Throughout their lives, humans develop physically, socially, and cognitively. Each individual develops these traits in their own unique ways. Each person has many different characteristics that can be created and taught from many different things, and there are many debates on how that actually happens. While it’s easy to understand when and how people develop physically as they grow, it’s more difficult to see how each individual person changes their mentality and cognition. Many different theorists have certain ideas as to how an individual develops. Three important theorists that had some thoughts on development are Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, and Howard Gardner. While each of their ideas were different and unique, they all tried to understand how humans as a whole grew in the world around them.
Sigmund Freud was a Viennese physician who created his theory of development by studying troubled adults. While the theory is outdated and a little controversial, it’s based around how parents are crucial in managing their child’s sexual and aggressive drives during the first years of life so they can successfully develop. Freud thought that an individual’s personality was made up of three parts: id, ego, and super-ego, and would work together after the child works through the five stages in psychosexual development. Id, considered the largest part, deals with the impulses and desires people want, and basic biological needs. Ego is the reasoning and rational part of one’s personality, and it tries to satisfy the id without consequences. The superego is the conscience and develops through interactions with other people, and it uses morals and values from society.
Freud thought that the struggle between these levels is what creates a person’s personality (Theories). There are five psychosexual stages that, when passed, unify each of the three levels in the mind. The first stage is the oral stage, which is birth to 1 year. During this stage, the mouth is the pleasure center of the body, and children suck their thumbs, put thing in their mouth, etc. The oral needs need to be met, or the child will start to bite their nails or suck their thumb to meet the need (Theories). The next stage, anal, is from 1 to 3 years, where the children experiment with bodily functions, where toilet training is important, Freud believed that toilet training children too early made children uptight and obsessed with order (Funham). Phallic, the third stage from 3 to 6, is when children take pleasure in genitals and start to struggle with desires to the other sex. The next stage, Latency is when the child is 6 to 12.
In this stage, children develop the superego and conscience. They begin to understand morals and look at adults to see how to act. The last stage is genital, from 12 years and above, where sexual impulses are important.
Freud had the idea that if the other stages were successfully met, these ages would engage in sexual behavior, possibly leading to marriage and children (Theories).However, Erik Erikson, born in 1902 in Germany, expanded on Freud’s controversial idea and modified into many different stages, instead of just three. His best known work is this developmental theory which focuses on one’s identity. This theory states that each stage in life is associated with a certain struggle mentally. Each individual struggles contributes to a human’s personality, and makes them who they are. Erikson led advances in society’s ideas on childhood. His theory pushed the idea that children aren’t just biological beings that endure and are just created, but develop in society’s context of expectations and prejudices (Erik H.
). His theory also has the idea of an identity crisis. If something goes wrong in one of the major struggles an individual faces, then they will have an identity crisis later in life (Erik Erikson’s).
Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development is divided into eight different stages of psychological conflicts. All individuals have to overcome these different conflicts in order to adjust successfully to the environment around them. The stages begin with Trust vs. Mistrust, which happens from birth to 18 months. In this stage, children learn to trust others around them, especially the caretaker who provides for their basic needs. When they start to trust the people around them, they build security.
The next stage is Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, which begins after 18 months until 3 years. This is when children are taught the basic ways of taking care of themselves, like going to the bathroom by themselves and feeding themselves. If they see other children their age doing these tasks while they aren’t, they feel ashamed (Erik Erikson’s).The third stage is from 3 to 5 years of age, and is Initiative vs. Guilt.
Children try to explore new things and do everything on their own. They learn concepts and try them out in real life, but when they need help, they feel guilty. The fourth stage is Industry vs. Inferiority, occurring from 5 to 13, and deals with a children’s newfound maturity and self-awareness. They become more competitive, and they start to understand reasoning and scientific facts.
They want to have success and want to do what others of the same age do. Stage five is Identity vs. Role Confusion, from 13 to 21.
Young people are expected to develop their identity and choose who they are, including sexual identity. Young adults can also experience identity crisis brought by their own expectations and their parents (Erik Erikson’s).The sixth stage begins the stages in actual adulthood, which is Intimacy vs. Isolation. From 21 to 39, people are worried that they have to find the right partner and if they don’t, they always have to be alone. This is when people are most vulnerable to loneliness and lack of intimacy. Stage seven, Generativity vs. Stagnation, happens from 40 to 65.
Adults this age try to find meaning in their work. They want to contribute to the world in some way, and leave a legacy once they pass on. If they don’t think they’ve contributed anything, they feel useless and unproductive, also known as a mid-life crisis. The last stage is stage eight from 60 and above, Ego Integrity vs. Despair. These people are usually retired, and they want to feel like they’ve done something important in their younger years. When looking back, they feel content and happy, but if they think they haven’t lived their life to the fullest, they feel sadness and regret (Erik Erikson’s).
Each of these stages is a point in life that people have to surpass. If people didn’t really succeed in earlier stages, they will have problems later in life. All of these stages are gone through by humans in order to be a part of society.The last developmental theorist is Howard Gardner, an American psychologist who decided to go into the field after meeting Erik Erikson. Gardner’s theory of development is known as the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner believed that there wasn’t just one way a person could be considered smart, but multiple different versions of intelligence, where the mixture of all seven helped create who a person is. Logical-mathematical intelligence is when a person has the ability to see patterns and think logically, as well as have deductive reasoning. This is associated with people who are great at science or math.
While there are math whizzes, there’s also people who are great in language. Linguistic intelligence is having great capabilities in languages. This means that a person can successfully use language to express themselves rhetorically or poetically. This also includes the ways to remember information (Brualdi).Spatial intelligence is a person’s ability to create an image in their own mind in order to solve a problem. It’s the way people create the scenario in their mind to figure out how to fix it.
It’s found that even blind children have the capability to create their own pictures. Musical intelligence is the ability to know and create musical pitches and rhythms. This is the intelligence in understanding beats and tones in songs, movies, and in life. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is using one’s mind to communicate in their body movements. It simply means to have good coordination. Gardner had the belief, against some other ideas, that mental and physical capabilities are connected (Brualdi).
Personal intelligence includes interpersonal and intrapersonal. Interpersonal intelligence is when an individual is good and communicating and interacting with other people. Intrapersonal intelligence is when a person is able to understand their own goals and interests. While these people usually have a hard time with others, they have confidence, motivation, and good intuition (Lane). The last intelligence on the list is natural intelligence, which is where the person feels connected with the world around them.
An individual understands natural phenomena and living things (Naturalist).There are many differences between each of these theorist’s ideas on development. While Erik Erikson’s theory focused on the different thoughts each age has and what they strive for, Sigmund Freud centered around the idea of sexuality and aggression being the main stages people surpass, studying troubled adults to see what they were missing. Howard Gardner focused on how each individual had a different type of intelligence, in which they excelled at. While the other two focused on age, Gardner considered the different ways children would learn the new habits and ideas that they would need to know, and what that certain intelligence they had meant for each individual.
Erikson focused on new findings in each age, Freud focused on the new needs in each age, and Gardner focused on the types of intelligence in each age.The one that is most correct in it’s ideas it Erik Erikson’s theory, which has multiple stages focusing on what that age group is learning. This one makes the most sense because it doesn’t focus on one aspect in an individual’s life, or how they’ve viewed their findings. However, it focuses on how each stage brings different necessities and inquiries that a person now sees as they mature. The stages focus on the environment around each individual and how it affects them in what they should be doing. Erikson’s theory makes the most sense in what we see in children and adults today.
It describes how children focus on learning how to be in groups, young adults focus on individuality and identity, and adults focus on meaning and purpose in life. While every theorist has aspects of their ideas that seem correct and understandable, where humans learn their environment, Erik Erikson’s theory seems to be the most applicable to people in society today.