Theories in Psychology

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By Monique M. Chouraeshkenazi 

ErikErikson’s Theory

            Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development is predicated on the notion that an individual’s personality is based on a deliberate order that coincides and expounds on the next stages of development. His theory is comprised of eight stages, which infancy to adulthood, or the epigenetic principle (McLeod, 2018). The German-American psychologist and psychoanalyst who coined identity crisis,believed that if an individual has an episode due to influence of social behavior and/or the environment, it could significantly impact personality progression. The first five stages are for adolescents from infancy to 18 years of age: trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, and identity vs. role confusion (Greene, 2017). For adulthood, Erikson theorizes intimacy vs. isolation (18-40), Generativity vs. stagnation (40-65), and ego integrity vs. despair (65 and older) (Greene, 2017). 

            Based on the criticality of child development, the first five steps would be considered very important. The psychological and physical development of a child coincides with Erikson’s theory, which is based on growth, consistency, reliability, independence, functioning, officiousness, cognitive, and identity. As an adult, individuals go through a series of emotions and social relationships that influences their psychological state. That is why I believe the intimacy vs. isolation stage would be important and it is at a crucial age where young adults have now entered the world without their parents to establishing relationships and becoming parents of their own. From personal belief, it seems that stages seven and eight could be skipped, as those should be characteristics that can be learned as a young adult. Learning to care for one another is something that is learned as a young age and only expands as one matures. Wisdom does come with age, but can be based on someone is who experienced, educated, a practitioner in special structure, and has a well-developed personality. For that, you do not have to be an elder to be considered wise. It is about upbringing, influences, social structure, behavior, attitude, and demeanor. 

Jean Piaget’s Theory

            Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist whose work is based on child progression. He focused on how children saw and interacted within the world through cognitive development and maturation. This theory is based on four categorical elements: sensorimotor stage (infancy to two), pre-operational stage (two to seven), concrete operational stage (seven to 11), and formal operational stage (11 and older) (McLeod, 2018). Because the four stages are based on child progression (last stage is at 11), it is intuitive not to skip a stage because of the importance of cognitive abilities, psychological development, symbolism, and theoretical comprehension. 

Bruno Bettelheim and Arnold Gesell

            Bruno Bettelheim had a soft spot for children, especially those who were rendered with special needs and/or severely impaired. His personal experience of surviving a concentration camp was enough to understand the psychological impact on social and mental behavior. Understanding the Nazis concept of dehumanizing behavior towards a group of people significantly impacted the psyche (and his). He used this single experience to provide a therapeutic approach and specialized environment to promote a haven and independent element for autistic children (Badcock, 2010).  

            Arnold Gesell’s theory is based on maturation and developmental element of children’s progression, which is observed over a period. His argument was that children developed at different stages at their own pace because of internal (biological/psychological) and external (environmental) factors. Bettelheim and Gesell seem to have a commonality on the development of children and how mothers impacted such progression. Bettelheim blamed mothers for cold emotions towards their autistic children (i.e. the refrigerator theory) while Gesell referred to mothers as scapewolves(Kidd, 2005). Both experts seemed to believe mothers had a cold, dissociative emotion towards special needs children; their contributions to the psychological and disabled fields provided therapeutic approaches to provide a sense of caring and affection for children so they could feel positive and progress. 

Jean Rousseau on Ernest Schachtel

            Rousseau focused on conservative, liberal, and socialist theories and was famous for his political stance on laws and freedom. He believed laws were only binding when people supported such legislative acts and that people are only as free as the constructs of society’s laws makes them. Ernest Schachtel was a German psychologist who focused on the human experience theory and wrote Metamorphosis: On the Conflict of Human Development and the Psychology of Creativity, which is dubbed as one of the most significant pieces in psychology. In his book, Schachtel supported the theoretical framework of Sigmund Freud, the concept of psychoanalysis, and covered original works of maturation and cognitive development of adults. 

         I am indifferent to how Rousseau may regard Schachtel’s work because it was difficult to find much information on him—other than the book and other pieces he authored, not even a simple Wikipedia search of his biography and work. There were additional books offered for purchase, but I did not get a sense of notoriety or profound work that was crucial to the psychological field (besides Metamorphosisand On Memory and Childhood Amnesia). From what I found, Schachtel’s seemed to be an expressive and reasonable philosopher, who was a very perceptive practitioner of psychoanalysis. While his ideals and persona seemed relax and humble, I do not know if his work would be in agreeance with Rousseau, who seemed to be liberal, yet rigid in stance on social and liberal issues. 

Albert Bandura vs. Noam Chomsky

            Bandura believed children developed language through four meditational processes: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation, which is indicative of internal and external influences (McLeod, 2016). For attention, children are exposed and notice such behavior and attempts to emulate, which leads to retention. Children will attempt to remember what they hear and repeat it, which enforces reproduction, in which they can says words and understand language through demonstration. When children learn how to speak and do so in a perceptive manner (i.e. understanding), they are praised and for feel excitement from parents, teachers, and other external factors, which motivates them to continue to perform the learned behavior. 

            Chomsky was criticized for his “universal” theory on language or internal language, believing communication is not a language, instead a “mode of thought, symbolic, recursive, and indefinitely invariable” (Corballis, 2018, para. 8). He believed external thoughts (the language from sound and voice) is a symbolistic element of how people from diverse traditions and backgrounds communicated with one another. 

            Baby talk has been recognized as an important language for infants to understand sounds and noises from adults, particularly mothers. Postdoctoral research associate, Elise Piazza and her colleagues conducted a study to determine mothers’ timbre (a distinctive, intense pitch in voice or sound) when “baby-talking” with their infants. Researchers observed 12 mothers with their babies and found that all mothers were consistent in timbre, yet distinctive enough to separate infant from adult speech (Fuller-Wright, 2017). “Motherese” would be more conducive to Chomsky’s theory, as he believed language is not necessarily words or direct communication; instead, thoughts conveyed externally by people of different cultures. Based on Bandura’s theory of language progression, I do not believe he would be receptive to baby talk and that such language would not be advantageous to infants’ progression to efficiently and effectively speak properly. 

William Crain’s Perspective of Preparing Children for the Future

            Crain believes children, today, are limited in arts, imaginary play, nature exploration, and other progressive activities to excel in such a modernized, technologically advanced world. He questions whether such things as playing outside, admiring nature, drawing, and playing are conducive to academic excellence, since that is the focus. Parents are so fixated on advanced education and academic excellence so their children can attend the best schools and be successful graduates; consequently, educated children become successful citizens and integrate perfectly into society. He believes parents should prepare their children for an academic future, but do not mitigate play, creativity and exploration. There is so much focus on social media, technology, and Internet, that there is lack of appreciating the world through simple nature, exploration, and art. 


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Dr. Monique Chouraeshkenazi