Psychologists recognise eight life stages -- also known as stages of personality development -- developed by the German psychologist Erik Erikson. Though Erikson was heavily influenced by Freud, he diverged from Freud in his belief that the ego exists from birth on and that the personality never stops developing. Between infancy and adolescence, a person moves through several of these life stages.
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Lasting from birth to 18 months, infancy is also called the Oral Sensory stage. The major emphasis is on the major caregiver's positive or negative influence, with a special emphasis on loving touch. In this stage, the infant learns to trust or distrust other people and the world around him.
Early Childhood is the stage where a child learns to master skills such as walking, talking and feeding herself. From 18 months to age three, a child has the opportunity to either gain self-esteem and a modicum of autonomy through encouragement and success at gaining control over her body and these new skills, or -- if she is shamed and embarrassed while trying to learn these skills -- she may suffer from crippling shame and doubt that can last for the rest of her life.
From the ages of three to five years, also known as the Play Age, a child takes the skills he learnt in the Early Childhood stage and uses initiative in creating situations, making up stories and asking "why?" However, if a child's natural goals and desires are constantly thwarted, he may experience guilt instead of increased initiative.
Also referred to as the Latency Stage, the School Age sees children between the ages of six and 12 developing the capability to learn, create and accomplish new things, including skills and knowledge. This is called a sense of Industry. Since this stage is very social, children of this age also run the risk of developing a sense of inferiority among their peers.
Though the psychological effects of the stages from infancy through school age depend on what is done to the child, from adolescence on, progress depends on what the child does. Adolescents struggle with the discovery of who they are as an individual as opposed to a part of their family of origin. Those who are unsuccessful at navigating this problem between the ages of 12 and 18 are likely to experience role confusion.
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