Ecologically Valid Stages of Development

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I believe it was Nietzsche who said "Piaget is dead."  Since his death in
1980, Hermann von Piaget's work has not been updated to fit today's modern
lifestyles.  In his time, children worked in mines and frequently appeared
in Charles Dickens novels for very little pay.  During that era, Piaget
developed a framework explaining the developmental stages of children.
According to his theory, children went through the following stages:

Birth to 2 years  - Sensorimotor
2 to 7 - Tadpole
7 to 12 - Larvae
12 to 15 - Rebellion

Each of these stages is characterized by specific behaviors and deficits in
reasoning.  Unfortunately, in the years since Piaget conducted his important
work the world has changed, leaving his theories wanting.   In response, a
new movement, the cyber-postmodernistical-neo-classico-occipito-Piagetian
school, has developed a set of ecologically valid measures of development.
Below you will find a brief description of some of these tests.

*Object Permanence

Until approximately age 4, children don't fully comprehend the physical
nature of the body.  However, there is a sudden change at this point.  A
very simple test to determine whether a child has passed this stage is the
Got Your Nose Test-Revised (GYNT-R) (pronounced "giant r").  In this test,
an uncle or grandparent places two fingers around the child's nose, pulls
away quickly, while inserting his (most experimenters are male) thumb
through the two fingers while shouting "I've got your nose."  By measuring
the number of minutes the child cries, one can determine his/her progress
through this stage. (Note, if the child does become distressed, it is
vitally important that the experimenter NOT pretend to "eat" the child's
stolen nose, but rather that he return it to its rightful place).  A
slightly different version of this test involves magically finding a quarter
in a child's ear.

*Appliance Sentience

Young children, until about age 6, ascribe consciousness and volition to
household appliances.  In order to test whether a child believes that
appliances are sentient, an experimenter provides the child with a grilled
cheese sandwich (American cheese on white bread), leaving the child alone in
close proximity to a video cassette recorder (note: this is a good use for
old Betamax devices).  If, within 10 minutes the child has not "fed" the
appliance the sandwich, the child is judged to have passed this
developmental milestone.

*Socio-Affiliative Development

There are a number of ways to test a child's socialization.  However, these
tests differ based on the child's gender.  For boys, one of the most
straightforward test is the Icky Girl Quotient (IGQ) which is assessed by
pointing out a little girl to a boy, and calling her his "girlfriend" and
measuring the extent to which he denies this, insisting that  a) girls are
icky, or b) girls have cooties.  After such a test, it is advised to give
the child a "cootie shot" to prevent psychological trauma.

Girls can be assessed by measuring their reaction to the immaturity of their
male peers.  Until about age 12, girls will be irritated by the childish
antics of boys.  After age 12 however, although the boys will continue to
behave identically until age 56, girls will respond to such behavior with
resigned disappointment.

In addition, the Brady Preference Scale can be used to measure the same
construct.  A child's favorite character from the Brady Bunch television
series will change with age.  Early on, children will favor the youngest
cast member of their sex (boys: Bobby, Girls: Cindy).  However, at age 8,
preference will move to the oldest child of the same sex (boys: Greg, Girls:
Marsha).  At age 12 a tachistiscopic exchange will occur, with boys
preferring Marsha and Girls swooning after Greg.

*Some Additional Stages

-The Marshmallow Curve:  If one plots the marshmallow content of breakfast
cereal over the first 20 years of life, one sees a general decline beginning
at age 3, asymptoting at age 10 and remaining constant until a slight
upswing at age 18 which appears to be associated with moving away from home.

-Sleep Preference:  At the onset of the Graduate School Stage, sleep becomes
something that the child desires rather than avoids.

-Birthday appeal:  Even controlling for number of presents, when a child
reaches age 28 they stop looking forward to upcoming birthdays and begin to
dread them.

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