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One of the major controversies in developmental psychology centres around whether development is continuous or discontinous. For example stage theories of development rest on the assumption that development is a discontinuous process involving distinct stages which are characterised by qualitative differences in behaviour . Stage theories can be contrasted with continuous theories, which posit that development is a incremental process .
Human development itself is sometimes viewed as occurring in stages:
There are many stage theories in developmental psychology including:
- Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development described how children represent and reason about the world
- Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development expanded on Freud's psychosexual stages, he defined eight stages that describe how individuals relate to their social world 
- Sigmund Freud's Psychosexual stages described the progression of an individual's unconscious desires.
While some of these theories focus primarily on the healthy development of children, others propose stages that are characterized by a maturity rarely reached before old age.
Stages in physical development that have been studied by psychologists include:
- Developmental age groups
- Object permanence
- Perceptual development
- Rites of passage
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