Psychology Assignment Paper on Physical and Cognitive Development among Youths

Physical and Cognitive Development among Youths


            The development of young adults both at the cognitive and physical level is a concept that continues to intrigue many psychologists. Parents often struggle to understand the needs of young men and women during this duration. Various theories attempt to explain this crucial period in human development. This paper will compare and contrast the main theories that explain physical and cognitive development in young adults and how they fit within general psychology (Bjorklund, 2012).

            The first, Piaget’s cognitive theory, though initially formulated to explain the development in children can effectively explain development in young adults. The theory holds that the cognitive development occurs in stages or schemas. Piaget identifies sensor motor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational as the four stages. The later stage represents the adolescent and by extension the young adult. At this stage, the youth can reason in both abstract and logical ways. At this stage according to Piaget, the young adult can formulate a hypothesis on various issues and try to reach conclusions and solve problems (Bjorklund, 2012).

            The second, Vygotsky’s theory originates from three assumptions. Foremost is that the cognitive skills must be analyzed as they develop. In addition, cognitive skills are analyzed through words and language and finally that cognitive skill traces their roots to social relationships and the environment. To understand how a young adult’s mind develops, one must analyze its early trends. This must then be placed in context with the current environment of the young adult. In summary, cognition among the youth is best understood through the analysis of their interactions with other humans in cooperative activities (Bjorklund, 2012).

            Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories are similar in that they both view cognition as occurring developmentally. One cannot analyze the young adults’ mind without studying how it developed from early stages. The main contrasting point in the two theories is that Piaget’s focuses on cognitive development and how it affects learning whereas Vygotsky’s views cognitive development as being shaped with the social environment (Bjorklund, 2012).

            The Maturational theory describes physical development as a process that emanates from biological growth. This theory, formulated by Arnold Gesell holds that the physical traits a person has is a manifestation of an unfolding genetic design. The physical development of the young adult is therefore determined, according to this theory, by their genetic makeup, which they inherit from parents (Henniger, 2011).

            The above theories can be applied to general psychology because they explain the development of cognitive as well as physical aspects of humans. General psychology deals with the mind and how it affects behavior. These cognitive theories are applicable to psychology because cognition is a process that takes place in the mind, and general psychology deals with the mind (Henniger, 2011).

            William Perry’s theory holds that people transition through four main stages in intellectual and moral development. He identifies these stages as dualism, multiplicity, relativism, and commitment. Dualism maintains that all problems are solvable, and it is the responsibility of people to find the right solutions. According to relativism, the solutions must be backed by reason and some solutions are better than others are. The transition from duality to relativity occurs when people realize that the sources or authorities from where they get solutions may not have them after all. They subsequently find solutions on their own rationally (Perry, 1998).

            Findings from research reveal that, among young adults, the part of the brain responsible for emotional responses is active. The part responsible for controlling impulsive responses is however not fully developed. These dynamics explain the tendencies to act on impulse characteristic of the young adults. Studies further indicate that these brain changes are affected by genes, and the socio-cultural environment (NIH, 2011).

             Schaie maintains that adults’ response to pressure accompanies a change in cognition. The existing skills are programmed to deal with the new challenge. The adult adapts to the situation and does not develop new skills to suit the new roles and responsibilities that arise (Birren & Schaie, 2005).


            In summary, the theories discussed here share a common goal: to explain cognitive development among the youth. Each theory on its own cannot sufficiently explain the complex cognitive processes that occur. The theories must therefore be seen as complimentary and not competing entities in this quest. With the rapidly changing social environment today, more research is needed in order to understand the young adult’s mind in the modern and post-modern times (Bjorklund, 2012).


Birren, J. E., & Schaie, K. W. (2005). Handbook of the Psychology of Aging. Burlington:   Elsevier.

Bjorklund, D. F. (2012). Child & adolescent development: An integrated approach. Belmont:        Wadsworth.

Henniger, M. L. (2011, Mar 17). Arnold Gesell’s Perspective on Learning and Development:.        Retrieved Feb 26, 2014, from      Education:            development-  theory/

NIH. (2011, Feb 26). The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction.

            Retrieved Feb 26, 2014, from National Institute of Mental Health:          construction/index.shtml

Perry, W. G. (1998). Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development. New York: Jossey-Bass.