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Chapter 9: Developmental Stages and Tasks
Characteristic developmental adaptation involves resolution of important life tasks during a particular stage of
Erik Erikson‟s theory of psychosocial development lays out eight stages of life; what are important are the two stages
following early adult stage: intimacy and generativity.
Jane Loevinger‟s influential developmental model is a theory of the development of the ego; the ego is a person‟s
characteristic manner of making sense of experience. The theory emphasizes cognition and knowing.
Erik Erikson‟s Theory of Psychosocial Development
For Erikson, becoming a naturalized American is a highly symbolic event that marked the maturation of his own
Developmental Stages in Childhood
Freud used the word libido, which is the energy that he believed derives from sexual drives; he set forth five stages,
and in each stage there are erogenous zones, that the libido expresses itself.
Erikson took the stages of the libido and transformed them into a developmental model of psychosocial tasks.
Each stage is defined by polarity, the polarity sets up a psychosocial conflict; changes within the individual and the
social world create conflict that defines the stage.
The conflict must be addressed!
Erikson agreed with Freud, for the first year the libido is centered in the oral zone. These relationships define the
experience of basic trust and mistrust. A health development is a function of the balance of the two.
The next, the anal stage in interpreted by Erikson as being centered on autonomy vs. shame and doubt.
It is the struggle to attain a certain degree of autonomy and mastery of the self and avoid humiliation.
The child‟s environment must support the efforts to master; related to toilet training.
The next stage the phallic stage, pertains to the questions of power; centered on initiative vs. guilt.
At this stage children begin to master, divide and conquer their world, there are major sex differences; boys adopt a
intrusive mode with aggressive talking, while girls adopt an inclusive mode, teasing, demanding and grasping – but
both have a strong desire to make the world their own.
The next stage is latency, and is expressed in an overt manner, this is the time to expand socialization. For Erikson,
this is the stage that children phase the challenges of industry vs. inferiority.
At the age of 6 or 7 children undergo systematic instruction, and schooling is designed to make the child proficient in
using the tools and assuming roles of adulthood; this is done through structured activities.
The child learns the rudimentary skills to become a productive member of society. Questions of “how can I be good?”
The Problem of Identity
The early stages are a prelude to late adolescence and young adulthood, called emerging adulthood.
The past determines the future, as the young adult looks back up childhood and decides what childhood meant.
Adolescence and Young Adulthood
The genital stage, which is the libido‟s last stage, Erikson views it as the ending and a transformation.
In this stage the developments usher in the psychological stage of identity vs. role confusion.
Why do we confront the identity issue first in adolescence? The answer is grouped into three categories: body,
cognition, and society.
First, adolescents are the inhabitants of new adult-like bodies.
Second, cognitive development; Piaget argued that people enter the cognitive stage of formal operations, we begin to
think about the world and ourselves in abstract terms. Reality is understood as a subset of what might be.
And thirdly, shifts in society‟s expectations parallel changes within the individual.
There is a tension between the niche and society and the individual‟s desire; Erikson maintains that the individual and
society create identity together.
Formation of identity involves two steps; the first is that the young person breaks away from childhood and questions
assumptions and challenges viewpoints.
The second is that the young person makes commitment to roles and outlooks that define how they see themselves
fitting into the adult world.
Marcia – developed a semi structured interview about exploration and commitment to the two areas of life of
occupation and ideology. Based on responses we can classify young persons into four different identity statuses.
Each status is viewed as a development position, individuals can move from one status to another.
The most developmentally advanced is identity achievement; they went through a period of exploration and have made
a commitment to occupational and ideological goals; they strive for internalized goals.
Identity achievers received higher grades in difficult college majors, and scored high on the PSE measure of
achievement motivation; they also tend to base their decisions on abstract principles of justice and social contract.
The second is moratorium: they explore identity issues but have not made any commitments; they are relatively
mature, and use more mature defense mechanisms.
Ambivalence best describes the relationship between the person and his parents in moratorium, they seek distance
from their family, and set up negative identities for them; the negative identities are everything the young person does
not want to be. They tend to experience high levels of general anxiety, but are often described as being friendly, and
The third status is foreclosure: the person has failed to meet the identity challenge, and fails to explore but commits to
unquestioned positions, they have opted for security of childhood roles, beliefs and expectations. These individuals
describe their homes as loving and affectionate.
Foreclosures appear to be the best behaved of the statuses, and adopt a more authoritarian outlook on the world.
They tend to score low on autonomy and anxiety and have unrealistically high levels of aspiration.
The fourth identity status, is identity diffusion: they have yet to explore the world and yet to have made commitments.
They are best characterized by withdrawal, they way their parents and distant and misunderstanding.
Josselson – studied the four identity statuses, and described evidence for both continuity and change in identity from
the college years into midlife.
They are described as path makers, they move ahead into there 30s and 40s with basic meaningfulness of their lives
and choices; self-doubt was present but not disabling.
Women in moratorium continued to act as searchers in their 30s and 40s.
Significant growth was found in foreclosures, and those as identity diffuse (drifters); drifters reported the greatest
number of regrets.
Identity and Intimacy
The stages suggest that once an adult has arrived at answers to the question of who am I, they are ready to begin the
sixth stage of life, intimacy vs. isolation.
Orlofsky developed the idea of intimacy status.
With interviews, they determined the quality of intimacy in a person‟s life, from answers to questions about dating.
Positive correlations between the two measures of identity and intimacy status were found; mature identity statuses
exhibit more mature intimacy statuses
There are four intimacy statuses: intimate, preintimate, stereotyped, and isolate (p. 361 table 9.4)
There is a fifth intimacy status termed the merger, in which one partner dominates the other.
Those showing the lowest levels of identity resolution and score at low levels of intimacy.
Relations between the extent to resolve identity and quality of married life predict stability of marital relationships at
Generativity and Adult Development
The last two stages correspond to middle and later adulthood.
Generativity vs. stagnation is the seventh stage, the prototype for generativity is raising children.