Essay on Human Behavior and the Social Environment

Published: 2021/11/24
Number of words: 3235

Psychosocial Stage of Development Theory

The theory was coined by Erikson and introduced in 1950. It is the most influential psychosocial theory to ever be introduced that covers a full lifespan of an individual (Dunkel & Harbke 2017). The theory is wealthy of insights into development and an important basis for scholarly research. The researches done on the Erikson’s Psychosocial Model of Personality Development are arguably increasing as scholars seek to identify and understand the numerous issues elucidated by the theory (Dunkel & Harbke 2017). The theory touches on a plethora of traditions thus provoking debates among diverse traditions regarding development of human beings. Erikson’s Psychosocial Model of Personality Development describes the developmental function of an individual. It also describes the differences that exist among individuals in the process of development.

The theory addresses the influence of genes and environment on the process of development of an individual. The theory attempts to balance the weight between the two critical factors. Erikson’s Psychosocial Model of Personality Development also explains other factors that affect the development that include the dynamics that characterize different micro and macro-levels of environment (Dunkel & Harbke 2017). The levels include vast cultural influences to the family unit which is the basic unit of socialization. The theory postulates that stability and change are balanced providing room for early influences to be the frontier in carrying a significant sway (Knight, 2017). However, as people age new challenges and happenings allow new personal adaptations to emerge. The challenges and situations also bring about reassessment of past failures and achievements in the wake of new acquired knowledge and changed perceptions.

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The issues raised by the theory are rather polarizing and have taken a center stage in many debates. A functioning whole is a product of the arising of all the parts. Notably, the arising of each part brings about a new psychosocial challenge or crisis. Erikson described the psychosocial challenges into eight stages (Dunkel & Harbke 2017). The stages include infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Erikson postulated that at infancy stage, an individual faces the crisis of trust versus mistrust. The psychosocial strength for such an individual is hope that the people within their interaction are trustworthy (Knight, 2017). A basic sense of trust is instilled through responsive caretaking by the people surrounding the infant. At toddlerhood an individual encounters the challenge of seeking autonomy with others and shame. The psychosocial strength attached to the stage is willingness to engage with people they are interacting with.

The preschool stage is a characterized by the challenge of initiative versus guilt. An individual is in crisis deciding on whether to engage in an action or trigger an action versus the guilt choosing the wrong action (Brown et al., 1993). The psychosocial strength attached to the preschool stage is purpose. Preschool stage is followed by childhood where the crisis identified include industry versus inferiority. An individual can either be bold or hide in the cocoon of inferiority complex where they consider others as more superior than themselves (Knight, 2017). The strength attached to the stage is competence. Those that develop good insights into knowledge end up making right choices of actions or acting prudently. According to Erikson, after childhood an individual advances to adolescence where they are faced with the crisis of identity versus confusion of roles. The person attempts to subscribe to values of a certain group in a bid to gain an identity. They grapple with determination of their roles in the society within which they live. The psychosocial strength attached to adolescence is fidelity (Brown et al., 1993). Fidelity in this context refers to being stable in the choice one makes and subscribing to only one line of social interaction.

Young adulthood stage presents an individual with the challenge of developing intimacy or facing the wrath of isolation (Knight, 2017). The inability of an individual to develop intimate relations culminates in isolation. The psychosocial strength for such a stage is love. Those who are loved or able to love survive the crisis. After young adulthood stage, an individual goes to the stage of middle adulthood where new crisis exist. An individual encounters the crisis of either being generative or the threat of stagnation (Dunkel & Harbke 2017). Those who possess the strength of being careful or caring survive the crisis and become highly generative. The last stage according to Erikson is late adulthood. The crisis identified for the stage include integrity against despair. An individual is challenged by the possession of the belief of doing what is ethically right under minimum or no supervision. Those who fail the test of integrity face the wrath of despair. The strength for the stage is wisdom. Wisdom helps an individual to decipher phenomena and provide a wayward action that leads to personal success and that of the people under their care.

Women’s Identity Development Theory

The most significant problem in interpreting development of women stems from varying moral judgements of men and women caused by the shift in imagery. The current theory illuminates the line and logic in the thoughts of a boy while casting a scanty light on the logic and line of thought of the girl (Arthur, Hall, & Lawrence 1989). The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan attempts to improve the postulations by adding a new line of interpretation that is based on the imagery of the thoughts of a girl (Dominelli 2016). The theory, therefore makes it possible to discern the development of women and to consider the differences that characterize their comprehension of relationships without necessarily scaling the differences. For instance, a boy and a girl at a sixth-grade class present different relationship development characteristics.

The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan suggests that there are three sets of issues that affect adult development of women (Arthur et al., 1989). The issues provide distinct disciplinary paths that aid in approaching the study of the development. The approaches include sociological, cultural, and psychological approaches. In regards to sociological approaches, structural concerns scrutinize the contribution of social practices and institutions towards the differences in life choices that exist between women and men (Karkouti, 2014). The structural and institutional perspectives are responsible for the differences in gender witnessed in choices regarding roles, conditions, and policies that are socially constructed. The approach attempts to analyze some happenings like the effect of the reality of organizational “glass ceiling” on interests of women, choice they make in life and their commitments. The approach also explores how various institutional practices limit opportunities for women, how the practices lead women to low-level jobs, and how they compel women to perceive childcare as a personal problem.

In regards to culture, the theory explores how the constantly shifting definitions of masculinity and femininity affect the women’s life paths (Karkouti, 2014). The theory also seeks to study the effect of social psychologically and anthropological based research contribute towards the understanding of the cultural images. A third approach by The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan concerning women’s development orients towards psychology (Arthur et al., 1989). It includes a micro-focus on the individual and gender-categorical ways that affect how a woman perceives and makes sense out of the contemporary world.

Gilligan suggests that paradigmatic shift, which promotes the inclusion of perspectives, views, and experiences of the world of women. The theory developed by Gilligan represents a new approach to the understanding of different developmental voice for women. According to Gilligan, the different developmental voice is not categorical in regards to the gender but it is a voice that reflects two different modes of thinking (Karkouti, 2014). The modes include the focus on connectedness and responsibility while the other mode focuses on the individualization and rights. Arguably, the above modes do not directly relate to gender. Nonetheless, Gilligan postulates that the modes reflect the diverse developmental experiences of males and females. For instance, the theme of connection and relatedness relates to the development of women (Arthur et al., 1989). The theory takes scholars beyond the developmental tradition paradigms by providing an evidence that females experience a different “normal” development from that of males for a variety of reasons. The difference in the development has consequently led to the existence of a notion that females develop “less normally” than men (Dominelli 2016). Her focus on teens and adult women and the pre-existing traditional paradigms made her bring out the idea that women development should be viewed through the eyes of men.

Findings from Evidence-Based Journal Articles on the Psychosocial Stage of Development Theory

Knight (2017) proposed a model of psychodynamic psychotherapy that he linked to the eight stages of development coined by Erikson. The article suggested various issues that ought to be included in the eight stages of development by Erikson. The article found out that there were more issues related to the stages postulated by Erikson. The article added maldevelopment aspect that includes maladaptive and malignant tendencies (Knight, 2017). For instance the maldevelopment for the infancy stage was identified as sensory maladjustment and withdrawal. All the eight stages have maldevelopments attached to them elucidating the different maladaptive and malignant tendencies attached to them.

Robinson, Demetre, & Litman, (2017) conducted a research on the life stage of adulthood and crisis as responsible for prediction of curiosity and authenticity. The research found out that curiosity was higher for individuals in crisis than those who were not in crisis. The individuals in crisis are less authentic. The research suggested that self-curiosity is driven by the feeling of being unattached to one’s self (Robinson et al., 2017). The research found out that crisis is not only related to curiosity about self but also curiosity about the world. The crisis group has a higher perceptual curiosity than the group without crisis.

Findings from Evidence-Based Journal Articles on the Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan

Brown, Lyn & Gilligan (1993) wrote an article about the development of girls’ and women’s psychology. The article focused on adolescence and it’s relation to the heightened risk of psychology for girls. The article targeted girls at the age of 12. The girls were taken through interviews to elucidate the different encounters and experiences that characterize the group. The article discovered that girls at adolescence are at the risk of losing their vitality. The article found out the loss of voice and the signs of struggle to authorize, feelings, thoughts, and ability to stamp authority are directly related to the developmental progress. The developmental progress is independent of the social classes. The article further discovered that there exists a fundamental paradox in the lives of women. According to Brown et al., (1993) adolescent and adult women go silent or are silenced while in intimate relationship. The women opt to be silent instead of engaging risky conflicts and disagreements that would culminate in violence and isolation.

Dominelli, (2016) wrote an article that addressed the struggles women go through in their fight against stratifications and oppression. The article addresses the inequalities that exist in the society that put women at a disadvantage. The article concurs with Gilligan’s theory that women face diverse experiences that make understanding of their development an uphill task. The article found out that women engage in low-level responsibilities like agricultural work that deters their development (Dominelli 2016). Their involvement in economic activities is less irrespective of their high population in many countries throughout the world. The article also identified that there has been increased involvement of social workers in the struggle to bring about gender equality. The heightened involvement is the reason for the increased gender parity.

Critique of the Theories

Erikson’s theory is arguably among the most advanced theories of human development. However, the theory has various shortcomings (Karkouti, 2014). Firstly, the stages of development only present an ideal situation. Practically, all human beings are unique and reason differently. The approaches to life are as many as the human population in the world. Therefore, the stages are not applicable to every person. People different situations in their development. The theory is not a formula that can be used to guide the development of all humanity (Arthur et al., 1989). Secondly, the culture and structure of different societies varies. The systems that govern each society determine how people develop. Erikson’s theory is therefore, not applicable for all societies. As Gilligan postulates, the development of men and women is determined by relatively different settings. The stages of development do not depict the real scenario for men and women (Karkouti, 2014). The theory does not sufficiently address the question of gender in relation to development. Other concerns include that the theory is limited in highlighting the issues or crisis that face the different stages of development of individuals. For instance, in the late adulthood there is the issue of aging is associated with lose of senses among other occurrences.

The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan has various loopholes. Firstly, the theory has numerous gaps about the exact approach to understanding women development (Weir, 2014). Gilligan attempts to discredit approaches by Freud and other philosophers without sufficiently giving a proper approach. The assertion that women development should be viewed by male’s eyes is wrong especially in the contemporary world where demographics are shifting. The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan presents a scenario that it is almost impossible to determine how women develop. In the current world, women have risen to more senior leadership positions (Weir, 2014). Gender parity is on the rise making the societal pressures and stratifications less significant. The theory is arguably overtaken by events occurring in the society (Arthur et al., 1989). The recent developments in women realization of their abilities is a depiction of shifting grounds where the development of women can be traced and understood.

A Presenting For a Client Who Has Come For Assistance

Jane is 12. She is tall and slender. She has to my office for counselling. Later in the day she will have a concert and a test tomorrow in the morning. She glances at me with her intense green eyes, her skin is flushed in a way. It is my first interview after lunch. We talk about the day. At the beginning of our interview she is somewhat wary. Her responses to my questions at this juncture are short and limited in covering the intended subject. However, as the interview continues she gains her composure (Karkouti, 2014). The main issue that is disturbing is the tonight’s concert. Upon gaining her courage she responds with rather lengthy answers to some questions while to others she is tense. She has abrupt knowledge of other questions. The interview ends with tiredness for both of us. At the end of the interview I ask her whether she has questions for me. She asks why was attending the interview and what she should hope to gain. She also asked about what she would get out of the interview.

The above case presents a case of a young girl is an adolescent. According to Erikson Jane is in crisis of seeking an identity and confusion of roles. She does not seem to understand exactly who she is in regards to the roles she is to play in the society. Jane is also concerned about her identity. She does not know where she belongs in the society in regards to which group she is to identify herself with (Weir, 2014). She is concerned about the concert probably because she fears failing to showcase a good performance in the concert. She lacks confidence about her roles. She does not know why she was in for the interview. Jane is also not aware of what she is to achieve in the long run after attending the interview.

Based on Gilligan’s theory, Jane is suffering “less normal” development. She is not sure of who she is and what she wants in life (Arthur et al., 1989). Her dreams and aspirations are not yet clear. Jane’s development is slow. At her age she has not yet established her stance on matters concerning her career. A boy of her age would arguably be aware of who he is and what he wants in his career choices (Arthur et al., 1989). The nervousness depicted in Jane shows the unpreparedness in her for the life journey which is characteristic of numerous girls of her age. Women face diverse developmental experiences, which make it a challenge to define an exact formula of determining the development.

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Using the Erikson’s theory I would help Jane to have fidelity in her thoughts and actions. I would help her to stick to one line of thinking and identify a specific career path and pursue it. I would take her through the process of identify her strengths so that she can capitalize on her potential. I would help her know how to keep her thoughts directed to achieving a specific career choice. I would also help her to realize her roles at school, home and the society. Based on Gilligan’s theory, I would help Jane to compose herself and face her experiences. I would help her understand her challenges.


Marginalized groups like African Americans and economically low societies present a case where the theories can be used to help people with personality issues. The population is filled with people who struggle with development and are in dire crisis of handling stage-related challenges. For instance, adolescents in such groups grapple with identifying the right groups to relate to. Most end up indulging in social malpractices like drug abuse and irresponsible sexual behaviors. Erikson’s theory would come in handy to help such individuals to overcome the crisis by giving them advice about the strengths they need to stand against the policies. The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan would help such members to understand themselves and to have correct perceptions about what is demanded of them (Weir, 2014). Women in the marginalized groups are the most compromised. The Women’s Identity Development Theory by Gilligan would help such women to have a different approach to matters affecting them.


Arthur, M. B., Hall, D. T., & Lawrence, B. S. (1989). Handbook of career theory. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Brown, Lyn & Gilligan, Carol. (1993). Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development. Feminism & Psychology – FEM PSYCHOL. 3. 11-35. 10.1177/0959353593031002.

Dominelli, L. (2016). Environmental Disasters and Gender. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, 1-5.

Dunkel, C. S., & Harbke, C. (2017). A review of measures of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development: Evidence for a general factor. Journal of Adult Development24(1), 58-76.

Karkouti, I. M. (2014). Examining psychosocial identity development theories: A guideline for professional practice. Education135(2), 257-263.

Knight, Z. G. (2017). A proposed model of psychodynamic psychotherapy linked to Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy24(5), 1047-1058.

Robinson, O. C., Demetre, J. D., & Litman, J. A. (2017). Adult life stage and crisis as predictors of curiosity and authenticity: Testing inferences from Erikson’s lifespan theory. International Journal of Behavioral Development41(3), 426-431.

Weir, A. (2014). Sacrificial logics: Feminist theory and the critique of identity. Routledge.

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