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How to Increase the Probability of the Positive Development of Your Child. A Parenting Series. Part

The first step in any successful plan is establishing the main goal and then identifying the sub-goals that best support reaching that main goal. As a parent you hold one of the greatest responsibilities there is - the development of your child becoming a successful, productive, and self-sufficient adult. Some information that may assist towards this goal is understanding the stage of development your child is in and what the core challenge and goals of that stage are.

Eric Erikson identified 9 stages of Psycho-social development.

In each stage there is major challenge and goal that must be acquired for an individual to "graduate" to the next stage. If these goals are net met, although the individual may physically and even intellectually mature, he/she's emotional development will remain stuck at the last psycho-social level reached.

Stage 1 typically occurs in the early post birth period. The challenge is the infants development of trust and the key event that supports reaching that goal is feeding. Reliable, consistent gratification of that need assists the infant in developing trust. Contrarily inconsistent or absent gratification can leave the individual with trust issues that continue throughout his/her development.


Stage 2 typically occurs in early childhood. This stage's challenge addresses autonomy versus shame and doubt. During this stage the child develops a sense of individualism. The child develops a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. A key event in pursuit of that goal is Toilet Training. The outcome of a child who does not reach this goal is shame and doubt which may influence other stages of development including relationship and life choices.


Stage 3 occurs during the pre-school years. The goal is for the child to begin asserting his/herself. The main event is exploration. Parents typically notice an increase in boundary testing by the child, demonstrated recognition of the concept of ownership, such as comments like "mine!". Success in this stage leads to a child's sense of purpose. It is important to note that children who do not begin asserting control or children who try to exert too much power and experience disapproval as a result, may experience feelings of guilt and lack of purpose.


Stage 4 has a very important influence on an individual's ability to interact with others. At this stage the person learns to cope with social demands at home, in school, and other social circles. Success in this stage will lead to a a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority. Children who fail this stage often become isolated and withdrawn. They also have a higher vulnerability to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem later in life.


Stage 5 occurs during adolescence and involves establishing one's identity. Successful development during this stage leads a strong, consistent self-identity, while failure leads to potential role confusion on social, emotional, and even gender levels of development. Signs of a teenager struggling with this stage may be his/her failure to stand up for his/herself, being easily influenced by others, and/or being overly concerned with the opinions others have of him/her.


By Stage 6, the child has become a legal adult and should have developed enough self-sufficiency to become independent. The parents should also have completed the transition from governing parent to mentor (to be addressed later on in this Parenting series), which is what your child will need moving forward. Signs that the individual has successfully mastered this stage include the formation of intimate, loving relationships with other people. Failure to graduate through this stage may lead to loneliness and isolation. Note - this may be indications of not completing earlier stages and their influence on the individual's challenge during this stage.

Learning the typical psycho-social stages of development for your child and structuring your parenting plan accordingly can greatly increase results and positive outcomes. The results are directly proportional to the effort, planning, and consistency invested. Parenting is a challenge but it can be greatly rewarding and deeply satisfying.

Thank you for your participation in this series. Please feel free to leave comments and questions below and don't miss our continued posts during this series. Next up - Establishing Healthy Parent-Child Boundaries.

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