Child Observation with Piaget’s and Freud’s Development Theories


For this child observation study, I chose to identify and describe the developmental stage of a 20-month old girl, Christine. Christine has light brown hair, brown eyes, bowlegs, and an interestingly strong hesitance to crawl. When Christine smiled at me, I noticed she only had a pair of teeth on her upper jaw and a few others on her lower jaw. Christine is the second child in a single-family, headed by her Scottish mother.

She is also the younger sibling to a six-year-old brother. Her family has an average income of $50,000 annually and lives in a middle-class neighborhood. I observed the subject through natural observation as she played with her parent in their back yard.

After observing Christine for about 60 minutes, I developed this child observation report, which recognizes the physical, cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional developments of the child. This report seeks to understand the influence of the child’s environment on her growth, and how her developmental processes compare with previously developed theoretical constructs of child development. Notably, to have a broader understanding of the child’s development process, this report compares Christine’s development with Piaget and feud theories of child development.


Physical Development

At the time of the observation, Christine was eating popcorn with her mother in the backyard. Using her thumb and index finger, Christine could pick the popcorn and put it in her mouth. She could also walk by herself, although she seemed a little unstable. She seemed more conformable when she was crawling, as opposed to when she was walking. Christine could also kick a ball.

Cognitive Development

Christine was playing with a Christmas card that her mother was reading. When she opened the card, a song would play. When her mother smiled at her, she would look surprised and put the card in her mouth. She would later close the card and open it again to hear the song sing (repeatedly). When her mother smiled at her again, she started clapping her hands openly (using both palms). From this reaction, I could establish a cause-and-effect relationship in the child’s behavior.

Language Development

I observed several repetitive language skills that Christine mastered. For example, when she kicked the ball to her mother, her mother would hide the ball and ask her “where is the ball?” Christine would then run to where her mother hid the ball, pick it with both hands, and give it to her. From this observation, I was able to ascertain the child’s ability to understand information. Christine was also able to utter the word “mama” every time she wanted to get her mother’s attention. Once, when her older brother, Ben, walked into the backyard, she would utter “Beeee.” From this observation, I was able to establish the child’s ability to “babble” and speak the one-worded language.

Social-Emotional Developments

Christine always maintained a broad smile when she played with her mother. At one time, when her mother hid the ball and asked her to retrieve it, she gave the ball to me. I smiled and opened my arms to pick her up. She responded by opening her arms as well. Through this action, I established that she had an easy-going temperament. I was also able to establish a significant level of interaction between the subject and her mother because whenever she uttered “mama”, her mother would always wait for her to finish “babbling” before she could respond.

She would then try to mention the names of the toys she played with so that Christine would understand them. At one moment, I was able to establish that Christine did not have any separation anxiety because her mother left her with me as she went to receive a call at the house. She continued playing with the ball, even in her mother’s absence.

Theoretical Contributions

Piaget Theory

Jean Piaget is a respected cognitive theorist, who has contributed immensely to the growing knowledge of human development. Piaget says children grow in a relatively predictive manner (Mathews, 2012, p. 1). Based on a child’s age, Piaget defines the activities of infants as “sensorimotor” developments. The first stage of this development is the reflexive stage where innate reflexes manifest as babies grasp whatever people put on their hands.

As they grow older, they choose to hold (not grasp) whatever people place in their hands. When I interviewed Christine’s mother about this development, she told me Christine used to hold anything put in her hand. For example, she told me that during Christine’s early months, she would firmly hold her mother’s index finger. However, as she grew older and playful, she stopped this habit.

Piaget says the second stage of development is the sensory awareness stage, which often occurs in children who are aged between one and four months old (Mathews, 2012). At this stage, the babies begin to prefer their mother’s attention, while avoiding the attention of other people. Since I was unable to observe Christine’s habits during her first four months, I asked her mother whether she used to crave her attention by discriminating against other people.

Her mother admitted that Christine used to do this occasionally. “Only when there are many people in the room,” she asserted. “However, she is naturally a darling,” she added. When I interacted with Christine at a deeper level, I realized she was naturally receptive, even to strangers. After evaluating her mother’s narration of Christine’s early childhood, I noted some slight difference between Christine’s conduct and Piaget’s narration of the sensory awareness stage.

Piaget says that object permanence and Imitation is the third stage of development, which occurs in babies who are about four to eight months old (Berger, 2008). At this stage, babies imitate adults’ facial expressions, waves, and other behaviors. When I asked Christine’s mother if her child imitated adult behaviors, she told me Christine liked to wave “bye” every time anyone walked out of the room. To this extent, I could establish a significant level of similarity between Christine’s action and Piaget’s third stage of development.

Piaget explains that the fourth stage of infant development is the goal direction stage (Berger, 2008). This stage normally occurs when babies are about one year. At this age, babies tend to seek out objects they believe to exist. They also understand the attachment of repercussions to actions. The fifth stage of Piaget’s model is the experimental stage. This stage often occurs when children are about 12 to 18 months old. At this age, the child becomes increasingly curious about objects. Therefore, they may want to put everything they touch into their mouths. I observed this behavior when Christine put her mother’s Christmas card in her mouth. Besides, at this stage, a baby makes sounds spontaneously. I also observed this spontaneous behavior when Christine attempted to utter her brother’s name “Ben.”

Freud Theory

Freud (2012) is among the most famous contributors to psychological knowledge. Some psychologists have contested his arguments, but his contributions remain a significant addition to modern-day psychology. Freud (2012) believes that children have a lot of misdirected energy after birth. More so, Freud (2012) focuses on psychic energy as the main form of energy existing among newly born children.

To direct this energy, Freud (2012) believes that a child focuses on one object at a time. When the child grows up, the gratification changes with every object touched (Berger, 2008). For infants, Freud (2012) believes that sucking is the primary source of gratification. Christine’s mother said her child did not suck her thumb. She however admitted that Christine bit her hand occasionally. I, therefore, realized Christine’s behavior affirmed the Freudian theory because even though she never sucked her thumb, her constant hand biting resembled the definition by Freud (2012) of an object of gratification.


After evaluating Christine’s developmental attributes, I affirmed she was at the infancy stage. According to the CDC (2012), infants can reach out, explore, and learn new things about their environment. During this stage, CDC (2012) also believes infants have an advanced language skill that goes beyond mentioning basic words, like “mama.” At this stage, researchers also say babies nurture deep love and trust bonds with those around them (especially their parents) (Mathews, 2012).

Furthermore, based on my interaction with Christine and her mother, I could not openly identify any problem with the child’s development. Most of the observations I recorded were according to previous theoretical constructs. I was surprised at the high level of similarity between Christine’s behaviors and Piaget’s predictable model of infant development. However, it is crucial to point out Christine’s enabling environment (supported by the positive environment created by her mother) as a contributor to Christine’s blissful childhood.


  1. Berger, K. S. (2008). The Developing Person through the Lifespan (7th ed.). New York: Worth .
  2. CDC. (2012). Infants (0-1 year of age). Web.
  3. Freud, S. (2012). Psychosexual Stages of Development. Web.
  4. Mathews, L. (2012). Piaget’s Theory of Infant Development. Web.