Lifespan development is concerned with the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional changes from the time of conception to death. The transformations can be unique to individuals, while others are common to most people. Human growth is lifelong, and there is no specific age period that dominates maturity. In addition, the interplay of nature and nurture factors have a significant impact on the outcome of identity. Erik Erikson, a renowned German psychologist, born in 1904, developed the psychosocial theory to explain how people progress from birth to old age (Belsky 20). Central to his model is a belief that the basic motivation of humans is “on becoming an independent self and relating to others” (Belsky 20). The objective of this paper is to utilize the model to describe the maturity process while reflecting on personal experiences for the first six stages.
This is the first stage and it occurs from the time a person is delivered to one year. Erikson stated that “the belief that the human world is caring,” is the fundamental task for a baby in this period (Belsky 20). The infants are often uncertain of their surroundings, so they look for a primary caregiver to offer some consistency or stability. If successfully resolved, the child develops hope through acquiring a sense of trust. The toddler can then relate well with other people, even when threatened because they are sure of the guardian. In some cases, babies may have harsh, unpredictable, or inconsistent parents leading to fear (Belsky 21). The feeling of mistrust will, thus, define how infant interacts with people even later in their lives.
I had to interview my mother to gather information about my infancy up to the time I turned one year. However, I assume that I could develop some level of trust because my mother was a housewife at the time. She was consistent in providing me with all the basic care, such as feeding and playing. Furthermore, my extended family lived near us so that whenever my mother wished to go to the market, she will leave me with an aunt. My father worked hard to provide our livelihood and establish a stable home. Furthermore, none of my parents were alcoholics, and conflicts were minimal at home. Combined, the home environment afforded me the comfort and provision that I needed to develop trust. Although I came from a lovely home, I still cried when picked by strangers; this is based on my mother’s information. However, I believe that I resolved this crisis because now I can associate well, even with unfamiliar people.
This is the stage from when the child is one year to when they turn two years. The Erikson model specifies that the biggest challenge is “autonomy” as they leave the babyhood cocoon (Belsky 123). If the toddler’s effort to develop independence is suppressed through constant rebuke, the child develops shame and doubt. The concept of identity is also relevant at this stage as the toddler consciously embraces the human world. Self-conscious emotions such as pride emerge, which are crucial for the socialization process. As stated by Belsky, “difficulties with focusing and obeying are normal during toddlerhood, but at this age, children differ in their ability to control themselves” (130). The young ones who had in the initial stage developed mistrust and fear start indicating early signs of conscience. Those who are active and exuberant are harder to socialize. The role of the parent at this stage is to encourage the child to become autonomous while at the same time protecting them from harm. Doing so will enable the child to discover their skills and ability, which brings a sense of fulfillment.
From the interview with my mother, I knew that she bought me toys early enough, which helped in the development of some skills. On some occasions, I vividly remember my father taking my siblings and me to a recreational center and allowing each of us to choose whether we wanted to ride a bike, go on a merry-go-round, or swimming. We took pictures during such retreats, and my mother arranged them in our family album. The crisis that I had at this stage was tantrums when I was not allowed to do as I desired.
For example, when interviewing my mother, she told me a story about how we went to a supermarket, and I took a big toy which she had not budgeted for. She tried exchanging it with other alternatives, but I refused. She then forcefully carried so that we could go to some different sides of the mall. I cried vigorously while shaking, which made me slip and fall. The scene attracted a few people and left people talking about parenting. My mother felt frustrated as she picked and headed to the counter. Most people who saw me at that tender age always recall that I was strong-willed, often insisting on what I wanted. By the time I was three years, I fixed the tantrums because they no longer attracted attention from adults.
From the age of three to six years, the child has the role to either develop initiative or guilt. Erikson believed that the central “mission during preschool is to confidently exercise our bodies and minds” (Belsky 136). The child may portray vigor in their actions but adults who are not aware of the behaviors in this stage may think that the child is aggressive. The youngster starts to plan games and initiates what to do with the pears. It is normal for children to be inquisitive at this stage of life, and parents or other adults must be willing to give them the required attention and response. However, excessive control or criticism at this stage makes the child feel like a nuisance, which makes them settle for following others. In addition, when the boy or girl develops guilt, their creativity may be slowed.
I can remember some of the things in my early childhood period because we kept memories such as photos and videos. Specifically, I recall the times when other women with children my age would come to visit us. My mother would open the playroom for us and then leave us there so that we do not disrupt their social gatherings. Most of the time, we would organize ourselves into different roles for a pretend play.
On one occasion, when we were playing, one of the boys knocked his head on aboard. The side of the eye that was injured started to swell; I was playing doctor at the time. When the boy was brought to my clinic, I took an empty syringe and injected the swollen area, then smeared some menthol. After some time, the face was back to its regular shape, and I was praised. That day was important to me as it enabled me to develop initiative even in other places, such as answering questions in class. Most of the time, my mother responded positively to the questions that I asked him.
However, my father was always busy with his work and dismissed me on several occasions. Most of the time, made me feel that I was not as important as his work. With time, I learned to respect his privacy, especially when he was on calls or working on his desktop. The home environment, thus, made me develop some level of guilt. Although guilt is not good, I believe that it is necessary to some extent as it enabled me to develop some level of self-control and purpose at a tender age.
This is the stage between the seven to twelve years when the child is well established in the school and is most active in playing different games. At this stage, the teacher plays a significant role in the progress of the child. If the infant had already developed initiative and is encouraged to pursue their skills and abilities, they begin to feel industrious. The child at this stage, “understands that succeeding in the world requires work” (Belsky 137). Boys and girls begin to vigorously test their talents before they ben to the fact and curb their basic desires (Belsky 137). If a child is unable to develop any skill, such as being athletic, they feel that the world is demanding. As a result, they develop a sense of inferiority and become envious of their peers. A child needs to have a few failures to allow for a balance of competency and modesty.
Looking back, middle childhood is the time that I enjoyed the most. I had a lot of friends and playmates both at school and at home. I remember that my best subjects were science and physical education although I performed fairly well in other subjects too. Occasionally, my parents would be called to visit the school because I fought with other classmates. There are many times when I was injured while riding a bike or in a running competition with my peers. Such mistakes were a crisis that I resolved alone as I grew, although my parents tried to instill discipline in me through shaming and caning techniques. I was an industrious child with competency in both academics and sports. In addition, my parents encouraged me to clean my room and take plates from the table after eating. The result is that I learned to do things without asking for help unless it was something that needed the assistance of an adult.
Adolescence to Emerging Adulthood
This includes all the teenage years as well as the early twenties when the person develops an identity. Failure at this stage results in role confusion which is described as “an aimless drifting or shutting down” (Belsky 295). In some cases, the youth may be actively searching for their identity by exploring did different paths; this is known as moratorium (Belsky 295). Every adult must discover their personal identity first-hand, a failure to which the youth can be negatively influenced. For instance, during the Holocaust, “to cope with that nation’s economic problems after World War I, German teenagers leaped into pathological identities by entering totalitarian organizations such as the Hitler Youth” (Belsky 295). Such repercussions can be easily avoided when the youths are aware of who they are as individuals and in a group. Identity needs to be discovered early so that a person can make meaningful life choices like a career.
During my adolescence, I showed signs of maturity, such as being disciplined with how I spend money and time management. My vision was to finish my education and work in a humanitarian organization. Admittedly, I still struggled with some aspects of my life, especially religion, but I had formed a strong identity. I had my personal view of the world and my position. Having a stable family and a responsible father helped me during this process. I used to help my father at his business; sometimes, I would enquire about our family background, the passage of rights, traditions, and faith. At the time, I was unsure why I was asking some of the questions, but now I understand the reasons.
At this stage, the developmental crisis was constant conflicts with my mother on some things that were not important. She was overprotective, which made it uncomfortable because I also wanted to make my own decisions about life, which she disagreed with. For example, she wanted me to pursue medicine because it has better job security. I insisted that she can only advise me, but I will be the one to make the final decision. I was satisfied with my decisions and tried to reason out with her to understand that I was an adult capable of choosing what is right for me. When I joined college, we started getting along well. I am still not sure what changed, but now we are best friends.
Finding intimacy is an essential achievement for people in this stage who are in their twenties up to early forties. Belsky states that although marriage is a sensible idea, “a high-quality love relationship can buffer young people from the ups and downs of the turbulent twenties” (307). In most cases, the individual starts desiring romantic partnership, mostly with people of the opposite sex. When a person completes this stage, it results in a sense of commitment and safety. Other social relations with friends and family members are also important. The virtue of love is cultivated as a person intimately shares deeper friendships with others. Failure to successfully resolve this stage results in isolation, in which a person may feel lonely and have issues with their self-esteem.
With the increased use of social media, people are likely to post when they are in a relationship so that they can receive likes and congratulatory comments. However, “when couples break up, and Facebook users feel compelled to broadcast their failure to the world by changing their on-line status to “it’s complicated” or “single” (Belsky 310). I first got into a romantic relationship when I was 19 years. I was excited to finally embrace love blindly and be committed to someone always willing to be there for me. However, after just eight months of dating, I received a message that we should end things between us and move on with our individual lives. I remember feeling so heartbroken that I spent two days locked in my room.
The biggest task, after the loss of our relationship, was bearing the shame of admitting to others that the relationship our love story had just come to an end. The crisis was that I did not feel the liberty to share my feelings, which made me depressed. When I started opening up to my struggles were reduced due to comfort from my friends that everything will be fine. I deleted everything that connected me to him on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Also, I tried to remain positive, concentrate on my studies, and join a dancing group. Within three months, I felt normal again, shortly after I started another relationship, which has so far been successful.
This stage occurs when a person is in their forties to sixties, and the primary task is generativity or stagnation. Erikson believed that “when midlife adults have not achieved generativity, they feel stagnant, without a sense of purpose in life” (Belsky 362). For midlife people to be fulfilled in the afternoon of life, it is relevant that they nurture the next generation so that they have a sense of purpose. This does not imply hedonic happiness, which is described as feeling good but eudaimonic joy, which denotes a purposeful life (Belsky 363). Early developmental stages have a significant impact on the ability of the adult to care for others.
Notably, people who had support from parents and teachers during their childhood and then got into a stable relationship are more likely to have wisdom and resources that they share in building society. The individuals can give back by raising young ones, enhancing workplace productivity, and involvement in community work. Those who unsuccessfully resolve this stage become stagnant in life because they feel unproductive. In some cases, midlife crises occur when the person thinks that there are so many demands that they have to meet, yet their capacity is limited.
This is the stage where a person is past their late sixties, and their key task is making a resolve between integrity and despair. The psychosocial model demands that “to reach integrity, older people must review their lives and make peace with what they have previously done” (Belsky 389). This does not imply that elderly people need to dwell in the past to find happiness; rather, they should continue to live purposeful and meaningful life. Generally, the productivity rate of senior citizens tends to slow down from their previous performances. The senior citizens look back and contemplate their achievements and develop integrity if past life was triumphant. A person can generate wisdom as they learn from their life and prepare for the end.
However, when a person feels guilty about their past and is not proud of failures to achieve some task, they feel dissatisfied with life leading to feelings of despair, hopelessness, and desperation. Erikson believes that “older adults who have serious regrets about their lives may be terrified of death” (Belsky 389). Therefore, people at this stage need to prioritize positive emotions and use their mistakes to teach younger generations.
The human development through the eight psychosocial stages that were proposed by Eric Erikson is complex. At each stage in life, there is a milestone that a person needs to resolve successfully to avoid the crisis associated with that stage. Erikson’s theory provides descriptive connections between all stages. However, it does not offer universal solutions to how the crisis can be resolved. From my reflection, it is apparent that I have been able to navigate the first six stages of my lifespan well. For the remaining steps, I am planning to make the right choices to have enough wisdom to pass to the next generation by the time I am in the late adulthood stage.
Belsky, Janet. Experiencing the Lifespan. 5th ed., Worth Publishers, 2019.