Psychological development is generally accepted as product of the interaction among social and psychological forces which directly affect and shape the personality of every individual (Erikson, 2000). This may also encompass changes in self-control, and prosocial behavior. In relation to this, Erik Erikson established a unifying theory on the social and psychological aspects of human development throughout life span. In his eight developmental stages, each individual should, from infancy to senescence, accomplish psychological tasks in line with his or her social experiences.
In addition, his theory, often called as “the stages of man,” is primarily grounded on the notion that every individual develops self-images through others’ perceptions and his or her own perceptions (Erikson, 2000). Erikson described the development of personality and the process by which an individual acquires societal role and shapes his or her identity. In contrary to Freud’s psychosexual emphasis, Erickson accentuated the development of one’s attitudes, skills, and the sense of responsibility.
Further, Erikson argued that individuals undergo the different developmental stages, each with crisis or dilemma, and expected to resolve specific conflict in every stage. Unresolved conflicts in the previous stage will pass on the succeeding stages which impart negative traits in one’s personality (Erikson, 2000). On the other hand, as an individual successfully confronted every developmental crisis, he or she achieves positive traits or psychological attributes. Generativity versus Stagnation Erikson viewed “development” as a continuous process of facing the complexities of life (Santrock, 2002).
A young professional, for example, to ensure success and intimate relations, he or she must perceive and accomplish the task of creating and caring his or her life role or style. Erickson’s 7th stage of psychosocial development, generativity versus stagnation, coincides with the middle adulthood period of humans. As defined by Erikson, generativity is the desire to take an active role in establishing the society and nurturing the youth to ensure the continuity of human generation (Lerner, 2002).
In this stage, individuals should develop concern for the next generation in order to prevent personal stagnation (Santrock, 2002). While some individuals accomplish this through active community involvement and participation, some contribute for the welfare of the society through responsible parenthood. In any means, the dynamic that must be attained is the outward shifting from the well-being of one’s self to the consideration and care for the humanity. As such, the strength of care is achieved through creating, parenting, volunteering, and mentoring.
For instance, by means of genuine care and concern, the generative religious teachers indoctrinate traditional religious view on development. Generative adults, on the other hand, may take responsibility on the cycle of life by leading and guiding their children in the first five stages of psychosocial development (Santrock, 2002). Meanwhile, a key element of “generativity versus stagnation” is the continuity of stages and cumulative implications of various experiences in life (Santrock, 2002). The adults’ sense of generativity is stimulated by encouraging and supporting the future of the next generation.
However, individuals who fail to bestow the continuity to the next generation may possibly become engorge with his or her personal needs, disregard the needs of other individuals, and eventually become stagnated. Influences on my Personality The psychosocial development constructs of Erickson encompasses every experience of an individual that processes and shapes his or her personality, generativity, and perceptions. These processes are deemed universal; that is, although individuals experience family, social, and cultural life differently, the variations are minor.
The minor variations account for other individual variables such as socioeconomic status, age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, education, and culture (Lerner, 2002). Hence, the psychosocial processes in the middle adulthood show variations on themes but of similar dynamic of change. Erikson outlined these changes in every developmental stage through specific conflicts or tasks that one needs to attend to or resolve. As such in middle adulthood, generativity versus stagnation is the conflict that needs to be resolved.
However, as the resolution of conflicts in the early adulthood influences this stage, the outcome in this stage will directly affect the late adulthood period (Lerner, 2002). As well, as individuals are expected to provide inspiration, care, and guidance for the youth, they are also challenged to acquire productive roles for the societal development and continuity. Generativity then should not only be confined in parenting but should stretch out to community involvements through projects, leadership, and commitment.
It must be deemed with respect to the manner by which an individual handle his or her relations with his or her family, societal institutions, friends, relatives, and with other individuals. Whereas every social behavior is determined by myriad of factors, the commitment and concern for the welfare of the next generation must be the primary motivation in all those aforementioned social responsibilities and activities (Lerner, 2002). As I learned the middle adulthood psychosocial stage of Erikson, about 35-40 years of ages, I examined the present state of my personality in terms of generativity and stagnation.
That is, I assessed my self if I am productive in my field of endeavor and geared towards inspiring and guiding my children and other youngsters and young adults. I became concern with the achievement of generativity for Erikson argued that it is crucial for a positive outlook during midlife. As such, I formulated my developmental goals of preparing my self for my senescence period and caring for and guiding the youngsters for adulthood. However, life experiences in this stage of life are not identical among individuals; some are still single adult while others are happily married or divorced during this period.
Generally, the middle adulthood has developmental discontinuity and continuity. In particular, psychological attributes like cognitive functioning may rapidly change while the others such as intelligence and personality may attain stability during midlife (Lachman, 2001). I realized then that in defining life’s success, experiences in midlife have significant roles. During middle adulthood, every individual compensates for and copes with life’s losses which tend to be apparent as senescence life approaches.
As revealed by psychological researches, life satisfaction is at its peak in midlife; this is the period of life where subjective happiness and well-being are rated best as compared to other stages of life (Lachman, 2001). Thus, midlife is known as the prime of one’s life, where most middle adults are at the summit of their family and professional careers, and income generation. In addition, middle adults experience a very satisfactory psychological well-being; they have positive outlook in life, autonomy, and aim for both personal and professional growth (Lachman, 2001).
They perceived midlife as the period where one should function best. Thus, my consciousness on my work performance, multiple-role playing, and parenting styles were awakened. Nevertheless, at the other extreme of middle adulthood are the midlife crises. Based on psychological reports, middle adulthood is battered by worries in life such as the feelings of individuals of life losses and failures, non-achievement and underachievement, and trivial and non-essential goals (Lachman, 2001).
Yet, amidst these crises and as compared to other stages of life, middle adulthood is the period of less depression and higher well-being. In this period, most individuals attained their professional and personal goals. Those who are susceptible to environmental factors, limited resources, and poverty, are at risk to psychological and physical distress (Lachman, 2001). It was then clarified in my mind that during midlife, individuals may either enjoy the fruition of their respective labors or suffer the cumulative deficits of their life due to unresolved conflicts in previous stages.
Therefore, middle adulthood, as generativity versus stagnation implies, is not only a period of fulfillment and accomplishment but also a transition period for the past and present events of life basically influence the later life’s transition. Midlife is the stage of life when individuals, more frequently, have already decided for a lifestyle and other social context like vocation, routine, neighborhood, and support network. Thus, I postulated that personality molds the life of an individual, rather than life experiences shapes the personality of an individual.
In particular, only specific aspect of personality is altered by dramatic life events during middle adulthood. For example, career or marriage failure, affliction due to mental or physical disorder, and death of a loved one may alter the behavioral trait of an individual which in turn only causes minor shifts in personality but do not reflect in the holistic personality structure. Moreover, the concept of midlife crisis, perceived as inevitable in middle adulthood, was found to be false (Lerner, 2002).
Even though midlife is a stage of reflection, increased anxiety, midcourse correction, and unpredictable transformation, researches revealed that during middle adulthood, individuals still undertake the shifting of life perspective from birth until to their last years to live (Lerner, 2002). The nature of an individual’s response to midlife challenges is largely affected by personality attributes and less by the individual’s present developmental stage or chronological age.
As proposed, the enduring nature of midlife crisis is possibly related to the capability of an individual to cope with the tragic life events and in the end still considers his or her self as fairly fortunate. In sum, Erikson suggested the importance of finding oneself in another during midlife developmental stage. By merely serving oneself or own family, an individual becomes engorge with his or her personal needs, disregard the needs of other individuals, and eventually ends as stagnated.
Hence, I must not confine my self in looking at and working only for the welfare of my family. Bringing up my children into the best that they can be is inadequate contribution for the welfare of the society. I need to acquire the sense of altruism in order to contribute whatever resources I have, actively involve myself to community projects, and to extend whatever support I can give for the welfare of the next generation.
In addition, since midlife crisis is inevitable in middle adulthood, I realized that in order to face every travail, empathy and support to others are crucial so as to establish a network support where I can lean on as I resolve any form of midlife crisis. References Erikson, E. H. (2000). The Erik Erikson Reader. Coles, R. Ed. New York: Norton. Santrock, J. W. (2002). Life-span development. New York: McGraw-Hill. Lachman, M. E. (2001). Handbook of Midlife Development. New York: John Wiley. Lerner, R. M. (2002). Concepts and Theories of Human Development, 3rd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.