The various stages of psychosocial development were actualized by Erik Erikson (1902 - 1994), in his 'Psychosocial Theory of Development', while attempting to understand the development of human beings on the basis of their social interaction. The fabric of human psyche was scrutinized by dissecting psychosocial development into 8 distinct stages. The response of human beings to the stimuli of social interplay was believed to be the basis for personality development, which in turn would govern any further social interaction.
Erikson's Psychosocial Theory of Development
- The first stage of psychosocial development evolves around the child and the caregiver whose ability to care and bond consistently with the child will help the former develop a sense of trust. The willingness to trust is thus, a function of consistent nurturing, the absence of which results in the child being unable to trust the world which is perceived as changeable.
- An infant who develops into a toddler, tries to assert its independence by gradually estranging itself from the caregiver. A controlling or a restrictive environment, where a child is not allowed to choose, can result in the child developing a low self-esteem. A feeling of inadequacy may also plague the child at a later stage in life. It's believed that an action as simple as allowing the child to choose a toy may have a great impact on its sense of autonomy at a later date.
- Between the ages of 3 and 6, the desire to lead or take initiative tends to manifest when children are in groups. Again, a controlling or restrictive environment, where children are criticized or overly restricted, may result in them feeling guilty for wanting to assert themselves.
- The next stage, that begins at the age of 6 and lasts till puberty, is one wherein positive reinforcements are a must to make one feel like an achiever; a competent youngster who can reach the zenith of achievement. Encouragement from parents and teachers is a must for the child to feel confident in his/her ability to achieve the desired goals.
- The fifth stage is when one is trying to reinforce one's sense of identity. Youngsters who find success in exploring their lives, will emerge from this stage with strong convictions and beliefs. A sense of identity is fundamental to one's existence. If one is unsure of oneself at this stage, the transition from adolescence to adulthood will be fraught with difficulties. Children who have not been nurtured, appreciated, allowed to choose, and assert themselves, may still develop a sense of identity that can help propel the young adolescents toward a better life.
- This adolescent stage leads on to the stage where one starts exploring personal relationships. A young adult who does not have a strong sense of identity will find it increasingly difficult to forge successful relationships. Such people are more likely to suffer from depression as a consequence of isolation and the inability to commit to healthy relationships.
- The young adult then grows into a mature individual with a career and a family. At this stage, every person would like to make some positive contribution to the society. Working towards the well-being of the family and progressing in one's chosen line of work will make one feel worthwhile. Individuals who are confident about having contributed positively to the society now assume their rightful place as the elders of the community.
- The last stage is one of rumination and contemplation, where one looks back on life and feels satisfied about one's accomplishments or feels dissatisfied on having wasted one's life in less worthy pursuits.
It's evident that every stage gives one an opportunity to evolve into a better person. Although some stages of evolution are constrained on account of the experience being contingent to the willingness and ability of others to let us evolve, there are stages where one can change the course of life by assuming responsibility for one's actions.