Humans develop throughout their lives, from infancy to adulthood and into old age. According to Erik Erikson’s theory, this process of psychosocial development is split into eight stages, each presenting a personal crisis that needs to be resolved (Grison, Heatherton, & Gazzaniga, 2017). Depending on the resolution of these crises, one develops the skills and attitudes needed for further growth (Grison et al., 2017). Using myself as an example, this paper will illustrate how three of these stages can affect and continue to affect a person’s development.
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In Erikson’s eight stages of psychological development, the first crisis an infant must resolve is that of trust versus mistrust. I grew up with both my parents; however, since my father was often absent for long periods, I had little contact with him and limited opportunity for bonding. While he was away, my mother had to combine both the household roles of the housekeeper and the bread-winner.
Because of this, she was tired and exhausted most of the time. That meant that though she tried to spend time with me, she rarely had the energy to fully engage and nurture me. Although I was not mistreated or neglected, I never got the opportunity to view the world as a safe and caring place as a result of this lack of attention,. Therefore, I moved to the next stage of development with feelings of mistrust.
I spent my early childhood, and, therefore, the second stage of development, overseas. Adapting to a different culture is always challenging, and in my case, the differences might have adversely affected my development. The host culture had a negative view of nudity, and seeing anyone’s body is considered extremely disrespectful. As such, I had to be fully clothed nearly constantly. This prevented me from becoming comfortable with my body and caused me to see it as something shameful.
My mistrust exacerbated these circumstances, as, despite my mother’s efforts to teach me about it, I could not trust her sufficiently to believe and accept her lessons. Because of this, I grew up with intense feelings of shame and doubt, not only about my body but my thoughts and decisions, as well. These feelings persisted for years afterward, heavily affecting the subsequent stages of my development.
I am currently going through the fifth stage, forming an identity. Although my parents are supportive in pushing me towards my goals and aspirations, I am struggling with finding my place. I’ve had to fill the roles of a student, a daughter, and a mentor. However, trying to excel at all of them is overwhelming and has left me with little time to explore who I am. Because of this, I am confused about my greater role and identity and still trying to determine how these elements combine to form a cohesive whole. The attitudes imparted by each of these roles sometimes conflict with one another, making me uncertain how to relate to others and society at large.
A person’s psychosocial development in the early stages, which primarily depends on his or her caregivers, can have a significant effect on the future stages. As illustrated by my example, challenges faced in infancy and early childhood can lead to uncertainty later in life. Mistrust and doubt developed as a person is growing up can linger for years and cause a difficult identity crisis in adolescence.
Grison, S., Heatherton, T. F., & Gazzaniga, M. S. (2017). Psychology in your life (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, inc.