In the 1950’s Erik Erikson’s introduced a psychosocial Life Cycle Theory and set out what he calls the Eight Stages of Man. The names of each of the stages are in Column I of Table 2 below. Then, in Column II, there are the “psychosocial crises” that he saw as arising over an individual’s lifecycle. Column III gives the virtues and vulnerabilities that operate in dynamic tension at each stage. Erikson contended that the movement from one stage to the next occurs in response to a central development challenge in the person’s life and was clear that this conflict and tension are potential sources of growth, strength, and motivation in our lives. There are two additional stages added to this model (explained below) which now makes it a ten stage model.
Life Cycle Stage
|1. Infancy||Basic Trust vs Basic Mistrust||Hope (Withdrawal)|
|2. Early Childhood||Autonomy vs Shame, Doubt||Will (Compulsion)|
|3. Play Age (Pre-school||Initiative vs Guilt||Purpose (Inhibition)|
|4. School Age||Industry vs Inferiority||Competence (Inertia)|
|(Possible ‘moratorium’ between adolescence and young adulthood)|
|5. Adolescence||Identity vs Role Confusion||Fidelity (Repudiation)|
|6. Young Adulthood||Intimacy vs Isolation||Love (Exclusivity)|
|7. Adulthood I||Generativity vs Stagnation||Care (Rejectivity)|
|(Possible ‘moratorium’ between Adulthood I and Adulthood II)|
|Adulthood IIÀ||Engagement vs Withdrawal||Active Wisdom (Indifference)|
|8. Old Age||Integrity vs Despair||Receptive Wisdom (Disdain)|
|Very Old Age*||Autonomy vs Withdrawal||Geo-transcendence (Frailty)|
Table 2: Life Cycle Stages. Adapted from Erikson’s Life Cycle Theory with additions from Mary Catherine Bateson (2011)À, Norma Erikson ( 1998) and Arthur Kornhaber (1996).
Mary Catherin Bateson is the daughter of Margaret Mead and Geoffrey Bateson who were contemporaries of Erik Erikson. She studied with Erikson, and from her research she saw that a new stage, which she calls “Adulthood II’ arises between “Adulthood (I)” and “Old Age”. Bateson argues that this new stage, of older adults, has emerged due to ‘healthy longevity’ of the baby boomer generation. She also describes an identity crisis (moratorium) between Adulthood I and Adulthood II that is similar to what Erikson described happens between adolescence and young adulthood. This moratorium is a time of experimentation where the person explores the life-changing nature of this transition and is often an unsettling time of challenge.
Bateson reports that progression to the new stage of Active Wisdom brings with it time for new freedom and creativity. It also brings with is a search for increased meaning in one’s life, the sharing of expertise gained during their working lives and consideration of legacy one wishes to leave. Bateson offers that Adulthood II as a time of reflection that on what we might have hoped to do but, also, to explore what is not too late to do. She describes the virtue of Active Wisdom as being about sharing insight gained from rich life experience that is ‘flavoured with energy and commitment’. There is often an awareness of moving into the latter part of their lives balanced with new levels of experimenting, travel, study, retirement, work and a refreshed interest in giving back to others.
Kornhaber in his book on grandparenting saw that through the stages of Adulthood I to Adulthood II coincides with coming to the later stages of working life it is often combined with the progression from parenting through empty nesting to increasing caring responsibilities. These can be much more complicated than for previous generations with older people providing care to different generations simultaneously. Finally, Norma Erikson’s added the tenth stage which she called “Very Old Age”. This stage has a wider sense of inter-relatedness in preparation for death. The relationship with younger generations is particularly important to them since the older person may wish to ensure their wisdom, experiences and personal examples are handed to successive generations.