Fundamentals - Principles, part 5: Theoretical Foundations - Kohlberg, Maslow, Erikson, and Piaget

by Meris Shuwarger July 12, 2021

In this video

Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development

  • Preconventional
  • Conventional
  • Postconventional

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

  • Physiological
  • Love and belonging
  • Self-actualization

*Note: there are more stages, these are just the ones covered in this video. Stay tuned for an in-depth article on this topic!

Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

  • Trust versus mistrust
  • Industry versus inferiority
  • Generativity versus stagnation

*Note: there are more stages, these are just the ones covered in this video. Stay tuned for an in-depth article on this topic!

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

  • Sensorimotor stage
  • Preoperational
  • Concrete operational
  • Formal operational

Full Transcript

Hi. I'm Meris, and today we're going to be talking about theoretical foundations such as Kohlberg, Erikson, Maslow and Piaget. These are very important for Fundamentals of Nursing classes, so I'm going to be following along with our Fundamentals of Nursing flashcards. These are available on If you have a set, you can follow along with me. I recommend that. We're going to be starting on card number 12, and I'll be sure to point out, just like I'm sure you know, the bold and red text is very important. Anything called out with a key point is very important as well, so be sure to focus on that when you're looking at your cards.

Alright. Let's get started. Okay, so first up we're going to be talking about Kohlberg.

Kohlberg's theory of moral development talks about thinking, reasoning and decision-making across the lifespan. So there's three big components to this. There's preconventional, which is for children less than 5 years old, and it kind of means I'm doing things, I'm making decisions to either get a reward or to avoid a consequence. This is why sticker charts work really well, because those little kids love that reward.

Then from 6 to 12 years we're in the conventional phase. This is where I'm starting to think about how my actions are affecting other people and that's going to play into my decision-making.

And then from 13 years on, now we are in postconventional, and this is where some more abstract thinking is able to come into my decision-making process and I'm starting to think about the world more complexly. So that is Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development.

Okay, so up next we're talking about Maslow, and I love this card because we have this beautiful, beautiful image here on the back of the card for us to use. I think of this as just a really, really nice drawing, a nice illustration of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

So Maslow's hierarchy of needs is essentially saying that there are lots of needs for a human being.

Some of them are physiological, like food and water. Some of them have more to do with love and belonging, and then at the highest is self-actualization. This is where we pursue who we really are, our inner talents. We feel fulfilled, but we can't do the higher level things unless all of the needs are being met at the lower levels.

So for instance, I can't be worried about love and belonging if I don't have food, water, shelter, things like that. It's just not possible, right? I need to meet my most basic needs before moving on to the higher psychosocial concerns. So Maslow's hierarchy of needs is incredibly important in nursing school, and you will see this comes into play when we answer test questions also, because yes, sometimes I want my patients to be achieving their self-actualization needs, but they can't do that because they are in severe pain or hungry or having concerns about where their next meal is going to come from when they get discharged. So definitely keep Maslow's in mind at all times.

Okay, moving right along to Erikson with card number 14. Now Erikson talks about key stages in human development, and has this idea that at each stage of development, there's a psychosocial crisis. So I'm not going to go through all of these, because as you can see, pretty extensive here. There's a lot of stages, but it is important to familiarize yourself with these because this comes up basically in every class.

So when you are an infant, the stage for Erikson is trust versus mistrust, which essentially means, when I cry, does somebody come? So this is the first psychosocial crisis for Erikson, is going to be learning to trust that when I have a need, somebody responds to it.

Then we can skip ahead to school age. School age we have industry versus inferiority. This is where kids are really industrious. They may be focused on things like crafts. They may be really into school and to being with their peers and learning.

So for instance, if they were to be hospitalized, then they're away from their peers. They're away from that learning environment, and we need to help them to meet that Erikson need by maybe giving them crafts to do, or ensuring that they get homework and other projects sent to them from their school.

Moving on, a big one that we see here in adulthood, from 40 to 65 years old is generativity versus stagnation. So basically, do I have some sort of thing that I feel comfortable? My children are going off to college. I am retiring. I'm starting to live my life in a different way. That's a big crisis for some people.

Either, I really lean into that role. I love seeing my children go off and become their own people. I love getting to be a grandparent. I love getting to spend my retirement time doing fun things. Or, does that cause me a crisis emotionally? Do I try to hold onto that youth? So these are some very important ones. And keep in mind, I just went over three, but there are a bunch here.

So Erikson stages are incredibly important for most of your nursing classes. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these concepts.

Okay, next we are talking about Piaget, on card number 15. Piaget had a theory about perception and cognition through the lifespan, and this really has to do with how children explore the world and learn about the world.

After about age 11 on, it's pretty much the same, but kids see the world and experience it in a much different way.

So you will see that on this card, we have a lot of bold red text, and that means it's really important. So I'm not going to go through all of this because there is a lot on here, but I am going to call out some key things.

One of the biggest things is that from age zero to two, children explore the world through the sensorimotor stage. So sensorimotor means with my senses and by moving. So this means that kids touch everything. They crawl. They're at eye level. They're experiencing the world in that way. They put things in their mouths, right? This experience of taste and feeling things. Tell me in the comments what you think that children in the sensorimotor stage are at risk for.

Another thing about the sensorimotor stage is that these children are experiencing something called object permanence. When kids are born, they don't have object permanence, meaning if I have an object and I move it out of sight, that child does not think that that thing continues to exist. That is why peekaboo is so much fun for them. But in this stage, they are starting to learn object permanence, which is very exciting.

Preoperational is from two to seven years, and a big thing here—and you probably have seen this in children in that age range—is something called magical thinking. So this is where we think that magic is real, and things can really happen because of magic.

We also have something called animism, which means that we attribute characteristics to inanimate things. So we treat inanimate things as though they are alive, so maybe that is a stuffed animal or maybe some sort of decoration in the house. Children might be afraid of these things or really like these things because they feel as though they are alive.

Concrete, operational, that's from age 7 to 11, and this is where a concept known as conservatism comes into play. This means that when an object transfers containers, it does not change the amount. So for instance if it's going from—if I have one container of liquid and I pour it into another but I have half and half, children in this stage learn that the amount doesn't change just because the form has changed.

And then from formal operational is from age 11 on, and this is where we really see children develop abstract thinking, and that is a type of thinking that persists into adulthood.

So you can see that Piaget is really talking about, "how do I see the world? How do I perceive it? And how do I explore the world?"

Okay, so that is it for theoretical foundations such as Kohlberg, Maslow, Erikson and Piaget. I hope that review was helpful. If it was, please like this video. I would love to hear your comments. Let me know about what you had as a child that you thought was alive or that you attributed characteristics to. I would love to hear that. Be sure to subscribe to the channel so that you can be kept up-to-date with all of the new content that we push out, and speaking of which, in the next video I will be covering the health belief model and the transtheoretical model, so I hope I'll see you there. Thanks so much, and happy studying!

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