Life Stages

Many of us think of life’s stages as childhood and adulthood, but can our lives be summed up into two basic categories? Throughout our lifetimes, we experience drastic changes and milestones. Many proponents in developmental psychology have created theories that help us understand our intellectual and cognitive development better. These theories give us a better idea of how we move through different life goals.

Life is a unique experience for each individual. The stages of life framework is simply a lens through which to view it.

Life’s various stages

First, let’s take a look at Erik Erikson’s popularized theory of psychosocial development.

Erik Erikson is a renowned American-German psychologist from the 20th century. He specialized in the study of the ego and used psychoanalytical tools to develop his theories.

Erikson is credited with developing the concepts of identity crisis and psychosocial development stages.

He argues that a person’s personality is shaped by their social context and experiences.

Each stage of life is marked by conflict. Each conflict is a turning point where the individual faces a struggle to achieve a psychological quality. These conflicts determine the individual’s transition into the next stage.

Based on Erik Erikson’s theory, what are the stages of life? His hypothesis covers eight stages of life:

  1. Infancy
  2. Toddlerhood
  3. Preschool years
  4. Early school years
  5. Adolescence
  6. Young adulthood
  7. Middle adulthood
  8. Late adulthood

Some kids dream about being superheroes or presidents when they’re young, but with time, these hopes and dreams will likely become more grounded and specific.

Throughout your life, you develop a set of values, interests, and aspirations. An eight-year-old’s personal goals will be very different from a forty-year-old.

As you grow older, your maturity level increases as you learn from different life experiences.

As you mature, you gain more respect, compassion, and self-awareness. As a result, your relationship with yourself changes.

1. Infancy

This time is primarily characterized by the infant’s relationship with their caregiver(s) and their conflict between trust and mistrust.

The infant learns to trust their parent or guardian if they are well cared for. Conversely, if they are neglected, they may transfer this mistrust into their relationships as they grow up.

It is characteristic of this first stage of life for individuals of all ages to struggle with trust issues.

When an individual is adequately cared for as an infant and finds themselves in a challenging situation later in life, they are more inclined to believe that someone will assist them.

2. Toddlerhood

During this stage of early childhood, toddlers begin to learn independently. They become more autonomous if they are encouraged to develop their self-confidence and independence.

However, if these young children are criticized or mocked for their curiosity, they may feel shame, guilt, and self-doubt. They could be inhibited from growing as human beings due to these insecurities. Therefore, the primary conflict is between autonomy and shame, and doubt.

The virtue of the toddler stage is well. A sense of will results from growing confidence in one’s physical and cognitive abilities.

3. Preschool years

As with toddlerhood, preschoolers experience conflict between initiative and restriction to learn independently and become more fully formed as individuals.

Children grow into individuals who take the initiative and have a purpose in life if their caregivers allow them to do things on their own instead of criticizing and demotivating them.

Most of this stage’s development is facilitated by interactions with other children of roughly the same age.

4. Early school years

Children between the ages of five and twelve experience a tension between industry and inferiority during their early school years.

A child at this stage of development becomes increasingly self-aware and develops socially and emotionally.

During this stage, you also learn to read and write.

If a child feels validated and supported in their endeavors, they will develop the virtue of competence. Accomplishment and praise will make a child at this stage industrious.

5. Adolescence

As teens consider their futures and invest in social connections, they undergo a crisis of identity between the ages of twelve and eighteen.

Teenagers want to be accepted by their peers more than anything else.

It is a period of intense self-discovery that can be very confusing for teenagers as they explore different types of roles as adults.

Healthy support networks will help a teenager develop the ability to form relationships despite potential differences.

6. Young Adulthood

During young adulthood, people typically build the social, professional, and financial foundations they’ll need for the rest of their lives.

The primary conflict of early adulthood is intimacy or isolation. This tension depends on the presence or absence of intimate relationships. The type of development is primarily social.

Young adults may experience a quarter-life crisis, but they may also learn from their failures if they avoid intimacy because they are afraid of failure, disappointment, or commitment.

By establishing a solid social network, they will feel connected to – and hopefully understood by – the world around them. This stage is enhanced by the ability to love.

7. Middle Adulthood

As Erikson explains, middle adulthood starts at age forty and ends at age sixty-five. It is a period of conflict between generativity and stagnation.

During this stage, an adult may stew in their dissatisfaction and avoid contributing to society. However, if they choose to be a positive and productive member of their community, they will develop a sense of care.

8. Late Adulthood

A person over sixty-five is considered to be in late adulthood, which is the eighth and final stage of life.

If you’re proud of the life you’ve led, then you should feel a sense of peace, but if you’re haunted by regrets and failures, then you will feel despair and resentment.

For older adults, ego-integrity or ego-despair characterize the end of life. Wisdom is the virtue of this stage.

Life stages, according to other theories

Throughout history, philosophers, psychologists, and academics have debated the number and timing of life stages. Erickson’s theory isn’t the only one. Let’s take a look at some other theories to gain a better understanding of the stages of life and how this framework can help you.

Cognitive development, according to Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget proposes only four stages of life. His theory looks at the nature of intelligence. He believes that children’s knowledge acquisition determines their mental development.

These stages are:

  1. sensorimotor (birth to two years old)
  2. preoperational (ages two to seven)
  3. concrete operational (ages seven to eleven)
  4. formal operational (twelve years and older)

Piaget emphasizes the importance of curiosity in cognitive development. In his theory of cognitive development, Piaget emphasizes the importance of curiosity.

Seasons of Life Theory by Daniel Levinson

As opposed to Piaget’s theory, Levinson emphasizes the development that occurs as an adult rather than ending in adolescence.

During the Stable Period, we make crucial life choices. During the Transitional Period, we move from one stage to another.

As a result, Levinson chose only to interview biological men. This is a major shortcoming of this theory.

Dimensions of Development by Klaus Riegel

Instead of mapping a uniform process of development, Riegel emphasizes the unpredictable nature of life.

According to Riegel, personal development occurs as a result of both external and internal changes.

Development has four interrelated internal and external dimensions:

Emotional intelligence and mental capacity are part of the internal psychological level.

Physical and sexual maturity are described by the internal physical dimension.

External cultural-sociological dimensions refer to society’s expectations and opportunities.

An individual’s external environment includes political, physical, and economic circumstances.

Life’s stages and how to navigate and thrive through them

We constantly and gradually change from day to day, despite the fact that we can describe the human life cycle in clear-cut stages.

It’s likely that when you’re young, you have some grandiose ideas of where you see yourself in ten years. Many kids dream of becoming superheroes or presidents. With time, these dreams will likely turn into more grounded ones.

Throughout your life, you develop values, interests, and aspirations. Naturally, an eight-year-old’s goals will be very different from those of a forty-year-old.

In order to navigate and thrive through these stages of life, you have to prepare yourself to take the lessons from one to the next. That way, you can keep growing into a happier, better version of yourself.

You can do that in a few ways:

  • Process your childhood trauma with the help of mental healthcare professional
  • Prioritize your personal growth by doing inner child and shadow work
  • Understand your patterns and what’s really important to you by going on a self-discovery journey
  • Commit to making the life changes you know you need to by enlisting the support of a coach or family and friends

Make the life changes you know you need to by enlisting the support of a coach or family and friends

You and your loved ones will benefit from these practices as your maturity grows. With maturity comes more respect for yourself and others, compassion, and self-awareness.

Changing stages in life can be challenging, but it’s exciting because it makes us more authentic. If you can learn how to navigate through the waves of change, you’ll be grateful for all the opportunities you have in life.

For personal growth, it is important to understand the stages of life.

Throughout life, there are opportunities for learning to become a better friend, partner, and family member.

As we grow and change throughout our lives, we develop self-awareness, self-reflection, and social skills.

With self-awareness, you can live your life with purpose and intention by understanding the stages of life and what each stage entails.

There may be bumps along the way, but they are opportunities to grow. It is not always easy, but it is rewarding.

Get in touch with a mental health professional today if you’re interested in investing in your personal growth.


The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.

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