Stages of Childhood Cognitive Development

Stages of Childhood Cognitive Development

An overview of infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, and early adolescence.

There are a variety of cognitive changes in childhood development. Each stage of development is differentiated by age. Within each age group, specific cognitive changes tend to occur under normal circumstances. The following profiles reflect the normal cognitive development from infancy to late adolescence.

Infancy (birth to 2 years) — During this time, children develop cognitively through their dependency on other people. They begin by developing,

...basic human traits-emotional bonds to other human beings, nonverbal communication and language expression, motor exploration of the physical environment, and systematic approaches to learning about people, places, and things (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004).

Early childhood (2–6 years) — This period is characterized by cognitive developments including increased communication and language skills. During this time, children will begin to talk more frequently and begin understanding more grammar and vocabulary (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004).

Middle childhood (6–10 years) — During this time, children focus on building strong social bonds with their peers. Friendships are an important part of the learning process. According to McDevitt & Ormrod, (2004) “Children also begin to compare their performance to that of others” at this period of development (p. 19).”

Early adolescence (10–14 years) — Cognitively, adolescents become focused on how their peers perceive them. There are also thought processes that become heightened such as “expansion in abilities to think logically, abstractly, and exhaustively” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004). This period is marked by the change in thinking in which children consider the world around them more critically and develop a more self-efficacy.

Late adolescence (14–18 years) — This period is characterized by decision making and peer relationships. “Individual differences in academic achievement are substantial” and this can create many issues with children (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004, p. 22). Peer pressure is a substantial issue during this time as children vie to be independent yet conform to the expectations of others (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004).


McDevitt, T. M., & Ormrod, J. E. (2004). Child Development: Educating and Working with Children and Adolescents Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Pearson Education, Inc.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Wed, Jan 06, 2021. Stages of Childhood Cognitive Development Retrieved from

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