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Psychology Sample Paper on Lifetime Development Theories

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Psychology Sample Paper on Lifetime Development Theories

Lifetime Development Theories


Lifespan development theories focus on understanding the development of human beings from infancy to adulthood. All theories revolve under the same idea that human development occurs in phases. Although most theorists agree on this aspect of human development, they are divided into two groups. The first group argue that lifespan development is not a continuous process, that is, the different stages of development are not continuous and do not depend on each other. The second group believes that the phases and stages are continuous and for a person to move to the next, they have to first complete the phase beneath it (Baltes 1997). Regardless of this difference in opinion, psychiatrists believe that it is possible to understand human development by considering development as a phased process. Many theories in the lifespan development theories exist. These include theories such as Freud’s psychosexual stages, Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, Model of Hierarchical Complexity by Michael Commons, and separation–individuation theory of child development by Margaret Mahler. This paper looks at Anna’s case study with a view to understand her development and how this has impacted her with regard to her cognitive and social development. The Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development theory are used to analyze Anna and her past, leading to a better understanding of her situation and then a proposed treatment plan.

Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development

Erik Erikson developed this lifespan development theory. It has eight stages, which an individual has to go through for his or her development into a fully functional human being (Chen, 2004). The stages are continuous and progressive and each one forms a basis for the stage next to it. This theory is very useful in analyzing Anna because unlike most of the other lifespan development theories, it covers how family and cultural relations affect a person as he or she goes through the stages of development. This is very useful for Anna’s case because she has several familial issues, starting from an absentee father, a single mother who is not able to provide well, and then a stepfather who she is made to believe is her biological father but later discovers that he is not. All these elements are important in Anna’s development in her nine years she has been living.

Development stages

The first stage in Erikson’s theory is called Hope, and takes place within the first two years. This is when the child is developing his trust and learns on whether she should trust the world or not. A good relationship with the mother is important in helping the child to develop well at this early stage. This relationship is based on such activities as feeding the baby. In Anna’s case, she may not have had the chance to do this because her single mother had to work harder and this means that she did not have enough time for her newborn baby. This explains why Anna does not have any friends at school, even in her class. When a person does not develop well during this stage, the most affected aspect of their development is trust and such a person may have problems trusting people. This lack of trust makes it harder for the person to have any meaningful relationships with other people, because friendship is based on trust.

The second stage in Erikson’s model is called Will, and takes place from around 2 years to 4 years of age. During this stage, the child depends on his or parents for development. The mother and the father play an important role. For Ann, this must have been a problem because the father left her when she was a new born baby. The mother, due to having to fend for herself and her newly born baby with only a high school education, could not be able to fill both her role and that of the absent father. This stage is supposed to help children like Anna to develop self-will and to feel that it is okay to be them. Lack of development in this stage leads to inability to explore their abilities and learn new things. This explains why Anna is lagging behind in schoolwork as compared to her classmates. Children at this stage are able to feel the urge to explore the world around them and this makes it possible for them to learn new things around their environment. This leads to faster cognitive development. Anna did not have the chance to develop well in this stage and this explains why she is not as cognitively developed as her age mates.

The third stage is called Purpose and comes between ages four and five. The factors that help a person in this stage is family, that is the extended family. Having a loving family that support the child is crucial to proper development. This stage helps the child to be able to explore the world and to take initiative. This stage should help a person to develop a sense of purpose that allows them to feel that it is okay for them to pursue their own interests such as painting something, or creating anything (Lerner, Lamb and Freund). Children at this age are more likely to be creative and feel that it is okay to construct new things in the environment. Lack of proper development in this stage means that such people are likely to become overly shy, lacking a sense of personal worth. This explains why Anna is overly shy especially when with adults. Anna did not have the right familial support. It also appears that with her mother working three jobs and her two dads being absent both physically and emotionally, she did not have other close family members such as aunts to take care of her and provide the kind of affection she needed at this stage. The fact that she is the first born also means that she did not have siblings to stand in for the absent parents. This made it harder for her to develop well in this stage.

The fourth stage in Erikson’s theory is the competency stage. At this stage, the people develop personal skills and know how to use them in the world. Factors that affect this stage, according to Erikson, include neighbors, peers and role models. For Anna, this must have been hard to achieve because she was already lagging behind in the first three stages. Erikson identifies that although these stages are continuous, that is, they build on each other; a person does not have to have mastered one stage to move to the other. When the correct time for a specific stage elapses, the person moves to the next stage. If they had not developed properly in the former stage, it then means that they are going to be unable to develop properly in the latter stage. This is what happened to Anna; because she did not develop in the other stages such as stage one, she is unable to relate well with the world. Ann is likely to distrust other people due to her past development which lacked enough support system. Her absent parents made it harder for other to feel that other people can be trusted.


Although there are many factors that have to be considered in order to understand a person’s development, the Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development best defines Anna’s developmental problems. Anna’s case shows poor development in the early stages of this model. A poor past with regard to her family may have led to inadequate development in her cognitive abilities and her social skills. Unless these factors are taken care of, Anna is likely to continue this way into adulthood and therefore have problems. The best way is to help Anna, especially with her social skills is by reconstructing her view of the world with regard to the ways she views other people such as her peers and her elders. Recreating her ability to trust other people and help her to make friends and have meaningful relationships will help her not only socially but also cognitively. The psychotherapists would help her a lot by making it possible to be able to trust other people and to feel that it is okay for her to be herself, without feeling hat that she is awkward.


















Baltes, P. (1997). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization, and compensation as foundation of developmental theory. American Psychologist, 52, 4 , pp. 366-380.

Chen, L. (2004 ). Transformations in the couplings among intellectual abilities and constituent cognitive processes across the life span. Psychological Science,15, 3 , pp. 155-163.

Lerner, R., Lamb, M., & Freund, M. (2010). The handbook of life-span development, social and emotional development. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

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