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There exist various psychosocial models that have been developed by different researchers. In this paper the focus is on Erikson's stages of psychosocial development and Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Erikson's model explains the eight stages that healthy human development follows from infancy to adulthood among humans. He argues that at every human growth stage a person comes across new challenges and finds ways of coping with them, however if not conquered at that time these challenges may appear later in life (Erikson, 1956). On the other hand Kohlberg's model has constituted an adaptation of psychological theory which holds ethical behavior on moral reasoning. It has developed six stages which focus on addressing moral dilemmas. Through his extensive research he was able to expand Piaget's work which stated that logic and morality continuously develop through constructive stages. Kohlberg was able to illustrate that moral development was more concerned with justice and this is a continuous process throughout a person’s life (Kohlberg, 1958).
Erikson's stages of psychosocial development
This theory illuminates as to why individuals who were thwarted during their early healthy resolution phases had difficulties in dealing with challenges that came in during adulthood. It also seeks to develop practical answers for application and same time it encourages identification of key issues by therapists from their patients that require address. More importantly it has developed a guide usable to assess learning and child rearing practices to enhance healthy cognitive and emotional development. Towards arriving at this it follows scrutiny of eight important stages (Erikson, 1956).
The first stage focuses on trust versus mistrust between a child, parent and the world. Erikson explains that a child will view the parent as the sole provider of all the basic needs such as food, security, love, shelter among others, thus making him/her to see the society and world being owned by the parents. This builds trusts by children in them and incase of failure to provide the basic necessity this results to mistrust as the child sees the world as undependable, unpredictable and also a dangerous place.
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As the child grows, he/she is able to explore and get exposed to the worldly surroundings. During this period the parents still instills security to them fostering autonomy on the child, however some parents at this stage may instill doubt and reluctance to the child in attempt to new challenges. At this growth level children tend to try to satisfy their own needs like feeding, dressing, washing. Encouragement of this helps in development of a sense of autonomy; On the other hand if the parents restrict them from performing tasks then the child may end up developing shame and doubt in handling challenges. Stage three evaluates initiative versus guilty, here a child can undertake several tasks as he/she learns. On a situation where the child does not produce results from an undertaken initiative this brings about guilty (Gross, 1987). This is because at it this stage a child develops complexities in planning and development of sense of judgment. It is also at this stage that a child can develop negative behaviors such as aggressiveness, ruthlessness, assertive which develops from frustrations from initiatives failure.
Children at this stage gradually continue to understand themselves more and more as they develop a sense of responsibility. Here there is evaluation of industry versus inferiority whereby there are perceptual cognitive developmental traits that are encountered. For instance they are able to learn more and develop competency in doing their tasks and activities, additionally they get to form the moral values, recognize individual and cultural differences. The child is also able to manage most personal urges with minimal assistance. However inferiority feelings develop if a child realizes inability to achieve their capabilities.
Development of fidelity is critical stage for the adolescent child development. At this point identity and the role of confusion come in. This is because the child graduates from childhood to adulthood and in the process they tend to be choosy in the roles they will take. In the process they experience role confusion as a result of mixed ideas and feelings as to how they will fit into the society. The intimacy versus isolation normally occurs around ages twenty to thirty five when the identity versus role confusion is ending, and it still does linger in the stage foundation (Erikson, 1956). Erikson in his work believes that the youths at this stage sometimes get isolated as a result of intimacy. For instance there are fears of rejections which maybe from partners. But upon establishment of identities, they can easily make long-term commitments to each other and enjoy love from their relationships. However failure to form such relationship this may result to isolation
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Between ages 35 to 65 years, Erikson describes it as the middle age, it is here that actions that are taken focus towards contribution to the society through helping and guiding future generations. This stage is all about care thus it’s based on generatively versus stagnation. Societal contribution adds value of accomplishment and productivity, likewise on the other hand those that are self centered and does not contribute towards the society development ends up developing a feeling of stagnation. The last stage of Erikson's theory involves wisdom which is viewed in terms of ego integrity versus despair. As individuals becomes older and older their productivity input reduces and it is this time they can sit back and evaluate accomplishments in life and develop a sense of integrity and if there was failure to achieve life goals disparity will off course be felt leading to depression and hopelessness (Kail, 2004).
Erikson work has been supported by his fellow researchers like James E. Marcia who also developed forms of identity. However Erikson theory is questionable as to whether if these stages are regarded sequentially and if their occurrence is limited to the suggested range ages. The debate that arises is whether if all people search for identity only during adolescence years, and if a stage may happen before the other stages completion. In response Erikson clear says that each of these processes occurs all throughout a person’s life in one form or the other.
Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development
This theory is generally all about people’s justification of behaviors. The Kohlberg's six stages can be grouped into three levels of two stages namely; pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional. Pre-conventional level is based on moral reasoning mainly in children, but also to some extent to adults. This level judges morality on basis of actions direct consequences (Kohlberg, 1976). It consists of stage one and two of moral development, and it is solely concerned on self in an egocentric manner. In stage one individuals focus on actions outcomes thus bring in the concept of obedience and punishment. For instance an action can be avoided if it brings about a punishment. Stage two is based on self interest driven where it poses the position "what's in it for me". This shows limitation in interests in others needs but only to an extent where it furthers individuals own interests. Though the concern for others isn’t based on loyalty but rather a two way thing (Kohlberg, 1976).
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Conventional level for moral reasoning is for both adults and adolescents. It is clear in this stage that the individuals who reason in a conventional way will tend to judge morality of any taken actions through comparing them with the society views, opinions and expectations. This level is constituted with the third and fourth stages of moral development. It is usually characterized by acceptance of society conventions that concerns the wrong and the right. Conventional level expects individuals to obey rules, regulation, cultures, traditions and norms of the society. Stage three of conventional level which is constituted by interpersonal accords and conformity driven, call on taking up social roles in the society whereby people are either receptive to approval or disapproval from other members and this reflects on the society accordance with the perceived roles. It also judges morality of actions through evaluating outcomes of relationships among individuals thus developing morals such as respect and gratitude.
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Stage four of conventional level entails authority and social order based on obedience driven. It emphasizes on obedience to the law, social conventions and dictums to ensure maintenance of the functionality of the society. At this stage moral reasoning focuses beyond the need for an individuals approval that is exhibited in stage three that looks at the society transcending its individual needs. The last stage is the post conventional level which is also referred to as the principled level and it is comprised of stage five and six of the moral development. In this stage Kohlberg tries to make us understand that individuals are separate entities from the society and that individual’s personal perspective takes precedence over the society view. For instance individuals may tend to disobey the society rules inconsistence with own principles such as justice, human rights and liberty. This thus advocates for an approach on thing of a self before others take. At stage five it focuses on social contact driven whereby it looks at the larger society’s ideas, opinions, rights and value. These perspective should be mutually respected and this is achievable through conformity decision making, inevitable compromise among others. The last stage which is stage six focuses on universal ethical principles driven and it based on moral reasoning and abstract reasoning whereby it uses universal ethical principles. Kohlberg explains to us that laws are only valid if they are grounded on commitments, justice, fairness and taking decisions categorically based on an absolute way through individual imaging (Kohlberg, 1958).
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The major criticism of Kohlberg's theory, is the point where it emphasizes on justice to exclusion of other values, therefore it may not adequately and effectively address the arguments of those that value other individuals moral aspects of actions. On this theory according to Carol Gilligan he argues that it is overly andocentric. This is because the theory was developed based on empirical research by use of male participants only thus neglecting women. Additionally Kohlberg's stages are not culturally neutral. Though the stages in this theory follow each other in the same order, individuals from various cultures seem to be doing so at different rates. Other psychologists such as Jonathan Haidt have questioned this assumption that states moral action is primarily from formal reasoning because individuals often make moral judgments without having in mind concerns such as law, fairness, human rights and ethical values.