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Cognitive Development Theory in “Parenthood” by Ron Howard Essay

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Updated: Mar 27th, 2021

In the scene where the father is talking to his daughter about her falling grades; which stage of Plaget is his daughter, Patti, in? In a scene that follows, Patti will do a math problem, what stage must she be in so that she can do that math problem? Would Piaget agree with this scene?

Patti is approximately five or six years old, which means that she should be in the preoperational stage. To estimate Patti’s stage, one can remember her mother’s words about the preschool attendance. During this stage, children learn to understand objects symbolically. A scene that demonstrates that thinking comes when Patti is reading a book by Franz Kafka with her father; to read, children need to understand how words (as symbols) work. As Ültanir (2012) points out, language development is fast at this stage because children learn to understand relationships between objects (e.g., between words in a sentence and how they construct it).

However, to resolve the math problem, Patti would need to enter the formal operational stage. During this stage, children learn to use abstract thinking to understand ideas (Ültanir, 2012). As Patti is just learning to read, as shown in the scene with the book, it is difficult to imagine that she would be able to resolve a math problem because she is not able to use abstract thinking yet. Furthermore, preschoolers are usually unable to complete complex math tasks because they do not know how abstract thinking works in mathematics in particular.

Piaget would not agree with this scene for the following reasons: children who have not yet reached the formal operational stage are more likely to interpret mathematical symbols and graphs either as pictures or letters, but they usually have a hard time interpreting them as symbols for abstract ideas. As Planinic, Milin-Sipus, Katic, Susac, and Ivanjek (2012) point out, children without developed logical thinking are dependent on their perceptions rather than abstract reasoning.

Analyze the scene where Steve Martin’s youngest son, Justin, is eating the dots. What Piaget stage is Justin in? Which of the three components (assimilation, accommodation or scheme) is Justin using when he is eating the dots like potato chips?

Justin appears to be in the preoperational stage as well. As an example, one can remember the scene where Justin is stuck in a garden chair. During this stage, children are unable to use logical thinking to a greater extent or to deduce why some of the situations happen.

When Justin is eating the dots, he uses a scheme that exists in his thinking and relates to potato chips. The scheme contains bright flat objects (that can also be crispy), which Justin can eat because he (presumably) finds them tasty. Schemas are used to organize knowledge that individuals already have into “blocks” that can be later used for performing some behaviors. As Piaget (2013) points out, a scheme can be defined as “a generalization instrument enabling the subject to isolate and utilize the elements common to similar successive behaviors” (p. 366). In the scene, Justin generalizes and perceives the dots as potato chips.

In the scene with the ‘thumb trick’ which Piaget concept made that scene difficult for Patti, the little girl who screams and runs off?

Adaptation is defined by Piaget (2013) as a process that helps individuals utilize new information to form ideas and adapt to change. Patti shows difficulties in adaption as she cannot use existing information (the finger cannot be removed easily) with the new information (the finger disappears). The same difficulties are shown in another scene, where Patti observes how Justin spins in the yard. She tells her mother that she does not understand why he is doing it. Patti demonstrates that she does not know that some activities can be done for fun and have no other implication. As we observe throughout the movie, Patti only learns to perceive things as practical, and the new information (that people take some actions just to have fun) cannot be adapted into her existing schemes.

References

Piaget, J. (2013). Mental imagery in the child: Selected works. New York, NY: Routledge.

Planinic, M., Milin-Sipus, Z., Katic, H., Susac, A., & Ivanjek, L. (2012). Comparison of student understanding of line graph slope in physics and mathematics. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 2(3), 1-22.

Ültanir, E. (2012). An epistemologic glance at the constructivist approach: Constructivist learning in Dewey, Piaget, and Montessori. International Journal of Instruction, 5(2), 195-212.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Cognitive Development Theory in "Parenthood" by Ron Howard'. 27 March.

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