Which stage are you currently in?
There has been significant amount of research done by bright people in the world of psychology in an attempt to map out how our psyche develops through our life time. This is what’s known as the field of developmental psychology.
Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, had went through great efforts to construct his psychosocial development stages. In this, he divides our life span into 8 different stages. These stages account for the moment we’re born, until the day we die.
In his psychosocial developmental stages, he describes different aspects that he has witnessed in his research. It is almost like a picture that shows the different aspects of each stage from birth until death.
The 8 stages are known as:
- Trust Vs. Mistrust (0 – 1 ½)
- Autonomy Vs. Shame (1 ½ – 3)
- Initiative Vs. Guilt (3 – 5)
- Industry Vs. Inferiority (5 – 12)
- Ego identity Vs. Role Confusion (12 – 18)
- Intimacy Vs. Isolation (18 – 40)
- Generativity Vs. Stagnation (40 – 65)
- Ego integrity Vs. Despair (65+)
Most changes occur during the childhood period of our lives. This makes sense when we notice how much we grow and learn during this time period. We go from being unable to support ourselves as a baby to having full-fledged responsibilities as an adult in just a short 18 years.
This shows just how important one’s childhood is as a determinate of a successful future.
Congratulations, you have just been born! Unfortunately, you are unable to take care of yourself. Thus, you must rely on others to make sure you get what you need. This responsibility usually falls to your parents. Although, others can impact how trusting, or mistrusting, you are to a lesser extent.
It is up to them to make sure that you are fed, bathed, clothed, and sheltered. If your parents consistently meet your needs, then you begin to trust them. If not, then you begin not to trust them.
The primary attachments are formed in this stage. If your parents succeed in creating a trusting relationship between them and yourself, then you should develop a secure attachment. If not, you may form an insecure or resistant attachment to your parents.
Now that you’ve got some life experience under your belt, you begin doing things on your own. You most likely can walk by now and have learned to communicate.
At this point you are beginning to shape who you are. You start developing your personality, interests, skills, and abilities.
You seek to do so on your own as well. You challenge yourself. You work to become autonomous, or independent.
Hopefully , your parents are giving you power to make small decisions such as what shoes you want to wear, or which toys you want to play with. At the same time, they should be encouraging you to put said shoes on yourself if you are able to.
These are actions that help to bolster your independence.
However, graduated independence also comes with failure. It is your parent’s duty to take the appropriate action in response.
In order to foster a healthy sense of autonomy, your parents should be close by for most independent actions you take. Those that you fail at, they will be able to help you with. For example, if you are not able to put on your shoes alone, your parents can help guide you on how to do it until you are ready to take one the task alone.
In order to foster a good sense of autonomy or independence, your parents must find a balance between helping you and allowing you to do tasks on your own.
If your parents are successful in finding said balance, you will begin to foster a sense of confidence and self-esteem.
It is at this point where you will start taking initiative to do things that you want to do. Now that you have gotten comfortable exploring and learning how to do things yourself, you are taking that to the next level.
You now begin to purposefully seek out things that you want. Typically, this involves playing in a specific way with specific things. For example, you may purposefully intend to play with a toy car in a way that is congruent with actual cars.
The main point however, is that you are taking the initiative to do so. You’re not wandering around exploring as much. You have an idea in your head of what you want to happen, and you’re going after such.
If the initiative is encouraged, you will begin to further increase your confidence and self-esteem. This can lead to the beginning of leadership skills.
However, it will be easy to seek out something dangerous such as climbing on the top of a playground. Your parents must learn how to prevent such behaviors while still encouraging you to take initiative.
If they are unable to do this, it will cause you to become guilty for trying something you were not ready for. Thus, you will be less likely to take initiative in the future.
During this stage, you will begin to build the backbone of your confidence. At this stage, you are going to be working on developing key skills such as reading, writing, and speaking. You will be improving already learned skills which also adding new ones.
The level of your confidence in these skills will be influenced by your parents and teachers. Through praise and good grades, you will develop a sense of industry. You will be become confident in your abilities.
If you fall short of your parents and teachers expectations, then you will experience inferiority. You will be less sure of your skills the next time that you need to call on them.
This is also the period of time where you will begin to think abstractly. For example, time is an abstract idea. You cannot hold it in your hands. It is not a concrete thing. This is what makes it abstract.
This marks the beginning of the shift from mainly concrete thoughts, to mainly abstract thoughts.
It is at this period that you enter adolescence. This is a crucial period of time within your life that you will come to find your identity.
During this time period, you will create an idea of the type of adult you wish to be and work to build your identity around that. Do you want to be a musician, academic, or even an athlete perhaps? Regardless of what you choose, you will start to make autonomous efforts to achieve that identity.
If you become unsure of what you want to become during adulthood, then you will experience role confusion. You might be unsure of where you belong in society and begin to explore the different paths.
This will be a difficult time period in your life. You may feel as though you do not fit in anywhere while trying to discover the identity you want to adopt. During this time, you will also be going massive physiological changes through puberty.
The vast amount of changes from puberty will only add to the stress that comes in finding your identity.
Congratulations, you have made it into adulthood. At this point you will begin to seek out major responsibilities. You will begin moving away from dependency on your parents in all aspects.
Now that you are moving away from familial dependency, you will begin looking to create a family of your own. Successful attempts in establishing intimate relationships will reward you with a sense of security, safety, and happiness if intimacy is what you desire.
Failure to establish relationships will result in isolation.
During this time period, you will begin to create your family is you have not already.
You will also begin to work toward guiding the next-generation, your family included. It is at this point that we look to begin leaving a legacy.
If you choose not to pass on your guidance to the younger generation, then you will fall into stagnation.
I now wish you your final congratulations. You have made it to the final stages of your life cycle.
At this point you will begin enjoying retirement. You productivity will cease and you will focus more on leisure time.
It is also at this time that you will begin to look back upon your life. Was it fulfilling? Do you have any regrets?
If you do have a substantial amount of regrets, then you will go into a state of despair.
This is a quick snapshot on how Erik Erikson labels our lifespan. If you’re interested, I would definitely go look at more detailed descriptions of each stage as it can be very interesting.
As parents, we can learn a lot on the best methods of parenting by looking at developmental research.
Even if you are not a parent, you can still dive into the research to see what things you may need to focus on in order to live a fulfilling life.
The last thing any one of us wants is to live out the last stages of our life in despair.