Also called "development in context" or "human ecology" theory, ecological systems theory, originally formulated by Urie Bronfenbrenner specifies four types of nested environmental systems, with bi-directional influences within and between the systems. The four systems are microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. Each system contains roles, norms and rules that can powerfully shape development. Since its publication in 1979, Bronfenbrenner's major statement of this theory, The Ecology of Human Development has had widespread influence on the way psychologists and others approach the study of human beings and their environments. As a result of this influential conceptualization of development, these environments — from the family to economic and political structures — have come to be viewed as part of the life course from childhood through adulthood.
Preoperational: (begins about the time the child starts to talk, about age 2)
During this stage of development, young children begin analyzing their environment using mental symbols. These symbols often include words and images and the child will begin to apply these various symbols in their everyday lives as they come across different objects, events, and situations. However, Piaget’s main focus on this stage and the reason why he named it “preoperational” is because children at this point are not able to apply specific cognitive operations, such as mental math. In addition to symbolism, children start to engage in pretend play in which they pretend to be people they are not (teachers, superheroes). In addition, they sometimes use different props to make this pretend play more real. Some deficiencies in this stage of development are that children who are about 3–4 years old often display what is called egocentrism, which means the child is not able to see someone else’s point of view, they feel as if every other person is experiencing the same events and feelings that they are experiencing. However, at about 7, thought processes of children are no longer egocentric and are more intuitive, meaning they now think about the way something looks instead of rational thinking.
Concrete: (about first grade to early adolescence)
During this stage, children between the age of 7 and 11 use appropriate logic to develop cognitive operations and begin applying this new thinking to different events they may encounter. Children in this stage incorporate inductive reasoning, which involves drawing conclusions from other observations in order to make a generalization. Unlike the preoperational stage, children can now change and rearrange mental images and symbols to form a logical thought, an example of this is reversibility in which the child now has the ability to reverse an action just by doing the opposite.
Formal Operations: (about early adolescence to mid/late adolescence)
The final stage of Piaget’s cognitive development defines a child as now having the ability to “think more rationally and systematically about abstract concepts and hypothetical events”. Some positive aspects during this time is that child or adolescent begins forming their identity and begin understanding why people behave the way they behave. However, there are also some negative aspects which include the child or adolescent developing some egocentric thoughts which include the imaginary audience and the personal fable. An imaginary audience is when an adolescent feels that the world is just as concerned and judgemental of anything the adolescent does as they are; an adolescent may feel as if they are “on stage” and everyone is a critic and they are the ones being critiqued. A personal fable is when the adolescent feels that he or she is a unique person and everything they do is unique. They feel as if they are the only ones that have ever experienced what they are experiencing and that they are invincible and nothing bad will happen to them, it will only happen to others.
Vygotsky was strongly focused on the role of culture in determining the child's pattern of development. He argued that "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals."
Vygotsky felt that development was a process and saw periods of crisis in child development during which there was a qualitative transformation in the child's mental functioning.
Erikson, a follower of Freud's, synthesized both Freud's and his own theories to create what is known as the "psychosocial" stages of human development, which span from birth to death, and focuses on "tasks" at each stage that must be accomplished to successfully navigate life's challenges.
Erikson's eight stages consist of the following:
Dynamic systems theory has been applied extensively to the study of motor development; the theory also has strong associations with some of Bowlby's views about attachment systems. Dynamic systems theory also relates to the concept of the transactional process, a mutually interactive process in which children and parents simultaneously influence each other, producing developmental change in both over time.
The "core knowledge perspective" is an evolutionary theory in child development that proposes "infants begin life with innate, special-purpose knowledge systems referred to as core domains of thought" There are five core domains of thought, each of which is crucial for survival, which simultaneously prepare us to develop key aspects of early cognition; they are: physical, numerical, linguistic, psychological, and biological.
Source: Child Development Theories