Eight Stages of Human Development
Babies are born with some basic capabilities and distinct
temperaments. But they go through dramatic changes on the way to adulthood, and
while growing old. According to psychologist
Erik H. Erikson, each individual passes
through eight developmental stages (Erikson calls them "psychosocial stages").
Each stage is characterized by a different psychological "crisis", which must be
resolved by the individual before the individual can move on to the next stage.
If the person copes with a particular crisis in a maladaptive manner, the
outcome will be more struggles with that issue later in life. To Erikson, the
sequence of the stages are set by nature. It is within the set limits that
nurture works its ways.
Infancy -- Age 0 to 1
Crisis: Trust vs. Mistrust
Description: In the first year of life, infants depend on others for
food, warmth, and affection, and therefore must be able to blindly trust the
parents (or caregivers) for providing those.
Positive outcome: If their needs are met consistently and responsively by
the parents, infants not only will develop a secure attachment with the parents,
but will learn to trust their environment in general as well.
Negative outcome: If not, infant will develop mistrust towards people and
things in their environment, even towards themselves.
Toddler -- Age 1 to 2
Crisis: Autonomy (Independence) vs. Doubt (or Shame)
Description: Toddlers learn to walk, talk, use toilets, and do things for
themselves. Their self-control and self-confidence begin to develop at this
Positive outcome: If parents encourage their child's use of initiative
and reassure her when she makes mistakes, the child will develop the confidence
needed to cope with future situations that require choice, control, and
Negative outcome: If parents are overprotective, or disapproving of the
child's acts of independence, she may begin to feel ashamed of her behavior, or
have too much doubt of her abilities.
Early Childhood -- Age 2 to 6
Crisis: Initiative vs. Guilt
Description: Children have newfound power at this stage as they have
developed motor skills and become more and more engaged in social interaction
with people around them. They now must learn to achieve a balance between
eagerness for more adventure and more responsibility, and learning to control
impulses and childish fantasies.
Positive outcome: If parents are encouraging, but consistent in
discipline, children will learn to accept without guilt, that certain things are
not allowed, but at the same time will not feel shame when using their
imagination and engaging in make-believe role plays.
Negative outcome: If not, children may develop a sense of guilt and may
come to believe that it is wrong to be independent.
Learning to talk about emotions and feelings is important for children's
mental health. But it is also challenging.
Elementary and Middle School Years -- Age 6 to 12
Crisis: Competence (aka. "Industry") vs. Inferiority
Description: School is the important event at this stage. Children learn
to make things, use tools, and acquire the skills to be a worker and a potential
provider. And they do all these while making the transition from the world of
home into the world of peers.
Positive outcome: If children can discover pleasure in intellectual
stimulation, being productive, seeking success, they will develop a sense of
Negative outcome: If not, they will develop a sense of inferiority.
Stage 5: Adolescence -- Age
12 to 18
Crisis: Identity vs. Role Confusion
Description: This is the time when we ask the question "Who am I?" To
successfully answer this question, Erikson suggests, the adolescent must
integrate the healthy resolution of all earlier conflicts. Did we develop the
basic sense of trust? Do we have a strong sense of independence, competence, and
feel in control of our lives? Adolescents who have successfully dealt with
earlier conflicts are ready for the "Identity Crisis", which is considered by
Erikson as the single most significant conflict a person must face.
Positive outcome: If the adolescent solves this conflict successfully, he
will come out of this stage with a strong identity, and ready to plan for the
Negative outcome: If not, the adolescent will sink into confusion, unable
to make decisions and choices, especially about vocation, sexual orientation,
and his role in life in general.
Stage 6: Young Adulthood --
Age 19 to 40
Crisis: Intimacy vs. Isolation
Description: In this stage, the most important events are love
relationships. No matter how successful you are with your work, said Erikson,
you are not developmentally complete until you are capable of intimacy. An
individual who has not developed a sense of identity usually will fear a
committed relationship and may retreat into isolation.
Positive outcome: Adult individuals can form close relationships and
share with others if they have achieved a sense of identity.
Negative outcome: If not, they will fear commitment, feel isolated and
unable to depend on anybody in the world.
Stage 7: Middle Adulthood -- Age 40 to 65
Crisis: Generativity vs. Stagnation
Description: By "generativity" Erikson refers to the adult's ability to
look outside oneself and care for others, through parenting, for instance.
Erikson suggested that adults need children as much as children need adults, and
that this stage reflects the need to create a living legacy.
Positive outcome: People can solve this crisis by having and nurturing
children, or helping the next generation in other ways.
Negative outcome: If this crisis is not successfully resolved, the person
will remain self-centered and experience stagnation later in life.
Stage 8: Late Adulthood --
Age 65 to death
Crisis: Integrity vs. Despair Important
Description: Old age is a time for reflecting upon one's own life and its
role in the big scheme of things, and seeing it filled with pleasure and
satisfaction or disappointments and failures.
Positive outcome:If the adult has achieved a sense of fulfillment about
life and a sense of unity within himself and with others, he will accept death
with a sense of integrity. Just as the healthy child will not fear life, said
Erikson, the healthy adult will not fear death.
Negative outcome: If not, the individual will despair and fear death.