

Adolescents generally experience similar emotions as children though there is a difference in their minds. Great attention should therefore be paid both children and adolescents. Parents should provide a favorable home environment where there is unconditional love.

Understanding of normal child and adolescent development is important to ensure that an environment that allows the child and adolescent to develop and attain their desires and to discover more about their society is provided. This is to ensure that their dealings will not deter them from becoming part of their own society.


Generally, human development is a smooth progressive series of changes that occur in a predictable pattern as a result of interaction between biological and environmental factors. The society however, plays an important role in development and children should therefore be allowed to learn more about their society for successful development. Different parts of development work with each to make the whole process of development successful therefore an environment that support all parts of development should be provided. Child and adolescent development however should be well understood and given sufficient attention since children and adolescents tends to be very vulnerable.


Bergen, D. (1988). Stages of Play Development, Play as a Medium of Learning and Development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Inhelder, B. and J. Piaget (1958). Growth of Logical Thinking from Childhood to Adolescence. New York, Basic Books.

Shore, R. (1997). Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development. New York: Families and Work Institute.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (2004). Making of Human Beings. Bioecological Perspective on Human Development. Sage Publication.