Various theories have arisen in attempts to explain human development. The issue with traditional stage theories is that many do not take into consideration the other factors that influence human development such as cultural differences, family make up, and gender. Sigmund Freud’s model of psychosexual development and Erik Erikson’s model of psychosocial development are two major theories that describe human development. Referring to these models can assist treatment professionals in having a better understanding of an individual’s development as well as aide in the assessment and treatment processes.
Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is depicted through eight age defined stages that he believes an individual will go through. The stages are as follows: infancy- birth to one year- basic trust versus mistrust, toddlerhood ages one to three- autonomy versus shame and doubt, early childhood- three to five years- initiative versus guilt, middle childhood- ages six to eleven- industry versus inferiority, adolescence- ages eleven to twenty- identity versus role diffusion, young adulthood- ages twenty one to forty- intimacy versus isolation, middle adulthood- ages forty to sixty-five- generativity versus stagnation, and late adulthood- age over sixty-five- ego integrity versus despair (Hutchison, 2011). An individual moves from one stage to another as soon as the tasks are mastered, if they are not the individual will become stuck in that stage.For the purpose of this paper the only stage discussed at length will be trust versus mistrust. Trust versus mistrust is the very first stage that occurs in the human life according to Erikson. In this stage the infant begins to develop his/her relationship with the outside world as well as the caretaker. This sets the stage for the ability to develop healthy intimate relationships in the future. Hutchison (2011) asserts “the most important factor facilitating growth in this stage is consistency in having physical and emotional needs met: being fed when hungry, being kept warm and dry, and being allowed undisturbed sleep” (p. 113).
A limitation of Erikson’s theory is that it does not discuss if stages can be mastered at a later stage if the outside factors such as a loving and nurturing caregiver is not present initially (Hutchison, 2011). Another limitation of Erikson’s theory is that it doesn’t address the possible implications of growing up in a different culture. When using this theory in treatment and assessment of an individual it would be very important for the treatment provider to have a clear understanding of the experience during infancy (getting emotional and physical needs meant), as this is likely to have a major impact on future behaviors.
Sigmund Freud created the theory of psychosexual development, which occurs within five stages. The first stage called the oral stage beginning in infancy to age two. During this phase all desires are connected with the mouth, and the infant receives satiation through the mouth. This stage fosters the infant’s connection with the mother to the extreme that the infant secretly wants the father out of the picture. This is known as the Oedipus complex. The next stage occurs from ages two to four and is known as the sadistic-anal phase. During this stage the child finds pleasure in defecation and is learning to control impulses related to potty training. Freud theorized that the pleasure in defecation is related to the child having pleasure in creating something that is his or her own. This manifests later in life as women wanting to bear children. The next stage occurs between ages four to seven and is known as the phallic phase. During this stage the child is fascinated with urination, and being able to control or release it. During this period the child begins to identify with either the mother or the father and is overcoming separation anxiety. The Oedipus complex is also resolved during this stage. The next stage in Freud’s work occurs between the ages of seven and twelve. During this stage a child begins to assert his or her independence and is in the beginning stages of learning how to have relationships with others. The final stage occurs from age thirteen on and the adolescent has learned to desire members of the opposite sex and now want to fill the instinct to procreate (Felluga, 2011).
Limitations of this theory is that it is centered solely on males as well as heterosexual relationships (Felluga, 2011). Treatment providers who embraced this theory would most likely utilize psychoanalytical methods when working with clients as this was also Freud’s specialty.
When comparing the two Erikson’s stages are more specific to what is occurring later in life, whereas Freud’s last stage only encompasses the desire to pro-create. Both models address attachment to the caretakers and the process of separation from caretakers to create one’s own identity. Given that both models were created during eras in which women were significantly marginalized both would gender biased. Also both are rooted in heteronormative values and assumptions.
When it comes to human development it is impossible to be definitive in ages and stages that certain developments occur. This is why it is important for treatment providers to be knowledgeable on different theories, and have an understanding of the limitations that come with each. Using development theories in the assessment process allows providers to begin to discern what is “normal” and “abnormal” behaviors at the age the client is. Having an understanding of human development and the impact of outside systems allows for the provider to be able to deliver the best level of service.