3. Concrete operational stage (between age 7 and 11)
This stage of development sets in toward the seventh year of the child and lasts till he/she is about eleven. During this period, children display greater intellectual capability and are able to complete challenging cognitive tasks. They also show distinct improvement in their conversation skills. The successful attainment of this stage of mental development is illustrated by the following experiment. In a task that requires preservation of liquid, milk from a short, broad container is poured into another empty container which is taller and also thinner. Even though the containers are differently shaped, the liquid contained in them is exactly the same, although it may appear not to be so for the naked eye. A child who can understand this reality is said to have successfully completed this penultimate stage in his/her cognitive development (www.social.jrank.org).
4. Formal operational stage (age 11 and above)
In this final stage of development, children show greater flexibility in their cognitive functions and are able to solve abstract analytical problems with the application of logic. In this phase, which sets in after twelve years of age, young adolescents develop social consciousness as well, and show greater interest in such topics as morality and ethics (www.social.jrank.org).
It is important to remember that while the theory remains a general guideline for healthy child development it is not rigid. For example, while the time at which the child attains a particular characteristic might vary, the order of the four stages never does. Another merit attached to the theory is the fact that it is universally applicable across different cultures, races and ethnic groups, presenting a strong case against race or ethnicity based discrimination prevalent in many societies. While there is no doubt about the invaluable contribution made to the field of social sciences by Jean Piaget’s theory of development, it had attracted its fair share of criticism as well. For example, during the 1970s, fellow psychologists raised doubts over the exact onset of the four stages. While they all agreed that the stages happen in the stated order, they were unsure whether “cognitive development occurs in stages, as Piaget’s theory suggests, or whether it is a continuous process. Specifically, many researchers believe that Piaget underestimated the timing of some of children’s abilities and that sometimes children understand a concept before they are able to demonstrate their understanding of it” (www.social.jrank.org)