This paper will present an overview of the developmental tasks involved in the social and emotional development of children and teenagers which continues into adulthood. The presentation is based on the Eight Stages of Development developed by psychiatrist, Erik Erikson in 1956. According to Erickson, humans move through eight stages of psychosocial development during our lives. Each stage centers around a specific crisis or conflict between competing tendencies.
Erikson's theory consists of eight stages of development. Each stage is characterized by a different conflict that must be resolved by the individual. When the environment makes new demands on people, the conflicts arise. "The person is faced with a choice between two ways of coping with each crisis, an adaptive or maladaptive way. Only when each crisis is resolved, which involves change in the personality; does the person have sufficient strength to deal with the next stages of development"(Schultz and Schultz, 1987). If a person is unable to resolve a conflict at a particular stage, they will confront and struggle with it later in life. Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Hope)
Chronologically, this is the period of infancy through the first one or two years of life. The child, well - handled, nurtured, and loved, develops trust and security and a basic optimism (Stevens, 1983). Badly handled, a child becomes insecure and mistrustful. Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Will)
The second psychosocial crisis, Erikson believes, occurs during early childhood, probably between about 18 months or 2 years and 3½ to 4 years of age. According to Erikson, self control and self confidence begin to develop at this stage (Stevens, 1983). Children can do more on their own. Toilet training is the most important event at this stage. They also begin to feed and dress themselves. This is how the toddler strives for autonomy. It is essential for parents not to be overprotective at this stage (Stevens, 1983). A parent's level of protectiveness will influence the child's ability to achieve autonomy. If a parent is not reinforcing, the child will feel shameful and will learn to doubt his or her abilities. "Erikson believes that children who experience too much doubt at this stage will lack confidence in their powers later in life"(Woolfolk, 1987). Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Purpose)
Erikson believes that this third psychosocial crisis occurs during what he calls the "play age," or the later preschool years (from about 3½ to, in the United States culture, entry into formal school). The development of courage and independence are what set preschoolers, ages three to six years of age, apart from other age groups. Young children in this category face the challenge of initiative versus guilt. As described in Bee and Boyd (2004), the child during this stage faces the complexities of planning and developing a sense of judgment. During this stage, the child learns to take initiative and prepare for leadership and goal achievement roles. Activities sought out by a child in this stage may include risk-taking behaviors, such as crossing a street alone or riding a bike without a helmet; both these examples involve self-limits. These behaviors are a result of the child developing a sense of frustration for not being able to achieve a goal as planned and may engage in behaviors that seem aggressive, ruthless, and overly assertive to parents (Marcia, 1966). Aggressive behaviors, such as throwing objects, hitting, or yelling, are examples of observable behaviors during this stage. Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence)
Erikson believes that the fourth psychosocial crisis is handled, for better or worse, during what he calls the "school age," most likely up to and possibly including some of junior high school (Erickson, 1950). "Children at this age are becoming more aware of themselves as individuals." They work hard at "being responsible, being good and doing it right." They are now more reasonable to share and cooperate.” (Gross, 1987). Allen and Marotz (2003) also list some cognitive developmental traits specific for this age group: Children understand the concepts of space and time, gain better understanding of cause and effect and understand calendar time. At this stage, children are eager to learn and accomplish more complex skills: reading, writing, telling time. They also get to form moral values, recognize cultural and individual differences and are able to manage most of their personal needs and grooming with minimal assistance (Allen and Marotz, 2003). At this stage, children might express their independence by being disobedient, using back talk and being rebellious. Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Fidelity)
During the fifth psychosocial crisis (adolescence, from about 13 or 14 to about 20) the child, now an adolescent, learns how to answer satisfactorily and happily the question of "Who am I?" But even the most adjusted of adolescent’s experiences some role identity diffusion: most boys and probably most girls experiment with minor delinquency, rebellion, self - doubts flood the adolescent (Kail and Cavanaugh, 2004). Erikson is credited with coining the term "Identity Crisis"(Gross, 1987). Each stage that came before and that follows has its own 'crisis', but even more so now, for this marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. This passage is necessary because "Throughout infancy and childhood, a person forms many identifications. But the need for identity in youth is not met by these (Wright, 1982). This turning point in human development seems to be the reconciliation between 'the person one has come to be' and 'the person society expects one to become'. This emerging sense of self will be established by merging past experiences with expectation of the future. In relation to the eight life stages as a whole, the fifth stage corresponds to the crossroads: Adolescents "are confronted by the need to re-establish [boundaries] for themselves and to do this in the face of an often potentially hostile world (Gross, 1987).” This is often challenging since commitments are being asked for before particular identity roles have formed. At this point, one is in a state of 'identity confusion', but society normally makes allowances for youth to "find themselves," and this state is called 'the moratorium': As in other stages, bio-psycho-social forces are at work. No matter how one has been raised, one’s personal ideologies are now chosen for oneself (Wright, 1982). Oftentimes, this leads to conflict with adults over religious and political orientations. Another area where teenagers are deciding for themselves is their career choice, and oftentimes parents want to have a decisive say in that role. If society is too insistent, the teenager will agree to external wishes, forcing him or her to stop experimentation and finding true self-discovery. Once someone settles on a worldview and vocation, will he or she be able to incorporate this aspect of self-definition into a diverse society? According to Erikson, when an adolescent has balanced both perspectives of “What have I got?” and “What am I going to do with it?” he or she has established their identity (Gross, 1987) Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Love)
The Intimacy vs. Isolation conflict is emphasized around the ages of 20 to 34. At the start of this stage, identity vs. role confusion is coming to an end, and it still lingers at the foundation of the stage (Erikson, 1950). Young adults are still eager to blend their identities with friends. They want to fit in. Erikson believes we are sometimes isolated due to intimacy. We are afraid of rejections such as being turned down or our partners breaking up with us. We are familiar with pain, and to some of us, rejection is painful; our egos cannot bear the pain. Erikson also argues that "Intimacy has a counterpart: Distantiation: the readiness to isolate and if necessary, to destroy those forces and people whose essence seems dangerous to our own, and whose territory seems to encroach on the extent of one's intimate relations" (Erickson, 1950). Once people have established their identities, they are ready to make long-term commitments to others. They become capable of forming intimate, mutual relationships and willingly make the sacrifices and compromises that such relationships require. If people cannot form these intimate relationships – perhaps because of their own needs – a sense of isolation may result. Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care)
In adulthood, the psychosocial crisis demands generativity, both in the sense of marriage and parenthood, and in the sense of working productively and creatively. Integrity Versus Despair (Wisdom)
If the other seven psychosocial crisis have been successfully resolved, the mature adult develops the peak of adjustment; integrity (Marcia, 1966). He trusts, he is independent and dares the new. He works hard, has found a well - defined role in life, and has developed a self-concept with which he is happy. He can be intimate without strain, guilt, regret, or lack of realism; and he is proud of what he creates; his children, his work, or his hobbies (Marcia, 1966). If one or more of the earlier psychosocial crises have not been resolved, he may view himself and his life with disgust and despair. Conclusion
These eight stages of man, or the psychosocial crises, are likely and insightful descriptions of how personality develops but at present they are descriptions only. We possess at best simple and tentative knowledge of just what sort of environment will result, for example, in traits of trust versus distrust, or clear personal identity versus diffusion. Socialization, then is a learning - teaching process that, when successful, results in the human organism's moving from its infant state of helpless but total self-absorption to its ideal adult state of sensible conformity coupled with independent creativity.
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