5 Stages of Personality Development – Explained!

The five stages of development are as follows: 1. Oral Stage 2. Anal Stage 3. Genital (Oedipal) Stage 4. Latency Stage 5. Adolescence Stage.

Erikson (1950) believes that personality continues to be moulded throughout the entire lifespan from birth to death. This period has been divided into eight stages by him. Each stage has its characteristic features marked and affected by emotional crisis, particular culture of the person and his interaction with the society of which he is a part.

1. Oral Stage:

This stage expands from zero to one-and-a-half years. During this period mouth is the sensitive zone of the body and the main source of joy and pleasure for the child. How the infant is being cared for by the mother makes the infant trust or mistrusts the world (represented by mother) around him. If his wants are frequently satisfied, he develops trust and believes that the world will take care of him.

In case of frequent dissatisfaction, mistrust develops leading the infant to believe that the people around him cannot be believed, relied on, and that he is going to lose most of what he wants. After the first six months (sucking period), the remaining one year (biting period) is fairly difficult for the child and mother because of eruption of teeth and weaning. If properly handled, infant’s trust gets reinforced and he develops an in-built and lifelong spring of optimism and hope.

Persons, who had an unpleasant (abandoned, unloved and uncared) babyhood, are likely to find parenthood as burdensome and may express dependent, helpless, abusive behaviour, and angry outbursts i.e., oral character. To such people, caseworker is like parents, who helps the client to verbalise his anger and distrust and later provides emotional support and protective services.

The caseworker has to fill the voids (mistrust) created by the early mother and child relationship. The caseworker presents himself as a trustworthy person, and, as a by-product of this relationship the client starts trusting himself and others, around him.

Care should be taken that the client does not feel deprived at the hands of the caseworker who presents himself as a mothering person to the client. It may be made clear that the feeling of trust or mistrust (task of oral stage) is not totally dependent upon mother-child relationship during oral stage. It continues to be modified, reinforced or impoverished according to the experiences of the client in the subsequent years of life also.

2. Anal Stage:

Towards the end of biting period of oral stage, the child is able to walk, talk, and eat on his own. He can retain or release something that he has. This is true of bowel and bladder function also. He can either retain or release his bowel and bladder contents.

Now, the child no more depends upon the mouth zone for pleasure. He now derives pleasure from bowel and bladder (anal zone) functioning, which entails anxiety because of toilet training by parents. Child is taught where to pass urine and where to go for defecation etc.

In this training of bladder and bowel control, child may develop autonomy, or shame and doubt. The task of anal is to develop autonomy. If the parents are supportive without being overprotective and if the child is allowed to function with some independence, he gains some confidence in his autonomy probably by the age of three and prefers love over hate, cooperation over willfulness, and self-expression over suppression.

Autonomy, thus, overbalances shame and doubt and leads to development of confidence that he can control his functions, and also, to some extent, the people around him. Contrary to this, the child may feel angry, foolish and ashamed if parents criticise his faeces and over-control his bowel and bladder functioning during the training for toilet. Observations of sanskaras convey acceptance to the child and help the parents to train them in appropriate manner.

The children (with more mistrust and doubt in their share) when adults may need help in accepting failures and imperfection as an inherent part of one’s life. By accepting the client as he is, the caseworker can reduce his feeling of self-hatred and perfectionism. Over-demanding adults or those who express temper tantrums when asked to assume responsibility may need to be helped to control their impulsive acts.

They should be rewarded when they exhibit controls, and one should reinforce their autonomy and independence when exercised. Autonomy and independence are totally different from impulsive acts as these involve rationality and not emotionality.

3. Genital (Oedipal) Stage:

The task for this period is to develop and strengthen initiative, failing which the child develops a strong feeling of guilt. This period extends from 3rd to 6th years of life, i.e., pre-school period. He is now capable of initiating activity, both intellectual as well as motor on his own. How far this initiative is reinforced depends upon how much physical freedom is given to the child and how far his curiosity is satisfied. If he is led to feel bad about his behaviour or his interests, he may grow with a sense of guilt about his self-initiated activities.

Erikson (1950) opines that the child takes first initiative at home when he/she expresses passionate interest in his/her parent of opposite sex. The parents ultimately disappoint him/her. They should try to help the child to identify with the same sex parent, e.g., the girl should be encouraged to identify with mother and the son with the father.

In addition to this initiative, the child also attempts to wrest a place for self in the race of siblings for parents affection. He sees the difference between what he wants and what he is asked to do. This culminates into a clear-cut division between the child’s set of expanded desires and the parental set of restrictions. He gradually “turns these values (restrictions, i.e.,. don’ts) into self-punishment”.

Slowly and gradually, he extracts more initiative from the conflict and grows happily if his initiative gets proper and adequate reinforcement. The caseworker encourages the clients burdened with guilt feelings to take initiative in family as well as in other situations, and works with his social environment to strengthen his capacity to take initiative.

4. Latency Stage:

This stage covers the period from 6 to 11 years, i.e., school age. The child can reason out rationally and can use the tools that adults use. The sexual interests and curiosity (common in genital period) get suppressed till puberty. If encouraged and given opportunity, he gains confidence in his ability to perform and use adult materials. This leads to feeling of industry in him.

When unable to use adult materials, he develops inferiority feelings. Such children may develop problems with peers. They need to be encouraged to interact with classmates and be less dependent upon others.

If the child has mastered the task of genital period (initiative in place of guilt) he will be able to master the tasks of latency (industry in place of inferiority) also provided he is encouraged to undertake and helped to execute the responsibilities entrusted to him.

5. Adolescence Stage:

This period, regarded as a period of turmoil, usually starts at 12-13 years and can extend up to 18-19 years. The adolescents, during this transitional process from childhood to maturity, behave something like an adult and sometimes like a child. Parents too show their ambivalence to accept them in their new role of an adult in-the-making.

This stage exhibits all the psycho-social characteristics of earlier period and only towards the end, all these get resolved into a new set of role (identity) for the adolescent. In order to develop a personal identity, he becomes fan of some hero, starts following certain ideologies, and tries his luck with opposite sex.

Indecision and confusion are not uncommon in this stage. Identification with a wrong person shall create problems for him. The task of this age is to develop identity, i.e., values, strengths, skills, various roles, limitations, etc., failing which his identity gets diffused and he fails to know how to behave in different situations. He needs to be helped to deal with the physiological, emotional pressures along-with pressures from parents, peers, etc.

Group work is more helpful with problem-adolescents. When showing confusion about their role, they can be helped to emulate the group leader or identify with group worker. Parents can handle adolescents properly if educated adequately about the needs and problems of this age.

Similarly, tasks for young adulthood, adulthood and old age are intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and ego-integrity vs. despair. These psycho-analytical concepts are helpful in understanding behaviour of the individuals. Apart from these, there are some other tasks described by some other scholars for each stage which according to them are to be achieved for a normal human development.

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