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Updated: Mar 4



Development and the Impact of Age on Behavior

As we continue focusing on parenting in a pandemic (which applies to parenting outside of a pandemic as well), we thought it would be helpful to identify the various developmental stages of children. Understanding your child’s developmental age is a pivotal component of effective parenting as it helps maintain realistic expectations and increased empathy as you begin to understand the developmental struggle of each period. This a quick reference guide and should you need more information about a particular stage and age, please reach out via email to KS Services and schedule a free consultation call.


Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development serve as a guide for each age range. According to Erikson, each stage of development has a “developmental conflict” of sorts that the child must go through. Positive outcomes lend themselves to increased success in the next stage, and negative outcomes may impede successful completion of future stages. However, that does not mean that a child cannot go back and revisit some of the stages and work through any remaining concerns or conflicts. Knowing these stages may help you identify areas where your child needs support and encouragement. Knowing the stages will also help you identify what your child currently needs and help you figure out how to respond. Remember this is just a guide, and development is not always linear or easily predicted.


Below is a quick snapshot of all the first five stages we will be discussing of Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development in the paragraphs that follow.


Age: Infant - Two Years Old

Stage 1: Trust vs Mistrust

EIn this stage, the developmental conflict centers around the baby’s needs being met. If the baby is provided for with consistent affection, the baby begins to view the world as a place that can be trusted.


Age: Two - Four Years Old

Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame/Doubt

In this stage, Ihe conflict faced is whether the child is able to be autonomous or develops shame and doubt in self. If the child is given age appropriate tasks to do independently, the child begins to understand that they can solve some of their own problems. Of course the caregivers are still a base of support Eand guidance and must provide tasks that can be successfully completed. Tasks may include dressing themselves, feeding themselves, and going to the bathroom independently.


Age: Five - Eight Years Old

Stage 3: Initiative vs Guilt

This stage is the next step beyond autonomy and focuses on planning and implementing tasks. In this stage, the caregiver faces the difficult job of encouraging and supporting the child in their initiated activities independently but must also help the child understand when is an appropriate time to complete activities and which activities are safe. The greatest space for teaching initiative is allowing freedom of independence in imaginative play. If children are consistently dismissed or their ideas are ridiculed, they begin to develop guilt about taking initiative and may be fearful later of trying new things.


Age: Nine - Twelve Years Old

Stage 4: Industry vs Inferiority

In this stage, the primary influencer begins to shift. Caregivers are no longer the only guides, but children begin to seek approval from teachers, coaches, and peers. Erikson listed this stage as a critical stage in the development of self-confidence. Children who are encouraged to create and accomplish will begin to develop industry (the ability to work hard, display resiliency, and demonstrate responsibility to complete tasks). However, children who are bullied or made fun of or feel they cannot meet expectations of parents and teachers may begin to feel inferior. Genuine praise for proficiency develops a sense of competence.


Age: Thirteen- Eighteen Years Old

Stage 5: Identity vs Role Confusion

And finally, adolescence and identity. This stage centers on the development of the teen’s identity - including occupational, gender, political, religious, and cultural identity. Role confusion refers to experiencing mixed feelings about oneself including a lack of understanding about likes, dislikes, and personal values. Erikson stated that an adolescent must balance “what they have” with “what they are going to do with it” to develop their identity. In this stage, adolescents need space and time to experiment and explore in order to develop a sense of identity. This may mean giving them a chance to try out various clubs, classes and sports. It may mean providing resources for the teen to study various careers and opportunities for the teen to engage in career fairs and learning experiences. The caregiver must work to foster open dialogue that provides a safe space for the teen to ask questions.


Remember these stages serve as a guide for you as your child matures and develops. If you have questions about how to foster positive outcomes in each stage, please reach out to KS Services for a free consultation. Each child is unique, and each family has their own unique norms, and the developmental process will vary based on these factors. If you would like support in navigating one of these stages, do not hesitate to to reach out.


Laura Waller, MS

Licensed Resident in Counseling


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