In their book, Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach, Barbara Newman and Philip Newman build upon the premises of development stages that were initially laid out by Dr. Sigmund Freud as psychosexual stages and later expanded on by Dr. Erik Erikson as psychosocial development stages (Newman & Newman, 2018). These stages are not directly linked to an age range, though Newman and Newman have assigned ages, rather development and experience attained along the way. Erikson posited that a person would pass through these stages in a logical fashion and that experience prevented revisiting an earlier stage (Newman & Newman, 2018).
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In this paper, I define each stage by age, experience, ego quality, and core pathology. I compliment these defined stages with my personal experience from these stages. I detail my favorite and least favorite stage and explain why I feel this way. I then project my expected expectations of stages I have not yet attained as they may apply to my life and my future. I explain if and how Newman and Newman’s framework applies to my personal and private experiences.
The prenatal stage is defined as conception to birth (Newman & Newman, 2018). This stage covers the fertilization of the egg, the combination of chromosomes and genes from each parent, and the development through three trimesters. This growth period is entirely dependent on the mother for nutrition. Factors like the mother’s age, diet, stress, drug use, and socioeconomic status have a major impact on the fetus’ growth and health. Access to quality health care and family support also affect the mother’s ability to make quality choices concerning the welfare of the child.
The infancy stage is categorized as birth-two years old or sometimes referred to as basic trust vs. mistrust (Newman & Newman, 2018). During the time the person will experience the maturation of sensory/perceptual and motor functions (2018). They will develop sensorimotor intelligence: processing, organizing, and using information (2018). They will start using communication, showing attachment, and develop emotionally (Newman & Newman, 2018). I have no first-hand memories of the infancy stage. As I understand it, we moved a few times and my sister was born 15 months after me. This time was spent as a nuclear family. I categorize my experience as hopeful rather than withdrawal.
This stage also sees the infant develop motor skills, reflexes, and causality. Many, not all, infants will learn to crawl and walk during this stage. Infants will explore new things; mainly by putting them in their mouth. Infants will play games like drop the spoon and have a parent pick it up, and then drop it again. Infants are exploring their world to the fullest. The hope is that infants will gain the trust of the parents or caretaker as opposed to mistrust. This determination can have far-reaching implications throughout their development and maturity. Infants will likely babble as they seek to understand and utilize our language.
The toddlerhood stage is categorized as people 2-4 years old or autonomy versus shame/doubt. Toddlers explore the world around them and learn true cause and effect. This is slightly more advanced than dropping the spoon and has the parent retrieve it. The toddler wants to do things for themselves. Toddlers learn to use the toilet instead of soiling themselves. Their walk becomes more developed and may include running, jumping, and hopping (Newman & Newman, 2018).
The toddler rapidly acquires the use of language. They increase their vocabulary, start forming sentences and begin comprehending grammar (Newman & Newman, 2018). One of the more interesting aspects of this stage is the emergence of fantasy play. When playing with dolls, cars, or blocks they begin to imagine entire worlds their toys are living in. As this fantasy play becomes more advanced it becomes more “…socially interactive, more organized and planned, and play leaders emerge” (Newman & Newman, 2018). Toddlers begin to know what they want or at least think they know what they want. They can become upset when they are unable to communicate their desires to their parents.
I contacted my father to fill in some gaps for me during this assignment. I don’t have many memories from this stage but I thought I would share one of his stories about me. One evening my mother was finishing the laundry. My family is in the living room; my father in his chair, my mother, sister and I were on the floor. My mother was folding the laundry and placing it in the clothes basket beside her. My sister and I were behind the clothes basket getting into mischief. As mother placed the folded clothes into the basket my sister and I were taking the folded clothes and tossing them behind us. When my mother placed the final piece of clothing into the basket she stood up and nearly fell over. She was not prepared for how light the basket was. After my father bellowed a huge laugh she turned around to see all of the freshly folded laundry strewn around the living room. Father had witnessed the whole event and even tried to alert my mother to the situation. She continued on with her story without skipping a beat or hearing what he was trying to tell her.
Early School Age
Those who are four to six years old fall into the early school age category and might be described through initiative or guilt (Newman & Newman, 2018). Children in this category are exposed to gender roles, morality, and discipline. They begin developing self-esteem as they begin to reap recognition for their behavior and achievements. Friendship groups form among peers and may be segregated by sex, age, or race. Children at this stage are very inquisitive and want to know how and why the world around them works the way it does. Their innovation and initiative drive their learning and exploration (Newman & Newman, 2018). Children at this stage also feel guilt or remorse. This is the feeling is in response to unacceptable behavior but is different from shame (Newman & Newman, 2018).
I remember starting school. I was anxious about riding the bus and not knowing anyone in the class. As a four-year-old, I was smaller than everyone but somehow able to start Kindergarten. I went to school on Monday, Wednesday, and every other Friday with Ms. Bow as my teacher. The other half of the class attended Tuesday, Thursday, and every other Friday. My favorite part of Kindergarten was playing with these huge blocks and building these massive forts. I enjoyed playing in the countryside and watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on television. I remember riding my Big-Wheel in the yard and skipping rocks on the lake. Even though I switched schools twice during Kindergarten and second grade, I still have friends from each school.
Middle childhood is defined as children ages six to 12 years old and might be described through the task of industry or inferiority (Newman & Newman, 2018). Children in this developmental stage create close friendships, begin seeking peer approval and can struggle with loneliness and rejection (2018). Children begin learning and acquiring skills and the ability to self-evaluate. They take pride in the hard work they put into a task and function based on expectations. They work together, rely on each other, and compete with each other.
This is my self-described most tumultuous stage of development. Prior to turning 13 years old, I had moved 26 times. The differences in my home life, as compared to other children, were enormous and unsettling. Each time my mother required treatment for mental illness, my sister and I needed to be relocated. Many times we moved in with our maternal grandmother. Other times we moved in with our father or a foster home. I dreaded the end of each school day as I wondered where we would sleep that night. Questions pierced my thoughts during the ride from school to wherever we ended up. Will we have food tonight? Will my mother be herself or will she be someone else? Will we be sleeping in the same room we slept in the night before? I began to wonder if God existed and if he did, did he love me? The constant reorganization of my life left me lost.
Early adolescence is defined as 12-18 years old and can be categorized by identity or role confusion (Newman & Newman, 2018). In this stage, the body is rapidly changing. Puberty has a massive impact on boys and girls that completely change body composition and ready the body for reproduction. This period includes changes to romantic relationships that become more sexual in nature. Peer group tend to have more of a direct influence over the teenager than the parents. People in this group begin forming their own opinions of what is and is not acceptable for themselves and their futures.
My life in early adolescence continued my trend of moving. The stress of continued chaos began to affect my grades as I was no longer able to concentrate at school. Puberty brought acne and awkwardness to the forefront of my world as my support structure began to crumble. I began to see just how poor we were and how much socioeconomic status affected everyday interactions with classmates. I was an outcast. I was unable to function around people joking with me. I took their casual and innocent comments as attacks against me personally. I was angry and alone. After my mother tried to smother me with a pillow, I finally moved out of my mother’s house at 16 years old and moved into my grandma’s house. I told my mother that if she loved me that she would let me stay with grandma and not say a word about it. I was finally free of the chaos and able to choose my own path from a new found place of stability.
Later adolescence is defined as those 18-24 years old and the defining period ending childhood while transitioning into adulthood. During this period people transition to autonomy and generally leave home in pursuit of their own ideas and goals. This may include college, career, and marriage. Oftentimes people in this category reevaluate their own sexuality simultaneously exploring their freedom from their parents. They will struggle in determining their own identity; trying to answer the question, who am I?
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Upon graduation I found myself trying to define who I was. I proposed to my girlfriend and enlisted in the United States Navy. After boot camp and advanced school, I reported for duty to Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA where I worked as an ejection seat mechanic. I married my bride and we found ourselves expecting our first child soon thereafter. We moved to Tinker AFB, OK in 2002 where my wife gave birth to our oldest daughter. I was 21 years old with three years of military experience, two years of marriage, and we now had a newborn. I found myself woefully undertrained as a husband and father. I was still learning my role as a husband when our daughter was born and I had no idea how to be a good father. I also found myself struggling in my role as a Sailor. Although I struggled a great deal in this developmental stage, I found it easier to tackle with my wife at my side. This was the first time I realized that I had someone with me no matter how hard things became.
Early Adulthood is defined as 24-34 years old. In this stage, adults are likely finished with traditional schooling sans those in graduate programs. Here people have begun charting their life course. They will determine a career, endeavor into marriage, and likely into parenthood. This stage changes the dynamics between adults and their parents; hopefully, changing from one of authority or friendship and counsel. The pull of work and life will help direct social circles and workout routines. If a person is not careful their life can spin out of control.
In this stage, I started making real strides in my career. I was getting promoted early and often, I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with zero debt, and I attended Navy flight school as a commissioned officer. Inside our household, we were struggling. My wife was suffering from a multitude of medical problems and my ego was inflating due to work successes. Our marriage was on the rocks and my extended family was experiencing trauma and horrors due to mental illness. After my wife battled with endometriosis, that bore the scars or multiple laparoscopies and chemically induced menopause, our son was born five years after our daughter. I finally achieved all of my life’s goals and our marriage was stronger than ever. We recommitted our marriage to God.
Middle adulthood is defined as 34-60 years old. Adults in this category are mastering skills, managing careers, and balancing life. They are likely raising children and are becoming grandparents, and tackling society’s largest issues. They are oftentimes caring for their own aging parents and witnessing them enter the end of life stage. Many adults will retire and begin traveling while hoping they have saved enough money to take them through their lifetime and any health concerns they might experience.
As I have recently reached middle adulthood I cannot speak to all the wonders that await me. I can say that this is by far my favorite stage so far. Last year I got to speak on stage in Dallas, TX and doors began opening for me to start my own business teaching personal finance to those in need. I started Warrior’s Wallet and have been able to help 500 families get their finances in order. To date, they have collectively paid off more than $5 million in debt! I can’t think of a better was to share my time and experience. I now serve as vice president of Books by Vets, a non-profit dedicated to helping veterans, first responders and their families tell their stories free of charge. I serve on the board of the S.H.I.N.E. Foundation. SHINE is a community service partnership between the county and the court system that allows nonviolent offenders alternative sentencing to keep their families intact. God willing I will be able to retire from the Navy soon and I will start speaking to school all over the world. I hope to organize my services as a non-profit.
Later adulthood is defined as 60-75 years old. During this stage, people begin to accept they are in the later stages of life. Those in this stage will most certainly be affected by a decline in health, fitness, and mental capacity. Advances in technology have helped this developmental stage to stave off the creep of mental decline and isolation. Couples face a greatly increased chance that they will become a widow and must fight off death anxiety, depression, and despair. Those in good health will enjoy the recreation, travel, and leisure retirement should provide. Those who stay in touch with friends and family will have a much higher chance of maintaining cognitive ability and mental decline.
When I project my life out to this stage, I imagine a world where I am still speaking. I have amassed enough resources, wisdom, and following to continue doing whatever I please. I picture giving away 90% of my income to scholarships aimed at sending people to college and furthering their education. My life will be filled with friends and family to share my joy with. I will give of my wisdom and mentorship freely and enjoy time with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Elderhood is defined as 75 years old until death. Successful aging consists of avoiding disease, engaging with life, and maintaining high cognitive and physical function (Newman & Newman, 2018). Here, nutrition, fitness, and social interaction are required to maintain a semblance of humanity. People often move into nursing homes or require palliative care. Dementia and Alzheimer’s can strip away any trace of the person we thought we knew.
My paternal grandparents were married 65 years before my grandmother passed away at 80. Her husband remained in his home but was no longer able to care for himself. After his daughter moved in, he was able to maintain life until 85 when he was no longer able to sustain himself.
I have described the 11 stages of psychosocial development and told stories relevant to each of these stages. These stages may be defined by age or by the psychosocial crisis experienced in each stage. Once achieved a person is unable to regress back to previously visited stages. Although I have experienced much of what life has to offer, I am still excited about future adventures and growth opportunities.
- Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2018). Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
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