Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is based on the fact that he believed that all children pass through a series of distinct stages in intellectual development and that intellect grows through processes called assimilation, where existing mental patterns are used in new situations, and accommodation, where existing ideas are modified to fit new requirements and that these processes are divided into four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operations (Coon, 2006). The stage that applies to adolescence is the period of formal operations which is the final and highest stage of cognitive development in which adolescents gain the ability to deal efficiently with complex problems involved in reasoning and the acquire the ability to imagine many possibilities which may be inherent in a situation (Crandell, Crandell, & Vanden Zanden, 2009). Older adolescents are capable of inductive and deductive reasoning and can restructure information and ideas so that they can make sense out of new set of data. It is during this stage of development that full intellectual ability can be attained, however, not everyone will reach this level of thinking. Even though adolescents and adults will be able to think formally about some topics, their thinking will become concrete when the topic is unfamiliar (Coon, 2006).
Piaget’s theories are relevant and can be related to adolescent behaviors seen today because they relate to changes in brain development that will occur regardless of other factors that may affect the adolescent’s life. His theories also imply that formal thinking may be more a result of culture and learning than maturation (Coon, 2006). His theories can help us understand how adolescents which can help to explain why they behave in the manner that they do. Adolescent concerns have been the same throughout history; each generation has its behaviors, language, styles, customs, and rituals that are different from everything every parent has envisioned for their child. Understanding the ways in the brains of adolescents are functioning during this period of their lives can only prove to be beneficial when trying to figure out how to inspire, encourage, and motivate adolescents today.
Coon, D. (2006). Cognitive Development. In M. Taflinger, J. Judson, & J. Keever (Eds.), Psychology: A modular approach to mind and behavior (p.115-118). Belmont, CA: Thomason Higher Education.
Crandell, T. L., Crandell, C. H., & Vander Zanden, J. W. (2009). Adolescence: Physical and cognitive development. In M. Ryan, B. Mejia, S. Gouijnstook, M. Campbell, & A. Fuzellier (Eds.), Human Development (pp. 371-372). New York: McGraw-Hill.
His theories also imply that formal thinking may be more a result of culture and learning than maturation
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