As a parent, you may often worry about whether or not your child is developing “normally.” But what does “normal” really mean? There are developmental milestones that are outlined that provide a guide as to how and when your child should be progressing. Are they talking on time? Are they walking on time? Oftentimes, we check the boxes to ensure a child is well on their way to growing up. What sometimes gets missed, or misunderstood, is psychosocial development. The question “who is my child becoming” can be a daunting one. Each child is different! Although there is no wrong answer, understanding psychosocial development, and how to allow your child to grow into their personality, can be quite important.
Erik Erikson explains eight stages of psychosocial development that may allow you to understand where your child is in terms of personality development, and provide insight into how to foster successful completion of each stage. Erikson believed that each stage of development involves a crisis that a person must resolve in order to acquire a basic virtue. Even if a state is not completed successfully reached at a certain age, it can be resolved at a later time. Erikon’s theory of psychosocial development provides stages all throughout the lifespan. Our development is not stagnant! We are always growing personally.
Below we will dive into the eight stages, focusing on the stages related to child development.
The first stage is Trust vs. Mistrust
It occurs between the ages of 0-1 ½. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is hope. What can you do to instill hope during this stage? Consistently and predictably meet the basic needs of your child. In doing so, you are showing your child that they have a safe and reliable environment.
The second stage is Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt
It occurs between the ages of 1 ½ – 3. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is will. What can you do to instill will during this stage? Foster an environment in which your child can complete independent tasks. Provide patience and allow time for your child to problem solve for themselves when appropriate. Allowing your child space to do so will increase self-esteem.
The third stage is Initiative vs. Guilt
It occurs between the ages of 3-5. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is purpose. What can you do to instill purpose during this stage? Allow your child to take the lead! Don’t ask too many questions. Let your child begin play activities and join in. Model their behaviors. By doing so, you will show them that taking initiative is teaching them to feel confident in their decisions.
The fourth stage is Industry vs. Inferiority
It occurs between the ages of 5-12. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is competency. What can you do to instill competency during this stage? Encourage, encourage, encourage! It is normal for children at this age to look to their peers for approval. If we encourage our children at this age to reach for their goals and always stay in their cheering section, they will feel confident and competent.
The fifth stage is Identity vs. Role Confusion
It occurs between the ages of 12-18. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is fidelity. What can you do to instill hope during this stage? Allow your teen to have the space to explore who they are. Be present when they are willing to engage in conversations with you regarding their identity. Foster a safe environment for hard conversations to be discussed and compromised. In doing so, you are teaching your teen that even though they are different from others, it is possible to be accepted.
The sixth stage is Intimacy vs. Isolation
It occurs between the ages of 18-40. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is love. What can you do to instill hope during this stage? Although this stage encompasses ages of “adulthood,” maintaining positive relationships with our children as adults continues to foster a safe and loving environment. The last two stages include the remainder of adulthood.
The seventh stage is Generativity vs. Stagnation
Occurs between the ages of 40-65 and the virtue acquired if completed appropriately is care. This stage is likely about you as a parent! When you feel successful as a parent, you are able to feel a sense of accomplishment.
The eighth stage is Ego Integrity Vs. Despair
It occurs for ages 65 and above. The virtue acquired if completed appropriately is wisdom. So, the next time you’re asking yourself “is this normal?” Take a look! Understanding what is appropriate during each age of development will allow you as a parent to feel successful in your own stage of development. There is a push and pull in all of us that we are attempting to navigate, and sometimes it is not easy. By being consistent, allowing your child to take the lead and listening to their needs, you will feel confident in knowing you are doing what is best for your child, and yourself!
McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 03). Erik erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology. www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
Jessica Colucci, MS, LAC, NCC is a Psychotherapist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, and earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Northeastern University and her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Monmouth University. She has experience working with children, adolescents and young adults struggling with Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, and behavioral difficulties. Jessica has training in various therapeutic modalities, including Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). During her graduate studies, Jessica worked in a children's hospital in the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology unit providing therapeutic support and treatment to children undergoing medical treatment and their families. Postgraduate, Jessica gained experience working in the field of child abuse and neglect working extensively with children's trauma, anxiety, and depression individually and in the context of family dynamics.
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