Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A very kind blog reader offers her valuable input - the Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Last week I did a post on how concerned I was about the fact that Aisha (3) was taking so long to adjust to school life. I really was at a loss as to how I was meant to deal with this issue and was becoming quite depressed as a result. I wondered if her behaviour was normal or if I should, in fact, be worried about the fact that there might be a bigger problem causing her behaviour.

A very kind and unselfish reader responded by sharing her knowledge on parenting, which is based both on her own experience, as well as her training.

YH is the mom of 3 little girls spaced 20 and 21 months apart - respectively ( 9,7,5 years old).
She was trained in child development while studying Nursing at UCT. This is where she was exposed to the Erik Erikson stages of development, which she has found to be incredibly useful in parenting her own children. “I use it as a guideline, especially when I am desperate and very challenged with parenting situations. I would refer back to my child's age and then compare against the developmental phase she is experiencing.”

She goes on to say that this model allows her to understand the possible reasons for her children’s behaviour and often provides ways in which she can deal with it. It also provides her with some sort of context or a yardstick by which to measure her children’s development.

She attached a very informative lengthy piece of information on the Erik Erikson stages of development which includes the stages of sexual development (which, although not relevant to my situation with Aisha, was very informative and I have therefore included it below as well). Since I have ABSOLUTELY NO KNOWLEDGE of the topic, I have just copied and pasted her entire document unedited.


This page presents an overview of the developmental tasks involved in the social and emotional development of children and teenagers which continues into adulthood. The presentation is based on the Eight Stages of Development developed by psychiatrist, Erik Erikson in 1956.

According to Erikson, the socialization process consists of eight phases – the “eight stages of man.” His eight stages of man were formulated, not through experimental work, but through wide – ranging experience in psychotherapy, including extensive experience with children and adolescents from low – as well as upper – and middle – social classes. Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a “psychosocial crisis,” which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily negotiated. These stages are conceived in an almost architectural sense: satisfactory learning and resolution of each crisis is necessary if the child is to manage the next and subsequent ones satisfactorily, just as the foundation of a house is essential to the first floor, which in turn must be structurally sound to support and the second story, and so on.

Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development

1. Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Hope)
Chronologically, this is the period of infancy through the first one or two years of life. The child, well – handled, nurtured, and loved, develops trust and security and a basic optimism. Badly handled, he becomes insecure and mistrustful.

2. Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Will)
The second psychosocial crisis, Erikson believes, occurs during early childhood, probably between about 18 months or 2 years and 3½ to 4 years of age. The “well – parented” child emerges from this stage sure of himself, elated with his new found control, and proud rather than ashamed. Autonomy is not, however, entirely synonymous with assured self – possession, initiative, and independence but, at least for children in the early part of this psychosocial crisis, includes stormy self – will, tantrums, stubbornness, and negativism. For example, one sees may 2 year olds resolutely folding their arms to prevent their mothers from holding their hands as they cross the street. Also, the sound of “NO” rings through the house or the grocery store.

3. Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Purpose)
Erikson believes that this third psychosocial crisis occurs during what he calls the “play age,” or the later preschool years (from about 3½ to, in the United States culture, entry into formal school). During it, the healthily developing child learns: (1) to imagine, to broaden his skills through active play of all sorts, including fantasy (2) to cooperate with others (3) to lead as well as to follow. Immobilized by guilt, he is: (1) fearful (2) hangs on the fringes of groups (3) continues to depend unduly on adults and (4) is restricted both in the development of play skills and in imagination.

4. Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence)
Erikson believes that the fourth psychosocial crisis is handled, for better or worse, during what he calls the “school age,” presumably up to and possibly including some of junior high school. Here the child learns to master the more formal skills of life: (1) relating with peers according to rules (2) progressing from free play to play that may be elaborately structured by rules and may demand formal teamwork, such as baseball and (3) mastering social studies, reading, arithmetic. Homework is a necessity, and the need for self-discipline increases yearly. The child who, because of his successive and successful resolutions of earlier psychosocial crisis, is trusting, autonomous, and full of initiative will learn easily enough to be industrious. However, the mistrusting child will doubt the future. The shame – and guilt-filled child will experience defeat and inferiority.

5. Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Fidelity)
During the fifth psychosocial crisis (adolescence, from about 13 or 14 to about 20) the child, now an adolescent, learns how to answer satisfactorily and happily the question of “Who am I?” But even the best – adjusted of adolescents experiences some role identity diffusion: most boys and probably most girls experiment with minor delinquency; rebellion flourishes; self – doubts flood the youngster, and so on.
Erikson believes that during successful early adolescence, mature time perspective is developed; the young person acquires self-certainty as opposed to self-consciousness and self-doubt. He comes to experiment with different – usually constructive – roles rather than adopting a “negative identity” (such as delinquency). He actually anticipates achievement, and achieves, rather than being “paralyzed” by feelings of inferiority or by an inadequate time perspective. In later adolescence, clear sexual identity – manhood or womanhood – is established. The adolescent seeks leadership (someone to inspire him), and gradually develops a set of ideals (socially congruent and desirable, in the case of the successful adolescent). Erikson believes that, in our culture, adolescence affords a “psychosocial moratorium,” particularly for middle – and upper-class American children. They do not yet have to “play for keeps,” but can experiment, trying various roles, and thus hopefully find the one most suitable for them.

6. Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Love)
The successful young adult, for the first time, can experience true intimacy – the sort of intimacy that makes possible good marriage or a genuine and enduring friendship.

7. Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care)
In adulthood, the psychosocial crisis demands generativity, both in the sense of marriage and parenthood, and in the sense of working productively and creatively.

8. Integrity Versus Despair (Wisdom)
If the other seven psychosocial crisis have been successfully resolved, the mature adult develops the peak of adjustment; integrity. He trusts, he is independent and dares the new. He works hard, has found a well – defined role in life, and has developed a self-concept with which he is happy. He can be intimate without strain, guilt, regret, or lack of realism; and he is proud of what he creates – his children, his work, or his hobbies. If one or more of the earlier psychosocial crises have not been resolved, he may view himself and his life with disgust and despair.

These eight stages of man, or the psychosocial crises, are plausible and insightful descriptions of how personality develops but at present they are descriptions only. We possess at best rudimentary and tentative knowledge of just what sort of environment will result, for example, in traits of trust versus distrust, or clear personal identity versus diffusion. Helping the child through the various stages and the positive learning that should accompany them is a complex and difficult task, as any worried parent or teacher knows. Search for the best ways of accomplishing this task accounts for much of the research in the field of child development.
Socialization, then is a learning – teaching process that, when successful, results in the human organism’s moving from its infant state of helpless but total egocentricity to its ideal adult state of sensible conformity coupled with independent creativity.

Children and young people constitute more than half of the global population today. Many of them face various challenges of HIV & AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, gender inequality and discrimination. Currently, the emotional, social and health needs of young people are not being fully met. Young people face increasing pressures regarding sex and sexuality including conflicting messages and norms.

Sex refers to the biological characteristics that define humans as females and males. Sexuality is everything that goes into making you a human being. This includes sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life. It is restricted by laws, moral standard, family and personal values and social norms that are determined by the distribution of power and decision making in society. It is linked to self-esteem, body image, identity, ideas about love, dating, ‘hooking up”, breaking up, pleasure, marriage and ideas of what is right and wrong.

Children express their sexuality differently depending on their cultural background, access to information, social and economic status and their experience of sexual abuse. Each child should be introduced to sex and sexuality at a different age depending on their own physical and psychological development. Evidence has shown that positive or negative first exposure to sex has strong influence on the course of sexual discovery and practice throughout life.

According to Peel Public Health (2007) the different stages of children’s sexual development are:

Birth to age 2
•             Learn about love &trust through loving relationships with parents and their caregivers
•             Explore their bodies, including their genitals
•             May have erections or lubricate vaginally
•             Experience genital pleasure
•             Begin to learn expected behaviours
•             Begin to notice differences between the bodies of boys and girls, children and adults     
Ages 3- 5
•             Become very curious about bodies, and the differences between boys and girls
•             May play house, or doctor or other forms of body exploration or “sex play” with friends
•             Learn that they are either male or female
•             Learn about male/female roles by observing others
•             Enjoy learning about and talking about body parts and functions
•             Find adult bathroom activities very interesting
•             May ask questions about pregnancy and birth such as: “Where did I come from?”
•             May learn words relsted to sex and try using them
•             May mimic adult sexual behaviour
•             May begin to masturbate

Ages 6-8
•             Begin to have strong friendships with children of the same sex
•             Be affected by stories they hear in the media(e.g. about AIDS or abuse)
•             Have definite ideas about male and female roles
•             Have a basic sexual orientation and identity
•             Want to be like their peers; for example, boys may feel pressured to choose the type of toys and activities that other boys choose
•             May engage in name – calling and teasing
•             May continue with sex play
•             May begin to masturbate             

Ages 9-12
•             May begin the changes of puberty
•             Become more modest and want privacy
•             Continue to value same sex friendships
•             May experience increased sexual feelings and fantasies
•             Develop crushes on friends, older teens, teachers, rock starts, etc. Romantic feelings may be directed towards the same sex and/or the opposite sex.
•             May take part in sexual exploration with peers
•             May masturbate to orgasm
•             May have to face decisions about sex and drugs

Ages 13 – 18
•             Complete the changes of puberty
•             Place great value on independence
•             Experience increased sexual feelings and desire physical closeness with a partner
•             May face peer pressure to be sexually active whether or not they feel ready
•             May change close friendships in favour of romantic relationships
•             May make choices which lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
•             May have to face violence in relationships ( Sexual harassment, date rape, etc)

The ways that children experience and express, or choose not to express their sexuality is influenced by their biology, their emotional lives, their family lives, their culture and their own status in that culture, their ethical, religious and spiritual upbringing and experience.

If children are encouraged to explore issues surrounding their sexuality, before they become sexually active whether by choice, coercion or necessity, it better prepares them to meet the challenges that they might face on various aspects of their sexuality. Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for children are recognised as a necessity for the reduction of STI’s including HIV&AIDS."

Thank you so much to YH for taking the time to share this information. It is deeply appreciated.

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