Unlike Sigmund Freud, who singled out five stages of psychosocial development, Erik Erikson established the eight stages classification. They include infancy, under one year, toddlerhood, from one to three years, early childhood, from three to six years, middle childhood, from seven to ten years, and adolescence, from eleven to nineteen years. Then come early adulthood, from twenty to forty-five years, middle adulthood, from forty-five to sixty-four years, and late adulthood, from sixty-five years and above (Orenstein & Lewis, 2021). Erikson stated that the peculiarities of psychological and social development of a person depend on the levels of economic and cultural well-being a particular society possesses. The historical period a child was raised in impacts his development as well, as different periods and different countries and peoples transmit different sets of values (Malone et al., 2016). The circumstances of personal growth are defined by the society’s anticipations and challenges it wants its members to perform at different ages. While a child grows, he goes through several stages, gaining new personal characteristics that form and shape his personality.
It is essential to consider how parents raise and treat their child during his childhood to understand his behavior and actions. According to Erikson, parents should take into account different aspects of their child’s development to raise a person without psychological issues (Erskine, 2019). To understand my own life and values, I interviewed my parents to find out their opinion on whether they managed to lead me through Erikson’s stages safely or not. I found out that my mother tried to help me pass the first phase when either mistrust or trust in people and the world is formed though my father was addicted to drugs.
The second stage, when either autonomy or shame is formed, passed quite successfully, and the base for my future independence was formed. It happened due to my mother’s desire to save my identity. She tried to establish reasonable restrictions that prevented the feeling of emerging autonomy from turning into negative feelings of shame or doubt. She was not harsh or me, so neither then nor now do I have a fear of losing face or communication-related issues. When it comes to early childhood, my mother tried to help me not to behave aggressively and restrict the manifestations of the harsh or aggressive compartment. At the same time, she managed to stay calm and respected my boundaries. My father, in contrast, boosted those manifestations by setting an example himself.
The next stage, which is called latency, targets the development of either industry or inferiority. When a child is properly guided through this stage by his parents, he becomes an industrious person and gains new knowledge about different aspects of the world. If the parents pay too much attention to their child’s failures and stress that he knows nothing and cannot do anything on his own, the child becomes nervous and sensitive to every mistake he makes. My parents helped me go through this stage quite safely. However, they still sometimes shifted the focus of their attention to my errors and insignificant failures, which usually accompany the process of a child’s education.
Then comes the most challenging period, both for the parents and the child. It is called fidelity, and during this stage, teenagers usually experience a deep existential crisis. They combine all their previous identities to develop a new one. A solid personality helps young people decide what they would like to become in life. If they fail to do that, they become reluctant toward the process of growing up, which causes feelings of abandonment, loss, isolation, and constant anxiety. My mother tried to guide me through this stage, but my father’s example of negative experiences concerning using drugs was constantly in front of me. Hence, despite my mum’s attempts to positively influence my future life, career, and self-development, I constantly felt growing anxiety.
When reflecting on my progress through Erikson’s stages, it is necessary to mention that though my mother helped me avoid the majority of the problems, I still faced some. It happened because the environment I grew up in included not only home and parents. Thus, my fear of making mistakes was caused mainly by the strict teachers at school, who focused primarily on students’ errors and did not praise them for their achievements. In addition, the fear of being judged was also a result of constant negative assessments on behalf of the teachers and some of my classmates. However, due to my mother’s support and love, I managed to cope with these problems quite easily, and they did not severely damage my life.
Apart from that, the negative example of my father became the reason for the trust issues I had in the past and have nowadays. The sight of my father’s actions dictated by the drug addiction unconsciously formed a conviction that people I love or cherish may suddenly leave me. Constant fear for my father’s fate that accompanied me throughout my childhood and adolescence has become the reason for the trust issues I faced in the early 20th. Though my mother tried to protect me from my father’s negative influence and not let me follow his example, I had a constant fear of losing a loved one. It further transformed into the solid conviction that it is painful to trust people because they will abandon you without your permission. However, my mother’s support and love soothed me a little, and now I dare to cope with the trust issues.
In addition, living with a man addicted to drugs has become the reason for constant anxiety, especially during the stage of fidelity when teenagers seek ideals to stick to and are susceptible to negative influence. Existential crises and confusion about the future only boosted my anxiety. Since I could not find regular support from my father and rely only on my mother, my insecurity grew. Instead of a solid and secure person, I saw my father as a weak man who could not cope with the circumstances and tried to escape from reality by using drugs. The fear of repeating his fate only boosted my anxiety about my future life.
Hence, my parents ambiguously influenced my life if we regard its development from the perspective of Erikson’s stages. On the one hand, I had a supportive mother that did everything for my well-being and self-development. On the other hand, I had a drug-addicted father, whose behavior caused fear of being abandoned by a loved one during the first year which grew into a lack of trust in people. During my teen years, the trust issue was accompanied by anxiety about not being able to cope with the problems since I had my father’s example in front of me.
However, not all the provisions of Erikson’s theory worked in my case. Hence, although I had the negative example of my father being addicted to drugs, I did not consider becoming a drug user myself. When teenagers challenge social norms and try to establish their true identity during the fidelity stage, they are extremely susceptible to negative addictions. It was easier for me to become addicted myself during that age since I had a constant temptation to try something prohibited, looking at my father’s example. Following Erikson’s theory, I should have tried drugs, but I did not do it due to my personal beliefs. The theory, however, regards only the parents’ influence on children and does not consider their own opinions that are usually formed by the age of fifteen or sixteen.
Erikson’s theory is helpful for developmental psychology because it describes in detail how parents’ behavior influences their children’s development and self-determination. It may help the parents establish the most effective and, at the same time, less harmful strategy for educating their children (Gross, 2020). It also allows psychologists to work out the roots of their client’s mental health issues just by asking several questions about their childhood and the way their parents treated them. However, it is still possible to single out the disadvantages of the system. The main one concerns the fact that the five stages of the eight regard the first nineteen years of life. The self-development process does not stop at the age of twenty, and it is necessary to measure it by shorter periods than twenty-twenty-five years in adulthood.
To conclude, it is necessary to mention that Erikson’s theory of people’s psychosocial development is helpful for psychology. It helps doctors cope with their patient’s mental health issues effectively and provides parents with information about the most effective ways to develop their child’s identity. However, it is necessary to remember that everyone is different, so some provisions of the theory may not work out for a particular person.
Erskine, R. G. (2019).Child development in integrative psychotherapy: Erik Erikson’s first three stages. International Journal of Integrative Psychotherapy, 10. Web.
Gross, Y. (2020). Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Models and Theories. Web.
Malone, J. C., Liu, S. R., Vaillant, G. E., Rentz, S. M. & Waldinger, R. J. (2016). Midlife Eriksonian psychosocial development: Setting the stage for late-life cognitive and emotional health. Developmental Psychology, 52(3), 496-508.
Orenstein, G. A. & Lewis, L. (2021). Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. StatPearls Publishing.