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Analysis of Psychosocial Development Theory Essay

The psychosocial theory provides a theoretical structure that highlights the constant assimilation and communication of individual competencies with resources, difficulties, and culture. Development is seen as a product of genetic, social, maturational, and autonomous dynamics. For this assignment, I am analyzing personal development using Erickson’s psychosocial theory of development.

Erickson believed that development follows the epigenetic principle, that anything that grows has a ground plan (Vander Zanden et al., 2006). Simply stated, each stage of Erickson’s theory ascends according to an innate plan with each stage building upon the previous stages and focuses on a challenge that must be resolved during that stage in order to move effectively onto the next developmental stage. Erickson’s psychosocial theory draws our attention to the continual process of personality development that takes place s throughout the life span. Erickson believed each part each part of the personality has a particular time in the life span when it must develop if at all (Vander Zanden et al., 2006).

Psychosocial Stages of DevelopmentThe first stage in Erikson’s theory begins in infancy, with the conflict of trust versus mistrust. In this stage an infant is dependent upon others, specifically their parent or caregiver to meet their basic needs. If these needs are meet, the infant will develop trust in self, parent’s caregivers, and their surroundings, if not mistrust will develop. Trust versus mistrust is present throughout a person’s life span. Consequently, if the conflict is not positively resolved within this developmental period, the person maybe affected negatively and only partially immerses themselves into society.

As a mother, I understand that my daughter’s need for nourishment, comfort, care, and familiarity, must be met by me. In order for her to develop a loving and trusting relationship with me, I remained responsive and consistent. As my daughter grows older, she will become more knowledgeable and understanding with her peers and begin investigating her surroundings with persistence and eagerness.

Stage two picks up at toddlerhood, usually starting around age 2 and continuing through age 3, with the conflict autonomy versus shame and doubt. During this stage children become mobile within their environment. This new found mobility is like a since of freedom to a child. If parents consistently encourage their children’s mobility, they will aid the children in developing a sense of autonomy, self control, and self confidence. If parents do not reinforce their child’s new freedom then the child will experience shame and learn self-doubt.

My toddler is currently within this stage and she has started to undertake the responsibilities of feeding, dressing, bathing, and toileting. As a parent I have the tendency to be protective, thus assisting her without her approval. Nonetheless, I realize that I can do more harm than help to her development if I am overbearing and overprotective during this stage. I could positively or negatively influence my daughter’s ability to reach autonomy through my level of covetousness.

Stage three of Erikson’s psychosocial theory begins at age 4 and continues through age 5, with the conflict initiative versus guilt. Initiative is the readiness to embark on new ventures whereas guilt is a sense that they have done something wrong. During this stage children are eager for responsibility and look to their parents for conformation. As parents the duty is ours to validate to our children, by proving that their initiative is valued no matter the size of the deed. Sadly, when parents are restrictive and do not allow their child the chance to be responsible and independent, the child may develop a sense of guilt and disapproval in the eyes of their parents.

As a child my father always allowed me to help with projects around the house, by allowing me to pass him tools. My mother always allowed me to assist her in kitchen with dinner, by letting me mix the batter, oil the pan, break the egg, and pass her various kitchen utensils. I cherished my parents for this freedom and always viewed them as my unsung heroes. Today, in my daily life and work, I take the initiative with projects, chores, packing, and much more. It times I do feel guilt over some actions, but I am assured that it linked to my beliefs of achievement rather than my parents restrictive actions on occasion.

From age 6 to age 12 a child is considered to be in the fourth stage of the psychosocial theory with the conflict industry versus inferiority. During this stage a child is learning to read, write, and how to create things by themselves. During this stage my educators became increasingly key figures in my life. They gave me many tasks and taught me many skills. I was always determined to master the tasks and skills (i.e. math and science) set before me. At this point in my life my peers became more momentous in my life because I was learning to work with them in order to complete tasks.

I have never much of a follower, nonetheless school opened the door to new social roles therefore, gaining the approval and acceptance of my peers and teachers was important. I worked hard in all my classes and extracurricular activities to be the best by obtaining the top grades, best batting record, most assists and points, most volunteer hours, and more. The skills I developed along throughout this stage gave me confidence that others saw and appreciated, which showed approval and acceptance. I believe that when a child does not develop the necessary skills needed for school, home, and other cultural task that it can lead to the child developing a sense of inferiority because their acceptance is based on competent performance.

Erikson’s fifth stage is the conflict identity versus identity confusion. Stage five typically starts at age 12 and continues to age 18. At this stage, adolescents are striving to find their identity and place in the world that will lead them into young adulthood. At some point in this stage I was struggling to find out what to with my life and remember asking myself this question, “Who Am I?” I wanted to separated myself apart from my parents and siblings, so I made a conscious search for identity and found things I enjoyed (i.e., school, softball, basketball, tutoring) an excelled. At the end of my high school career I had discovered my cultural, communal, and personal identity as a member of society identity and was ready to face the new challenges of college.

My childhood friend, Amelia struggled during this stage with identity development by gender. In her parents eyes, she was a girl and should behavior as such, therefore sports and other male related activities where frown upon within her home. It was not until Amelia reached the age of sixteen that she made a conscious decision to make her own choices, in spite of her parent’s viewpoints. Woolfolk, (1987), notes that if adolescents are unable to make conscious choices and decisions, especially as it pertains to their career and sexual orientation, then their role confusion becomes a threat. Success at this stage is dependent upon the child’s resolution of conflicts in earlier stages. If past experiences are integrated and past conflicts resolved, there will be a strong ego identity. Conversely, identity confusion will arise if the ego is weak.

Stage six is the beginning of the developmental period of young adulthood. This is a period when most of us finish college, find a career, and create a family of our own. During this time most of us are changing cognitively, physically, and socioemotionally. In this stage the conflict is intimacy versus isolation. According to Erikson’s stages of development, I am in this stage. During this stage one either gets involved in an intimate relationship or retreat into isolation. In the initial stage of being an adult individual’s seek one or more companions and love. As individual’s try to find mutually satisfying relationships, primarily through marriage and friendships, they generally also begin to start a career and family, as have I.

An example of my success in this stage is my giving and sharing within my marriage and friendships without feelings of obligation or asking for anything in return. The age in the stage has been pushed back to the mid thirties because today many couples wait until then to start families. My belief is that if a person has not resolved the conflict of identity in stage five, that they will fear a committed relationship, thus causing them to retreat into isolation. Lastly, when people have difficulty creating lasting and satisfying relationships, they may isolate and distance themselves from others due to feeling of inferiority.

Stage seven of Erikson’s psychosocial theory begins around age 40 and continues through age 65, with the conflict generativity versus stagnation. Generativity, refers to an adult’s competence to care for another human being (Newman & Newman, 1991). A personal example is my older sister Deloris, who had settled into a stable career, marriage, church, family, and other numerous responsibilities. Our mother was diagnosed with Alzehemier’s Disease (AD) during this stage and because Deloris was the closet and oldest, she was expected to give of herself by adding the responsibility of caring for our mother. The responsibilities were overwhelming, but she overcame because of her willingness to be flexible and adaptable, which allowed her to rely on her environment and family to help her deal. If Deloris had remained inflexible and enabled the responsibilities to overwhelm she would have become stagnate. The debilitating state of our mother’s AD forced my sister to be flexible, by reducing church activities, additional work duties and ultimately changing the way she dealt with her world.

Integrity versus despair is the eighth psychosocial stage of development. The developmental period for this stage is age 65 to death. This stage occurs when many of our parents are up in age and must come to terms with the approach of death. At this period in my parent’s life, both where retired and had time to analyze what they had accomplished and accumulated throughout life. They had come to accept their entire life with a positive outlook and even decided how their estate would be divided up amongst 21 children, thus leaving them with a sense to integrity. According to Newman and Newman, (1991) if my parents had been unable to accept responsibility for their life’s outcome and resolve conflict in earlier stages, they may have experienced despair and regret. Sadly, many older adults feel as if their life was filled with disappointment and failure, thus making it hard for them to handle life and the probability of death at this stage.

Despair versus hope and faith is the final stage of Erikson’s psychosocial theory. The developmental period for this stage is late 80s and beyond. During this stage person are faced with a new sense of self over failing bodies and need for care. The favored outcome of this stage is to achieve a new sense of wisdom and transcendence (Vander Zanden et al., 2006).

Comparison of Erikson and Kohlberg TheoriesErikson’s psychosocial theory holds that developmentproceeds throughout nine developmental stages that are distinguished by a specific conflict. Kohlberg’s moral development theory holds that moral reasoning has six developmental stages with three distinctive levels. Erikson and Kohlberg theories each focus on a particular facet of maturation, such as social, moral, and psychosocial. It has been stated that psychosocial development and moral reasoning are influenced by factors such as socialization and gender identity. When a person is born they are identified by their gender as either a boy or a girl. It is my belief that the title of boy and girl or man and woman influence how children respond to psychosocial developmental challenges and resolve moral dilemmas. These titles provide a structure around which role and behavioral expectations formed.

Brief Analysis of Kohlberg’s Model of Moral DevelopmentWhen people talk about moral development, they are referring to conduct and attitude towards other people in society. They look to see if societal norms, rules, and laws are being followed. In terms of children, it is their ability to distinguish right from wrong. Moral development, embraces pro-social behaviors, such as philanthropy and emotional development.

Kohlberg stressed that moral development is based primarily on moral reasoning and unfolds in stages. On the basis of his research, Kohlberg identified six stages of moral reasoning grouped into three major levels (preconventional morality, conventional morality, postconventional morality). Each developmental level represented a fundamental shift in the social-moral perspective of the individual. As a child and now adult, I have at one point and time, fallen within each level and stage. My parents always stressed honesty, trust, and respect. They also give consequences when I was disobedient to the rules. In order to avoid punishment I obeyed the rules.

During church and school, I behaved properly by obeying the teachers, completing assignments on-time, returning lost items (i.e., pencils, fans, and money), and repenting when needed in order to gain approval from my peers, teachers, pastor, and administrators. At other times, in my life, I have been concerned with my rights as a citizen, student, mother, and wife, while at other times I have been guided entirely by my conscience. My conscience always gets the best of me no matter the circumstance. When I was five years old, my brother Rico took candy from my father’s private stash and shared it with me. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted the candy so I keep my mouth closed. I thought I could just put it behind and move on, but I had a sense of wrong come over me and I could not sleep until I told my father the truth. Once, the truth was revealed I was freed and felt good within.

My view of moral development aligns with Kohlberg’s theory of moral development which was actually based on Piaget’s cognitive theory. He believed young children’s cognitive thinking develops along with their moral development. Young children are ego centered and their moral judgment is based on their own perspectives, not others and they follow rule because they are afraid of punishment. As children grow they understand values, rules, and their obedience is not out of fear, yet is based on their moral development.

ReflectionAccording to Erikson’s nine stages of development, I am in the sixth stage with conflict intimacy versus isolation. Erikson’s psychosocial development theory aligns with many of my viewpoints. His theory stresses that children are curious, active explorers who are adaptive, impacted by social and cultural influences, and rational. The theory emphasizes that individuals continue to develop and change throughout their lives, and that personality is not solely shaped during early childhood. The theories framework is a tool that can aid individuals in understanding self-awareness and self-improvement. Erikson’s stages of development enabled me to better understand the connections between my behavior and personal experiences. As a parent, it has opened my eyes to how I can help rather than hinder my daughter’s development into mature, well-rounded, and emotionally stable individual.

Lastly, each stage has a vital conflict that the child, adolescent, and adult can resolve positively or negatively. The nature of the resolution depends mainly on relations and associations with others, although the individual’s choices also play a key role. The conflicts and resolution of conflicts within each stage gave me hope that people can obtain personal growth and change. Resolving the conflicts within each stage allows for progress and future success by building upon the knowledge gained within the preceding stage(s). Conversely, I believe that not all is misplaced if an individual has an unconstructive and depressing occurrence within a particular stage and conflict. As people live they learn therefore, lessons can recur and be effectively resolved when identified, acknowledged and received.


Hamachek, D. E. (1998). Evaluating self-concept and ego development within erikson’s psychosocial framework: A formulation. Journal of Counseling and Development, 66(8), 354-360.

Newman, B., & Newman, P. (1991) Development through life: A psychosocial approach (5thed.) Palisades, CA: Brooks-Cole.

Vander Zanden, J. W., Crandell, T. L., & Crandell, C. H. (2006). Human development (8th ed.).

New York: McGraw-Hill.

Woolfolk, A. E. (1987). Educational Psychology (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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