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The human fetus has a very distinctive form of developing. It has got the same universal and observable patterns. In comparison to these development patterns, Erikson stated that the changes in personality of an individual are similar to this. He puts forth a theory trying to explain how each individual develops from one stage to another. In each stage he explains the role that it plays in shaping out the life of that individual morally.
First, Erikson states that trust is developed in when one is still an infant. If a child is brought up in an environment surrounded by trustworthy people, he will learn to trust also. He will grow up with the thought at the back of his head that the people around him are all caring and loving, and that he is well protected. Each time an infant looks up and does not see his mother, he will start to get anxious and in the end maybe even cry. This is because, when beside his mother, he feels safe from the concern that his mother shows him; always looking out for him. A child who did not get to experience this form of love and care will grow up scared of the people around him, and will lack the sense of complete trust in them. As a result, any form of relationship that he has in his later years will be highly challenging as he does not know how to believe in his others (Cherry, 2003).
The infancy stage of an individual is followed by the early childhood. This stage is at the age of 18 months up to when one gets to three years. A child in this stage becomes curious of the things that happen around him. He gets attached to toys and begins to explore the things around him that are physical. At this stage, the child does not want to be cuddled no more and starts to demand his freedom. He wants to know how to walk and jump around. Restraining the child from doing this will mess with his self esteem.
The next stage is a very important one. This is where the child begins to ask the question 'Why?' The initiative of an act and the guilt that is carried afterwards after a mistake are important in nurturing a child. He starts to become responsible for is actions. This period occurs between the ages of 3 years to 5years. The child always looks at what the adult is doing and will often try to copy it. He will come up with interesting conversations with his toys as he tries to act out the roles he perceives in the real world, and crate his own trial universe. Erikson says that, if the child is frustrated by certain goals he is trying to achieve, he will have a feeling of guilt. Here the most important relation to a child's growth is the one he has with his family. This stage is followed by the latency period.
In this stage, he is now capable of acquiring new skills and knowledge while at the same time getting that creative knowledge from what he gathers around him. He develops a sense of industry and competency. According to Erikson, this stage is between the years of 6 up to 12. He is at a stage where he gets interactive with his peers and is very social. Having inferiority feelings that are not addressed affect him very much. He develops low self esteem and feels incompetent among his peers. His world now expands and he begins to see thing differently. He develops a passion for his relationship with school as he learns new things, and also starts to adapt to his neighborhood. Parents at this stage start to cease having the complete authority they once had, however they are still of significance to his life.
At the ages of 12 up to 15 years, he now enters the stage of adolescence. According to Erikson, the stages building him up until he gets to this stage depend on what is done for him but from here onwards, it changes and basically is upon what he does. This is the stage where he gets to try and find his identity because he is not a child or an adult. If he gets unlucky in this stage and cannot find the right answers, he experiences role confusion. His purpose is to discover who he is as an individual, despite what he sees in his family, and he tries to fit in the society. He wants to relate more closely with his peers at this stage.
The young adulthood is a stage that comes between ages 18 - 35. In this initial stage, as he starts to be an adult, he seeks companionship and love. He tries to get into a mutual relationship with his friends and also find a companion through marriage. In this stage, Erikson states that the person will start to experience and look for intimacy. If this does not work out, the consequences are a feeling of isolation from others. At this point, his most important relationship is with marital partner. It is also with his friends.
Between the ages of 35- 55, work becomes a crucial part of his life. Erickson says it is during this period that we become responsible for our families. Our work becomes our main occupation. Here is also where he gets to take control of what goes on around him. His motivation comes from the production of something useful to the society and through taking care of others. He becomes self driven to accomplish the goals he had set up before in his earlier stages. At this stage, he is fully matured and understands that he has got responsibilities like his family to take care of. He knows that there are people who are dependent on him for their survival. In this stage, his greatest fear often is not being active and the feeling of being meaningless. As his children depart home to go and start their education and lives, his goals change and he may experience mid-life crisis. He struggles to find new purposes for his life. In this case, he finds important supportive relationships in his workplace and the community (Harder, 2009).
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According to Erikson, in his theory, he says that at the age of 55 to death, he now enters his late stage of adulthood. Erickson says we spend much of our life strategizing how we shall face the middle adulthood stage and recover from it in the last stage. This is so maybe because, when he is a full grown adult, he will look back at his life and he will be content and happy with his accomplishments. This brings a feeling to him that he has lived his life well, he has accomplished what he set out to be in life and he is now ready to retire from the universe. Erickson calls this integrity. Being wise, he will understand and accept that death marks the end of life for him. However, he may also despair upon getting to this stage. Looking back at his experiences, if he failed in his goals, he may fear death. He does not believe that his life has come to an end and he has got nothing to show for it. Thus, he starts to try and find purpose for his life. He has no other option but to turn to the people around him wherever he lives, as they will lay an example for what he should set out his life to be. What will help him make it through this stage is a good relationship with mankind.
Kohlberg is an American scientist who gave more information on the theory of morality. Kohlberg, just like Erikson, set out to study and understand the development of mankind from one stage to another. He says children begin to ape their adults and act as responsible people because they want to also appear to be good citizens. Erikson on the other hand feels that the growth of these children is because of the influence of their parents and the people around them. Kohlberg concentrates on the morality of a person when at a certain stage and age. He says the children at a tender age depend on their actions to figure out the results and consequences that would follow. They do not know what might happen when they engage in their actions. For them, there might be a punishment or a reward. Erikson explains that an individual may develop a positive or a negative attitude in every stage of life. These habits that he will pick up along the way in one stage of his life will be of great significance to his next stage.
In arguing out his theory, Kohlberg assumed that an individual may not be able to proceed to the next stage and thus remain with the traits of the former. He is not certain as to whether a person will proceed to the next level. This contradicts Erikson's theory because; Erikson believed that the developments of an individual in one stage will affect the next. For example, Erikson believed that if an individual was well taken care of when he was a child, the love and care he got will make him have good attitudes in life like trust (Crain, 1985).
Erikson's theory and Kohlberg's theory explain the basic development of a child of any danger. However, these stages can be affected by the certain factors too. The gender difference is one of these factors. Whether a child is male or female goes a long way in determining how that child will grow up. If the child is a male, he is more likely to experience aggression in his life than if it had been a female. This affects the shaping of that individual in terms of his character. At the stage of adolescence, the lives of the males and the females take different patterns. Their character development will depend on their sex. Environmental, culture and ethnic differences are factors that affect the development of a child too.
Children who are brought up in peaceful environments are more likely to grow up being humble citizens who express love to their fellow human beings. However, individuals who have been brought up in the war torn countries or in families which experience violence will grow up not knowing what peace is. Such often turn out to become the enemy of the society and they always have a lot of anger inside them. These environmental differences coupled with the cultural and ethnic differences are responsible in shaping an individuals life in a specific way. They affect how he will grow up, what he will believe in and the traditions that one will grow up following. These theories of Erikson and Kohler give us an understanding of how life shapes up an individual and thus we can be able to understand the different characters of different people. This enables all humanity to peacefully co-exist with one another with better understanding.
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