Differences between Piaget and Erickson’s Personality Theories
The developmental theory postulated by Jean Piaget and the psychosocial theory advanced by Erik Erickson revolve around biological characteristics as integral basis for the growth of knowledge (Leming & Dickinson, 2011). However, the two theories differ regarding the role played by the environment during the process of learning.
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According to Piaget, environmental and biological components play fundamental and complementary roles in a person’s development. It is biology that is used in adapting to the environment. Unlike Piaget, Erickson perceives growth as prompted by social and environmental elements. He argues that attitudes, cultures, beliefs, and values affect an individual’s perception and cognition.
According to Piaget, cognitive growth goes through definite, biologically unaffected and universal chronological stages (Miazga, 2000). He believes that each stage offers structured techniques of interacting with the environment. Piaget formulates four stages, which he sees as fundamental in development.
In his linear postulation, each stage builds upon the former while paving the way for the next. Erickson, conversely, proposes eight stages in individual cognitive development. He holds that due to the differences in individuals as they grow, the stages of progression are not essentially linear or as orderly as propagated by Piaget.
According to Erickson there is a possibility of going back to a previous stage to correct a task that was not properly completed before the individual biologically advanced to the next stage (Miazga, 2000).
In contrast, Piaget asserts that the stages are tiered and that each stage has to be completed before one can advance to the next stage. Piaget asserts that every single stage is unique and, therefore, discontinuous. On the contrary, the eight stages formulated by Erickson are all interconnected, and all participate in an individual’s personality development.
Another point of divergence in the two theories lies in the individual stages themselves. According to Piaget’s model there are four distinct stages (Miazga, 2000). People get to the final stage of development when they are around the age of eleven. Unlike Piaget’s, Erickson’s model comprises eight interrelated stages. In Erickson’s theory, the final stage is reached at around the age of fifty-five.
Similarities between Piaget and Erickson’s Personality Theories
Before looking at the similarities in the personality theories of Erickson and Piaget, it is important to note that they are both developmental psychologists who introduce new outlooks to their conceptualization of mental development.
The effect of their professions on their theoretical conceptualization is evident in their introduction of biological aspects to their works. Piaget uses the concepts of assimilation and accommodation in his philosophy, which are ideologies found mostly in biology.
Erickson and Piaget propose theories that are founded on fixed stages. In Piaget’s theory, he illustrates the cognitive development of children through stages based on internal growth. In Erickson’s model, he illustrates in eight stages how social factors impact individual development. In both theories, an individual has to pass through one stage in order to reach the next.
Both theorists try to explain a person’s cognitive learning process. Piaget adopts a structuralist viewpoint that indicates that mental structures transform in stages as a person interacts with the environment.
His view makes environmental factors integral in the mental development of individuals. Erickson also takes a similar structuralist approach. He believes in interconnected stages that have negative as well as positive elements, which enable a person to adapt to the environmental conditions.
The next area where similarities are evident in the two theories is in the ages at which individuals approach a stage. In Piaget’s model, the initial developmental stage occurs during the first two years of childhood. In Erickson’s postulation, the first year of infancy is described as the first stage. Piaget asserts that individuals learn how to move their limbs and bodies in the sensorimotor stage.
In a similar stage, Erickson illustrates how individuals discover how to trust their surrounding and the importance of this development in mental growth. During the initial years or growth, both theorists emphasize the value of reflexes and instincts in mental development.
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Leming, M., & Dickinson, G. (2011). Understanding dying, death, and bereavement (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Miazga, J. (2000). Developmental theories: It’s time to review. TCA Journal, 28(1), 4-10.