NURS4412 Applied Social Science for Enrolled Nurses

Assessment One – Instructions:

Choose two(2) out of the three developmental theorists from the list below and discuss their theory of human life span development:

a) Erik Erikson

b) Abraham Maslow

c) Jean Piaget


Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson are two renowned stage psychologists known for their unique contributions to the field of human lifespan development theories (Saracho & Evans, 2021). This essay evaluates the human cognitive theory of Jean Piageton the sensorimotor stage and Erick Erikson’s stage of Integrity vs despair (late adulthood) phase to analyse their application and further development in the field of healthcare.

Jean Piaget was a psychologist and a well-known cognitive theorist who identify and catalogue the differences between the intellect of children and adults (Piaget, 1929). According to Piaget, a child’s intellectual development changes with time, and infants of various ages have varied environmental perceptions. Four stages of a child’s cognitive growth are the sensorimotor phase, pre-operational, practical operational phase, and formal operational phase (Capuzzi et. al., 2016).

According to Piaget, all infants go through a sequence of phases of intellectual growth. The sensorimotor phase is the first stage when new-borns utilize their sensory and cognitive abilities to comprehend their surroundings. During this stage, the processes of acquiring memorization, communication, thinking, and reasoning are developed as cognitive abilities. Cognitive skills including material permanence, ego, delayed imitation, and expressive action are improved. The key to advancement is object permanence or the realisation that things exist and happen regardless of what one does. By the end of the initial stage, a wide symbolic function begins to develop. Moreover, language starts appearing to express both things and emotions. Theorists stressed that children are passive learners and active learners who constantly explore and raise inquiries as they grow to grasp how the world functions.

Infants improve their capacity to comprehend their surroundings through their ability to recognise and remember things. At around two to three months old, infants start to smile and begin to show wonder, discomfort, calmness, and enthusiasm. The first year brings on the emergence of anger, grief, and dread. They have formed emotional ties to their mothers and other carers and learn to love, trust, and depend on them. These bonds serve as the foundation for healthy psychosocial development throughout infancy.

Piaget’s theory has significant implications for nursing practises since it advances children’s intellectual development knowledge. It helps nurses determine the developmental stage that an infant has attained to provide them with the right amount of stimulation and support advancement in the fulfilment of cognitive activities. A basic understanding of the theory will enable nurses to interact effectively with toddlers who are unable to speak orally with them. The notion aids nurses in understanding toddler requirements through their nonverbal communication activities, as toddlers employ nonverbal forms of communicating with others. Nurses can teach both children and their caretakers the different phases of cognitive and in infants to better understand children’s requirements and encourage their intellectual growth (Kelly & Lamb, 2000).

Erik Erikson, a psychotherapist, developed Erikson’s phases of human developmental psychology. The theory is a revised concept of psychosexual stages introduced by Freud. Erikson’s theory was relevant because it addressed human development across the lifespan (Saracho, 2023). It consists of eight stages, including infancy, childhood years, pre-school age, school age, the adolescent period, early adulthood, adulthood, and the elderly age period. Stages are impacted by genetic, psychological, and societal variables (Knight, 2017).

Theory is that the struggle between ego integrity and despair begins around the age of 65 and continues until death. As a person grows older and approaches the decades of retirement, the pace of life and production slows down, leaving time to reflect on one’s life. People who believe that they are leading a great life might dwell on their accomplishments and develop honesty. Integrity develops further into the virtue of knowledge. If a person believes that their life has no significance, that they are guilty about the past, or that they have not fulfilled their life objectives, they become sad, embarrassed, useless, and despairing. So, in old age, one must balance the competing sentiments of integrity and despondency (Cox et al., 2018).

As advancing age, cognitive skills such as concentration, memory, executive ability, languages, and verbal and spatial skills deteriorate. Age-related decreases in executive mental ability, which includes problem-solving, organizing and scheduling actions, and multitasking, are common. Speech perception in casual communication and linguistic thinking continues to be steady until old life.

At this stage, various psychological abilities such as memory, learning ability, and synchronisation begin to deteriorate, and socialisation becomes limited. However, the increase in some social demands is accompanied by a greater need for emotional and practical help in coping with grief and managing everyday tasks as a result of physical and cognitive decline. All of these psychosocial developmental changes have the potential to result in psychosocial illnesses such as substance misuse, mental problems, delirium, sadness, agitation, anxiety, and frustration. Other interpersonal and mental obstacles include losing one’s independence, melancholy, worry, isolation, financial difficulties, and social exclusion.

Erikson’s theory helps nurses understand the elderly person’s symptomatic behaviour about troubling events in the past and difficulties with current developmental goals (Orenstein & Lewis, 2021). By applying the theory, nurses can help older people maintain a positive personality and attitude. For example, nurses can help older people develop a sense of integrity by encouraging them to reflect on past happy life events and relationships and to have a positive attitude towards caring for the future generation. Nurses can utilise this reliable tool to assess people’s psychosocial development and address recovery from mental illness. Nurses can help seniors gain confidence by enabling them to reflect on past pleasant life events and relationships and develop a good attitude towards caring for the future generation.

Developmental concepts provide a basis for analysing, outlining, and understanding human growth. It enables nurses to understand the importance of fostering the formation of basic trust in childhood so that they can maintain a positive personality when they are seniors. Nurses can provide appropriate, individualised care for clients and impact their communities by making people feel respected, accepted, and valued. Nurses can use their developmental expertise to provide excellent care in healthcare settings.


Capuzzi, D., Stauffer, M. D., & O’Neil, T. (2016). Theories of human development. Human growth and development across the lifespan: Applications for counsellors, 25-54.

Cox, D., La Caze, M., & Levine, M. P. (2018). Integrity and the fragile self. Routledge.

Kelly, J. B., & Lamb, M. E. (2000). Using child development research to make appropriate custody and access decisions for young children. Family Court Review38(3), 297-311.

Knight, Z. G. (2017). A proposed model of psychodynamic psychotherapy linked to Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy, 24(5), 1047-1058.

Orenstein, G. A., & Lewis, L. (2021). Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. In-Stat Pearls [Internet]. Stat Pearls Publishing.

Piaget, J. (1929). The child’s conception of the world. London: Routledge.

Saracho, O. N. (2023). Theories of Child Development and Their Impact on Early Childhood Education and Care. Early Childhood Education Journal, 51(1), 15-30.

Saracho, O. N., & Evans, R. (2021). Theorists and their developmental theories. Early Child Development and Care191(7-8), 993-1001.

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