Describe the stages of psychosocial development, and the interaction of opposites, the basic strengths and pathologies of each stage.

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ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A man named, oddly enough, Erik Erikson came up with this idea.  He developed a list of 7 stages of "psychosocial" development:

  1. HOPE --"trust versus mistrust." An infant is unable to take care of itself, and must rely on caregivers.  If those caregivers are good at meeting the child's needs, such as for food, safety, and love, that child will grow up trusting that others are capable of doing so. If the parents do not meet those needs it will grow up mistrusting others.
  2. WILL --"autonomy versus doubt." Infants begin to explore the world and satisfy some of their own needs. They are more mobile and capable of interacting with the world and developing unique interests. If parents nurture this and provide opportunities for growth, children will become independent. If parents restrict their child too much, or do too many things for the child that they could do on their own, he or she will begin doubting their ability to solve problems.
  3. PURPOSE --"initiative versus guilt." This is trickier one.  At this time, around pre-school and kindergarten, the development of goals begins to occur.  Children start wanting to be more independent and make some of their own decisions. They undertake activities with the idea that they are trying to accomplish something. If caregivers encourage this, while also teaching about limits, the child will develop and be willing to take certain risks to achieve goals.  If the child is restricted, or if parents see their desires as unimportant, the child will develop a sense of "guilt" about their needs and retreat.
  4. COMPETENCE --"Industry vs. Inferiority."  Interests continue to develop and children begin to understand the concepts of "good and bad, right and wrong."  They learn that sometimes hard work needs to take the place of immediate pleasures.  If their efforts toward creation and learning are encouraged, they will adopt these values in the future to strive for goals through education and discipline.  If they are not given opportunities to succeed, or they fail at the ones they are given, they will consider themselves "not good enough" and stop trying.
  5. FIDELITY -- This covers the high school years and is about "identity vs. role confusion."  During this time kids transition into adults. They make their own choices about their beliefs and try to find their place in the world. Given time and support they will solidify their identity and be prepared for adulthood.  Otherwise, they will develop shifting, confused ideas about self.
  6. LOVE--"intimacy vs. isolation." Once teenagers figure out "who they are," they are capable of reciprocal relationships in their 20's. Proper previous development allows this, while failure during earlier stages makes this difficult.
  7. CARE--"Generatively vs. Stagnation" Between about 40 and 65 people develop the need to feel like their life has some meaning by being an asset to society.  Those who meet this need, through their work or volunteerism, feel fulfilled.  Those who don't slip toward becoming isolated and frustrated over their lack of contribution.
  8. WISDOM--"Ego Integrity vs. Despair."  During our later years, retrospection occurs.  If people look back on a happy, productive life, they feel satisfied. If they look back on a selfish life with unfulfilled goals or a lack of meaning, they become depressed.

I don't have enough words left in the ol' word count to go into the strengths of each phase, but you should be able to suss them out.