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Starting as infants, humans begin to go through phases that help them grow into healthy and well-developed people. In the stages of adulthood, there are more than just physical changes that happen. Adults deal with many different life changes like retirement, empty nest syndrome, and overall coping with everything that life throws at them. Even with all of these changes in midlife and late adulthood, it is important for a person to age in a healthy manner. As they age it would be good for them to remain active and social and live their lives doing what makes them happy.
When a person moves from adolescence to adulthood, they will notice all of the physical, emotional, mental, and social changes. In early adulthood, the individual’s height is at its peak and their strength and stamina are at its highest, women are also more fertile. After the stage of early adulthood, midlife approaches. From ages forty to sixty -five, various changes occur. In midlife people begin to age physically. They gain weight, lose their hair, and there could be vision and hearing impairments. The symptoms of menopause begin in midlife for women. During menopause, there is less estrogen, women have trouble functioning sexually, hot flashes, night sweats, and the chance of developing osteoporosis increases. Adults in midlife deal with many changes that happen in their lives such as coping with feelings of sadness once their nest is empty. Parents often feel grief when their young adult children have moved out and started their lives. Empty nest syndrome does not affect every parent in the same way, but it does not have to be viewed as something negative. It is suggested that parents become engaged in activities that interest them and possibly strengthen the connection in their marriages if applicable. Some adults in midlife also experience life after retirement and some decide to go back to school to try another career path. Some of them are also taking care of their own aging parents and either still raising young children and adolescents or deciding to have another baby. As people go through these stages, there will be changes in their personalities and how they cope with various situations.
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development were created to support his theory about personality development at different phases in life. The theory is based on his idea that development is influenced by the relationships that people form and their social interactions. He believed that the conflicts that occur in life influence development, and if the individual resolves the conflict, they will move on to the next stage in their development. Once conflicts are resolved, the individual will have skills and strengths that will be useful to them throughout their life. If the conflicts remain unresolved the individual will not gain the skills that will help them become emotionally and mentally developed adults.
For instance, Erikson’s psychosocial stages include various steps that a person must go through like relationship building. An adult must also develop generativity or in other words, they must add something valuable to society and provide guidance to the next generation. Once they reach late adulthood, ego integrity should be developed which means at this stage one should have wisdom and the ability to accept their past experiences as well as accept what is to come when the end of life approaches. According to Erikson, a person will find it difficult to cope with depression and stress and they will likely become stagnant if they do not complete these stages and resolve conflicts.
The stages in Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development occur at various ages. The stage of generativity vs stagnation is the seventh stage. At this point, it is important for adults who are in midlife to late adulthood to show compassion for people and be mindful of what they give to society. The generativity vs stagnation stage focuses on giving guidance to the next generation and making contributions to society that will be a part of one’s legacy. Charles L. Slater states that generativity is not only important for society but for the individual as well. Generativity is usually shown when parents form a bond and show love to their children. People in leadership roles show generativity when they are passionate about sticking to the mission and showing that they care for the people who work with them.
As it was already stated, parents show generativity when they form bonds and show love to their children. According to Erikson, when parents are good to their children, they are guiding the next generation. While this is true, it is important to consider that not every adult has children, but they can show generativity in a few ways like community service, becoming a mentor, and donating to charities. Generativity consists of an individual giving their time and effort to causes that are bigger than they are. The effort that they put into these causes will have a lasting effect even when they are no longer living. If a person is not contributing to society and they do not show generativity, they will experience stagnation. It is necessary for a person to gain these skills before they move on to other developmental stages.
Ego integrity vs despair is the last stage in Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development. This stage is reached in late adulthood. During this stage, older adults begin to look back on their life and they either accept or reject what has occurred. Erikson’s theory suggests that when older adult is satisfied and accepts what has happened in their life, they have gained integrity. This means that when reviewing their life, they accept everything for what it was and do not feel any regrets. When an older adult has wisdom and has no fear about the end of life, they have completed the ego integrity vs despair stage. On the other hand, if they do not accept what has happened in their life, they will feel despair. For example, a person who is elderly and possibly ill with the end of life approaching could look back on their life experiences and feel content because they accomplished goals and lived a life that made them happy, or they will feel despair because they realize they did not accomplish the things they wanted to and this could cause feelings of dissatisfaction.
For someone to have integrity instead of despair it is crucial for people to try and live their lives to the fullest. For instance, there are many people who had goals of furthering their education and obtaining a college degree, but they might have had to put their goals on hold. If they are fortunate enough to finally be able to accomplish their goal it will be something that they can look back on during this stage and it will make them feel proud. Also, some people want to take the time to travel but they can never seem to get the chance. Life passes by so quickly and if everyone is just focused on their jobs and not taking the time to enjoy life, they will experience despair rather than ego integrity. When the final stage is reached the individual could also reflect on how they were generative or stagnant. If generativity was shown, they have given significant contributions to society. This connects with ego integrity vs despair because when people are a part of things such as being a mentor or volunteering and helping the less fortunate, they feel proud of themselves because their good deeds will have a lasting impact on the lives of other people. This will be a factor in feeling integrity about one’s life.
Ego integrity vs despair and Generativity vs stagnation coincides with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs is based on Maslow’s belief that people must fulfill their basic needs before obtaining other needs and reaching the main goal of self-actualization. He created a pyramid that shows each need that humans should receive before moving up in the hierarchy. Physiological needs are at the lowest level of the hierarchy. These are necessities such as food, shelter, and water. When a person is receiving these basic needs, they can now move up in the hierarchy and receive their safety needs. Generativity vs stagnation is like the esteem needs in Maslow’s hierarchy. This part of the hierarchy suggests that people have a desire for recognition, respect, and to be complimented for the things that they have achieved.
Since Erikson’s theory suggests that generativity is accomplished once the person has guided the next generation or has given some effort to contribute to society, this will help a person to receive praise and recognition which will help their esteem needs. Self- actualization and ego integrity vs despair are connected in a couple of ways. Self -actualization occurs when a person is focused on being the best version of themselves and being all that they can be in life. A person has integrity once they look back on their life and see that they had a happy and full life. These theories are different, but they are also similar because they focus on the person going through various stages in order to reach the main goals in the end. Self -actualization and ego integrity.
For an individual to go through life, they must reach certain stages that will help them develop skills that they will need to continue their development. For example, generativity vs stagnation. It would not be easy for a person to have ego integrity if they haven’t been generative. Self- actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy can’t be achieved until the basic needs are obtained. For example, the need for recognition and praise. Adulthood brings many life changes and experiences. Going through the stages of development will help individuals to reach their fullest potential and encourage overall happiness with their life.
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