What Are Some Key Stages of Child Development?


Quick Answer

Child development is often divided into the sensory motor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational stages. These four stages come from psychologist Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development.

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Full Answer

The sensory motor stage occurs from birth to approximately the age of 2. During this time, children are in the process of acquiring knowledge about objects and how they are manipulated. They also begin to understand how one thing affects another and to develop ideas about time and space.

Children are characteristically egocentric during this stage, meaning they are unable to consider anyone else's needs, wants or interests. Most of their time is spent acquiring information about themselves, their world and the people in it.

The pre-operational stage usually occurs between ages 2 and 7, during which a child’s thought processes and vocabulary expand and develop. Children continue to believe everyone shares their point of view but gradually become able to place the center of attention on others. During this period, children also become capable of symbolism in which one thing is taken to stand for another.

From about age 7 to 11, children go through the concrete operational stage and are able to think logically about an object if they are able to manipulate it. They gradually learn that objects are not always as they appear and also begin to realize that a change in appearance does not necessarily mean a change in substance.

The formal operational stage takes place from ages 11 to 15, during which children develop organized systems of adult intelligence. They are able to reason beyond concrete reality to consider alternative possibilities and to formulate logical thoughts using symbols and information that do not necessarily refer to real-world objects or events.

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