Lifespan development

The aim of this essay is to discuss and describe the five stages of lifespan development and included in this essay will be two psychological theories to support this which are Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stages and Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages. I will also connect these stages to the strands of development which are physical, emotional, cognitive, social and cultural.
Two well-known theories of life development are Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory and Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory. Erik Erikson’s lifespan development was influenced by Freud’s and in comparison to the theories, Erikson believed in life we go through eight stages in life development from conception to death unlike Freud who believed we only have five stages and stop at the adolescence stage. Erikson believed that throughout each stage of life we are set new life tasks of which we need to overcome. Failure to succeed in the life tasks set or if the individual has lacked proper parenting it may have consequences on the individual’s personality development or the individual may be engrossed in a stage of development. (
‘’Erikson thought that an individual would develop a healthy personality if they were able to resolve the basic psychological conflicts they meet at different stages of their lives’’ (Baker et al.,2007,p.160)
‘’In terms of individual differences, some individuals will fail to achieve milestones and/or norms and this can impact later stages of development ‘’ (Connor, MacLennan, and Price 2009.p.75)
The lifespan development begins in infancy (0-2 years). Many strands of development are experienced within this stage such as psychical, emotional and cognitive. Psychical development is experienced when the child begins to sit without any support this then leads to crawling and walking. Cognitive development occurs in this stage when the child is able to take in their surroundings, they learn to recognise faces and voices and also some vocabulary is learned such as ‘mum, dad’. During infancy the child shows emotion by crying and this indicates their needs. Further emotion is developed and the child may show signs of separation anxiety from the mother.
With regards to Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development the first conflict occurs, Trust vs Mistrust at (0-1 years). The child develops feelings of trust to which is based on the parenting by the child’s primarily care givers. If the child is given a high quality of care through this stage this will impact on the trust they implant into others in later life. The second conflict occurs in later infancy (1-2 years), Autonomy vs Shame and doubt. Children learn to be independent at this stage and rely on praise from their caregiver. If the child is not allowed to exercise independence or lack praise they may start to doubt they are able to do things for themselves.

In relation to Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, ‘’According to Freud, children’s pleasure-seeking urges (governed by the id) are focused on a different area of the body, called an ‘’erogenous zone. (Boundless). The first stage of life is called the ‘Oral Stage’, during this stage the child gets pleasure from inserting objects into the mouth and sucking, this is how a child is able to explore objects and tastes. If the individual does not meet the needs of this stage during infancy they may develop negative habits in later life such as nail biting. Another stage during infancy is the ‘Anal Stage’. In the Anal stage the child has a fixation on regulating bowel and bladder movements and during this stage toilet training begins. The child feels a sense of independence and accomplishment if this stage is completed successfully.
During childhood (2-12 years), The child’s strands of development have expanded greatly and at this stage the child’s emotional development is about personal identity and developing their own character. At this age challenging behaviour is also involved such as ignoring orders or talking back as the child learns to rebel against parents rules, this is normal for this stage of development and is able to be rectified before transition to adolescence. During childhood social development takes place when the child learns to socialise with different group settings and is able to establish a friendship and bond with other children. During this stage as children start school they may be introduced to children from different back grounds and this is where cultural development takes place. Children are able to recognise the norms and roles of different family structures.
Erickson’s third conflict takes place at preschool age (3-6 years), Initiative vs Guilt. During this conflict stage the child should explore their own initiative and approaches. If the child is unable to do so feelings of guilt and doubt may arise. The fourth conflict of Erikson’s occurs at (7-12 years), Industry vs Inferiority. Children learn to be able to complete activates that are valued by adults and friends, failure to do so the child may feel inferiority.
In relation to Freud, the third and fourth stages of his theory occur during childhood. The Phallic stage occurs at the age of (3-6 years) and the Latent stage occurs at the age of (7-12). During the Phallic stage the child recognises sexual desires and they have a desire towards the opposite sex parent. The child becomes highly possessive of his opposite sex parent and loves them to a high intensity, this means they want them all to their self and may not understand that their love for them may be inappropriate. The Latent stage means sexual instincts and drives are suppressed and the child learns to focus on school work and interests/hobbies. During this stage the child also takes on the values and norms of their parents and behaves in an appropriate and acceptable manner in society.
Throughout the adolescence stage (12-18 years), Physical development changes to a great extent due to puberty. Puberty links in with the emotional development of the individual and hormonal changes can make them moody and unpredictable. During this stage individuals move onto a wider society of education such as college or university, the individuals cognitive develops immensely as they gather the academic qualifications for employment.
Erikson’s fifth life conflict takes place at adolescence (12-18), Identity Vs Role confusion. At this stage adolescents develop a sense of self and personal identity. They establish roles as part of a social setting and learn about who they are and what their goals and aspirations in life are. If they are unable to do so they begin to feel confused of their life’s purpose.

With regards to Freud, the final stage of his theory occurs in adolescence. The genital stage begins at the age of (12-18 years). At this stage sexual desires resurface and if the previous lifespan stages are successful then individuals are able to explore sexual relationships which may lead to children and marriage.
The fourth lifespan stage is adulthood (18-65 years). During Adulthood individual’s physical development is at its peak, on the other hand early adulthood experiences an ageing process and physical changes may start to occur such as vision, changes in skin, hearing and the ability to reproduce may be affected. Culture may be a big part of this stage and many individuals value cultural development and passing the norms, values and roles onto their children from which they have learned from their caregiver.
Erikson’s sixth conflict takes place in early adulthood (18-40), Intimacy vs Isolation. The individual seeks an intimate and romantic relationship where they can go on to have children or get married, individuals wish to ‘’settle down’’. If the individual is unsuccessful in finding a companion then isolation may occur. Erikson’s Seventh conflict takes place at middle age adulthood (40-65), Generativity vs Stagnation. During this stage individuals view work and family as priority and of high importance or the individual risks stagnation.
The final stage of lifespan development is the older adult stage (65+). At this stage physical development may be affected due to poor health and mobility restrictions. Cognitive development may also be affected as it is common for adults over the age of 65 to develop dementia. Another big factor for this stage is emotional development; older adults may spend a lot of time reflecting on their life. Some older adults become depressed due to being inactive or may feel isolated due to the loss of a partner.
Erikson’s final conflict of life development takes place at (65+ years), Integrity vs Despair. Throughout this stage the adult reflects back on their life and past experiences. They may feel a sense of fulfilment from life or they may feel despair due to unaccomplished goals or experiences.
In conclusion, the psychodynamic approach helps us to understand an individual’s behaviour and the various factors to which may cause this behaviour. Past experiences are a key factor to how we develop and who we become as an adult in later life.

Baker,G.,Lancaster,E.,Gibb,S,Miller,J.L.,Graham,D. and Hollis,S. (2007) Care in Practice for Higher, 2nd edn.Paisley: Hodder Gibson.
Connor, A., MacLennan, E. and Price, S. (eds.) (2009) Higher National Certificate in Social Care Student Book. Oxford: Heineman. – 22nd September 2015 – 22nd September 2015

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