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Author Topic: 6.05 | How a dysfunctional childhood affects our development  (Read 753 times)
Formerly "Cecile"
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« on: December 20, 2007, 04:45:24 PM »

ftp://Skip asked me to write something in this forum and I have been struggling with this for days. Seems I am not good with being "impersonal", and prefer to answer direct questions. Anyway, I was also afraid of plagerizing here in public if I wrote down anything that was in my words but came from another source. (Ive done a lot of reading) Then I figured why not give it from the horse`s mouth- just stuff that I have read that gave me insights, and could be discussed here for those who care to.

I don't know about you all, but I am the survivor of child abuse.

I was stuck in the trauma of my childhood for many years. Freud said that we do that - we get stuck in a certain age. So in many ways, it used to be like I never grew up. I always felt 12, and I always felt like I had forever and a day. Sadly- I found out that I missed out on many age-appropriate developments.

I don't know if any of you have ever heard of Erik Erikson? He is a famous psychoanalyst and one can tell his Freudian training plays a part in his thought processes. He made a chart of our lives and development and basically what he said was, if we manage to solve these conflicts at the right time, we will have managed to navigate our lives successfully.

Here is the chart of age-appropriate conflicts - divided into phases:

1. oral-sensory: basic sense of trust versus distrust

2. muscular-anal: autonomy versus shame and doubt

3. locomotoric-genital: being able to take the initiative versus guilt-paralysis

4. latency: achievement (performance)  versus feelings of inferiority

5. puberty and adolescense: identity versus roll confusion

6. early adulthood: intimacy versus isolation

7. adulthood: creativity versus stagnation

8. maturity: integrity versus despair

I guess translated- what this means is that when we were babies, we should hav elearned what it means to trust those who give us our survival care. I cant say that I trusted my BPDmother much, but the good news is that I did have another caretaker who I did trust and probably helped me more than she will ever know. In the second phase, we learn to control our bowls, and with this, we learn to be more autonomous. Imagine - being able to go to the potty on our own is that powerful a lesson for the rest of our lives!  If we were shamed a lot as kids, then our autonomous abilites will always cause us doubt and a feeling of shame for doing or wanting what we do. The phase of walking and becoming aware of gender differences is also a phase in which we can learn that taking the initiative is either welcomed or hindered. The oedipal conflict will play a roll here- because if we get through this successfully, we can leave mom and dad as a couple without regrets and with a feeling of security in being loved by them nonetheless, and go out and look for our own partner (as early as 6, emotionally speaking). It means being free without being deeply hurt and insecure. In puberty, we learn who we are and develope a set personality and a way of being. During say our 20s we should be on the lookout for a partner, and trying our hand at true intimacy with another person. As adults, we should be letting our creative juices flow, and be productive individuals. And last but not least- as oldies, we should have found a way to be true to ourselves, and with this, be able to live our lives peacefully and contentedly - because honestly. Erik Erikson says at the end, one should be able to place a bavarian farmer, an english lord, and an indian guru at one table and they can get along fabulously.

At any rate, I found out what I missed out on, what I couldnt manage to accomplish, and in many ways are still a source of pain for me. But in many other ways, I have managed to compensate and while heading towards the last phase, I can gratefully say that therapy has helped me to find some source of peacefulness and not much despair.


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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2008, 11:06:46 AM »

This is an interesting reflection on our emotional development and on the discussion of nature vs nurture and how it relates to growing up in a dysfunctional home.

I just read that Erikson believed that nature determines the sequence of the stages and sets the limits within which nurture operates. And that all must pass through one stage before entering the next in the stated order.

Below is a more detailed summary of the stages that I found after reading this workshop - it was useful to me in understanding all of this.

Thanks... .

Skippy----          ----          ----          ----          ----          ----               

STAGE: Trust vs. Mistrust

PERIOD: Birth to one year


Trust is defined as an essential trustfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one's own trustworthiness. Ericson thought that an infant who gets fed when he is hungry and comforted when he needs comforting will develop trust. He also said that some mistrust is necessary to learn to discriminate between honest and dishonest persons. If mistrust wins over trust in this stage, the child will be frustrated, withdrawn, suspicious, and will lack self-confidence.

STAGE: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt

PERIOD: Ages two and three


During this period it is important that the parents create a supportive atmosphere in which the child can develop a sense of self-control without a loss of self-esteem. Shame and doubt about the child's self-control and independence occur if basic trust was insufficiently developed or was lost such as when the child's will is broken by an over controlling parent. In this stage, Erikson said the child encounters rules, such as which areas of the house he is allowed to explore.

STAGE: Initiative vs. Guilt,

PERIOD: Ages four and five


This is the stage in which the child must find out what kind of person he/she is going to be. The child develops a sense of responsibility which increases initiative during this period. If the child is irresponsible and is made to feel too anxious then they will have uncomfortable guilt feelings. Erikson believed that most guilt is quickly compensated for by a sense of accomplishment.

STAGE: Industry vs. Inferiority

PERIOD: Six years and puberty


This is the period in which the child wants to enter the larger world of knowledge and work. One of the great events of this time is the child's entry into school. This is where he is exposed to the technology of his society: books, multiplication tables, arts and crafts, maps, microscopes, films, and tape recorders. However, the learning process does not only occur in the classroom according to Erikson, but also at home, friend's houses, and on the street. Erikson said that successful experiences give the child a sense of industry, a feeling of competence and mastery, while failure gives them a sense of inadequacy and inferiority, a feeling that one is a good-for-nothing.

STAGE: Identity vs. Identity Confusion

PERIOD: Adolescence


Components of Erikson's prior four stages contribute to the fifth stage. During this period the identity concern reaches climax. According to Erikson this is the time when adolescents seek their true selves.

STAGE: Intimacy vs. Isolation

PERIOD: Young adulthood


Intimacy with other people is possible only if a reasonably well integrated identity emerges from stage five.

STAGE: Generativity vs. Stagnation

PERIOD: Young adulthood


The main concern of Erikson's seventh stage is to assist the younger generation in developing and leading useful lives. When the individual feels that he has done nothing to help the next generation then they experience stagnation.

STAGE: Integrity vs. Despair

PERIOD: Late adulthood


This is the time in which the individual looks back and evaluates their life. If the previous stages have developed properly then they will experience integrity. If the previous stages have not developed in a positive way then they will feel despair.

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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2008, 03:07:30 AM »

I am glad you recycled.  Question... .

I remember from many years ago in my Ed Psyc class that people can get "stuck" in different stages if they did not have their needs met.  i also know from my work with parents of young children that if a baby does not have his needs met in the very beginning of life (ie when he cries mom, dad or caretaker comes with a bottle, a snuggle or a clean diaper) he has a hard time trusting and attaching.  And if they do not learn to do those two things by the time they are two they will always struggle with it.  As a matter of fact they call that, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).  This obviously goes along with Eriksons first stage.  So my question is,  are there ages when the other stages need to be completed also?  Or are there consequences like RAD when other stages are not completed by a certain age?
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« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2008, 12:15:52 AM »

Good question, faux. 

Hopefully somebody will know or somebody will be willing to do some research.

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« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2008, 06:40:06 PM »

Me too Joanna.  I am interested because i have thought for a while that my STBX is stuck because of the abuse he suffered as a child. 
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2009, 07:17:35 PM »

I have a keen interest in Psychology, and have indeed heard of Erik Erikson and his stages of development. Erikson saw the fifth stage of development as important as the ideal outcome is to achieve 'ego identity' which is a secure feeling of who and what we are.

This is usually around the adolescent years, say 12 onwards. It's a period of inner negotiation in relation to their independance from their parents, their future working lives, sexual relation etc,  in relation to the adolescents 'outside world' or social environment, all of which come to form their own identity.

If this or any other of Erikson's proposed stages aren't negotiated, we will stay in a period of constant conflict or identity crisis, rather than going through conflict and resolving it, forming a secure identity. Erikson's theory is from a perspective known as Psychosocial, which implies that our social world is important in the formation of our identities, so that's where the nurture comes in.

Erikson saw these developmental stages as lifelong stages, right up until death.

Another great theory to look into to try and gain some understanding of our early years and how we attach to our parents, is the work of John Bowlby and Attachment theory. This theory may give some answers to the BPD's in our lives.

To Faux, Erikson's stages have proposed ages of development, but people will develop at different rates, and also cultural expectations of development are different in different cultural societies.

Erikson's proposed ages of development are

Birth to 1 year-          Trust vs Mistrust (trust or mistrust of people)

1-3 years                  Autonomy vs Doubt ( Self control or self doubt)

3-6 years                  Initiative vs Guilt (Sense of purpose of low self esteem)

6-11                         Industry vs Inferiority (Competence or helplessness)

Adolescence              Indentity achievement vs Role diffusion (failure to achieve a secure ego identity)

Early adulthood         Intimacy vs Isolation (Personal relationships or lonliness)

Middle adulthood       Generativity vs Stagnation (care for others or self absorption)

Late adulthood          Integrity vs Despair  (fulfilment or disappointment)

I personally don't divide nature from nurture, as they are dependent on one another in my opinion, and to treat them as separate entities is counter productive.
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« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2009, 06:09:35 PM »

We still haven't any comments on faux's question above:  What about the other stages?

I found this Summary Chart on Erikson.  The link to the source document is provided below:

Infancy (birth to 18 months) Trust vs. Mistrust: Feeding

Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliabilty, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust.

Early Childhood (2 to 3 years) Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt:Toilet Training

Children need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.

Preschool (3 to 5 years) Initiative vs. Guilt: Exploration

Children need to begin asserting control and power over the environment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose. Children who try to exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt


School Age (6 to 11 years) Industry vs. Inferiority: School

Children need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.

Adolescence (12 to 18 years) Identity vs. Role Confusion: Social Relationships

Teens needs to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.

Yound Adulthood (19 to 40 years) Intimacy vs. Isolation: Relationships

Young adults need to form intimate, loving relationships with other people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and isolation.

Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years) Generativity vs. Stagnation: Work and Parenthood

Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.

Maturity(65 to death) Ego Integrity vs. Despair: Reflection on Life

Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.


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