Cognitive Development and Psychopathology: Observations on Egocentrism and Ego Defense

  • David Elkind


Over the past decade and a half, American research on the cognitive development of children has received its greatest impetus from the work of Jean Piaget (e.g., Piaget, 1963). Most of this research started from Piaget’s later studies and theorizing concerned with the evolution of rational thought. Much less attention was paid to Piaget’s early work (e.g., Piaget, 1929) on egocentrism. But the work on egocentrism seems most closely related to psychopathology and thus seems to warrant more study than it has heretofore received. The intent of the present paper is to provide a brief example of one of the directions such a study might take. The paper is divided into four sections. The first section reviews some of the history of the study of egocentric thought. In the second section, some of my own conceptions of the evolution of egocentric structures in children and adolescents will be described. The third section of the paper deals with the relation between egocentric structures and ego defenses at three age levels. Then, in the final section, some clinical and research implications of the discussion will be briefly presented.


Cognitive Development Cognitive Style Formal Operation Concrete Operation Magical Thinking 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Elkind
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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