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Piaget's Model of Cognitive Development

Much of modern cognitive theory, including its relationship to socialization, stems from the work of the Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget. In the 1920s Piaget observed children reasoning and understanding differently, depending on their age. He proposed that all children progress through a series of cognitive stages of development, just as they progress through a series of physical stages of development. According to Piaget, the rate at which children pass through these cognitive stages may vary, but they eventually pass through all of them in the same order.

Piaget introduced several other important concepts. According to Piaget, cognitive development occurs from two processes: adaptation and equilibrium. Adaptation involves the child's changing to meet situational demands. Adaptation involves two sub‐processes:

assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the application of previous concepts to new concepts. An example is the child who refers to a whale as a “fish.” Accommodation is the altering of previous concepts in the face of new information. An example is the child who discovers that some creatures living in the ocean are not fish, and then correctly refers to a whale as a “mammal.” Equilibrium is the search for “balance” between self and the world, and involves the matching of the child's adaptive functioning to situational demands. Equilibrium keeps the infant moving along the developmental pathway, allowing him or her to make increasingly effective adaptations.

On the basis of these definitions it may be said there are two main approaches to the study of personality:

  1. The psychological
  2. The sociological

The psychological approach considers personality as a certain style peculiar to the individual. This style is determined by the characteristic organization of mental trends, complexes, emotions and sentiments. The psychological approach enables us to understand the phenomena of personality disorganization and the role of wishes, of mental conflict and of repression and sublimation in the growth of personality. The sociological approach considers personality in terms of the status of the individual in the group, in terms of his conception of his role in the group of which he is a member. What others think of us plays a large part in the formation of our personality.

Thus personality is a sum of the ideas, attitudes and values of a person which determine his role in society and form an integral part of his character.

Socialization helps people learn to function successfully in their social worlds. How does the process of socialization occur? Social Group Agents

Social groups often provide the first experiences of socialization. Families, and later peer groups, communicate expectations and reinforce norms. People first learn to use the tangible objects of material culture in these settings, as well as being introduced to the beliefs and values of society.


Family is the first agent of socialization. Mothers and fathers, siblings and grandparents, plus members of an extended family, all teach a child what he or she needs to know. For example, they show the child how to use objects (such as clothes, computers, eating utensils, books, bikes); how to relate to others (some as “family,” others as “friends,” still others as “strangers” or “teachers” or “neighbours”); and how the world works (what is “real” and what is “imagined”). As you are aware, either from your own experience as a child or your role in helping to raise one, socialization involves teaching and learning about an unending array of objects and ideas.

Peer Groups

A peer group is made up of people who are similar in age and social status and who share interests. Peer group socialization begins in the earliest years, such as when kids on a playground teach younger children the norms about taking turns or the rules of a game or how to shoot a basket. As children grow into teenagers, this process continues. Peer groups are important to adolescents in a new way, as they begin to develop an identity separate from their parents and exert independence. Additionally, peer groups provide their own opportunities for socialization since kids usually engage in different types of activities with their peers than they do with their families. Peer groups provide adolescents’ first major socialization experience outside the realm of their families. Interestingly, studies have shown that although friendships rank high in adolescents’ priorities, this is balanced by parental influence.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 118

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