Piaget's 4 stages of child development

JEAN PIAGET (1896 - 1980) a Swiss psychologist, won fame in early childhood education, for his studies of the thought processes of children. He and his associates published more than 30 volumes on this subject. Born in Neuchatel, Switzerland, he grew to be a brilliant scholar in science. He worked in psychological clinics and laboratories and whilst helping with the standardisation of intelligence test procedures, he made his first discoveries of children's thinking development.

Jean P. started to believe that children are not just little adults in the way they think, and that there might be stages in the development of the intellect. He spent 50 years studying children, and has had enormous influence on the way people now regard how children think. His research in child psychology is based on his belief that children pass through 4 periods of mental development.


4 Stages of Child Development

First 2 yrs of lifeAges 2 to 7
Primarily motor behaviorVerbal & Conceptual Abilities expand
Intellectual processes developed through physical interaction with the environmentChild capable of intuitive thought-illogical & egocentric
Objects exist only if they can be seen, touched or heardDominated by animism & moral realism
Age 7Ages 11 to 15
Abilities to think in a logical way and to solve concrete problemsUnderstand highly abstract concepts such as justice, love and prejudice
Thought processes such as ordering, classification, seriation, and mathematics are possibleThoughts no longer tied to actual objects and experience
Ability to think abstractly has not yet begun to appearCan think about ideas and use logic

Jean P. theorized several principles for the construction of cognitive structures. During all stages of child development, the child is experiencing his or her environment, using whatever mental maps have been constructed to that point. If the experience is a repeated one, it fits easily or is assimilated into the structure, so that mental equilibrium is maintained. If the experience is different or new, equilibrium is lost, and a change in the structure occurs in order to accommodate the new aspects of the experience. Gradually, more and more adequate cognitive structures are built up.


Published his first scientific articl (before the age of 10)

Received his PhD in natural sciences at Neuchatel University

Worked in psychological clinics and lab in Zurich and Paris

Helped in the standardisation of intelligence test procedures at Alfred Binet's lab

Director of the International Bureau for Education

Director of the Institute for Educational Sciences at the University of Geneva

1938 - 1951
Professor of Psychology and Sociology at the University of Lausanne

Professor of Sociology at the University of Geneva

Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Geneva

Professor of Developmental Psychology at the Sorbonne

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