Several psychologist’s have put forward theories of development and you may be familiar with names such as Freud or Piaget. Erik Erikson (1963) was one of the first psychologists to propose a theory based on a genetically determined sequence of stages throughout a person’s life. He believed that at every stage the person goes through a crisis as a result of two conflicting personality options.
One option is adaptive or positive and the other is maladaptive or negative and each person will have a mixture of the two with the healthy person having more of the adaptive quality.
In the first year the struggle is between trust and mistrust in people and the determining relationship at this point is the mother. If a child can develop a sense of trust in the mother then he will be able to trust others.
In the second year the child will struggle between autonomy and shame and doubt which means that if he comes out of it successfully he will develop self-control and a sense of mastery, if not he will suffer from self-doubt. The pivotal relationship at this time is the child’s parents but as he grows up, more people have a significant influence, at the next stage it is the whole family.
During the third stage the child learns to either have initiative and a sense of purpose or suffers from a loss of self-esteem.
At about 6 years the child moves into the fourth stage where he battles between competence in social and intellectual pursuits and a failure to develop.
The fifth stage is one that Erikson emphasised a great deal: adolescence. During this stage children go through an identity crisis when Erikson believed they should take time out from their responsibilities to figure out who they are. If the adolescent does not go through this stage successfully, he will go through life with a sense of uncertainty about who he is. It will come as no surprise to find out that relationships that affect them the most are the ones with their peers and their models of leadership.
The next stage is early adulthood where the person learns intimacy, how to form meaningful and deep personal relationships, if he fails he will be unable to love/connect with others.
In the person’s middle ages he or she will either continue to develop forming new interests and new relationships or he will become beset by his own problems.
The final crisis is in old age, here the person’s concerns widen and he is preoccupied with Mankind as a whole. He will either develop a sense of integrity, a satisfaction with the triumphs and disappointments of life, or despair and unfulfilment expressed as a fear of death. It is important to bear in mind that these theories are just that but they are interesting and used as a general guide line in life.
So even though as a parent, your influence stops after the early stages, it is important to understand yourself as well as your children’s separate phases in order to be good parents.