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INT103 Human Development Across the Life-Span

Assessment 1: Comparative Essay (Word Count: 1500 Words)

Using two (2) of the following theories, discuss the impact of the environment on the development of individuals.
(E.g. language, family, social systems, natural disasters, war, access to resources, school)

  • Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
  • Piaget’s Cognitive Theory
  • Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory
  • Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
    Integration of material from the textbooks and readings on Moodle is essential


Humans are a product of their Environment


One of the most widely acknowledged development theories is Erikson’s psychological development theory. The idea gives readers a summary of the phases of growth a person experiences throughout the course of their lifetime. On the other hand According to Bronfenbrenner’s hypothesis, a person’s environment has a significant influence on how they develop. He made many attempts to characterise a child’s growth as a complicated web of relationships that is easily influenced by its surroundings.


Erikson’s Psychological Development Theory

Erikson’s psychological development theory is one of the most widely accepted development theories. The theory provides its readers with an overview of the stages of development a person goes through, throughout their lifespan (Kropf et al., 2017). “Social crisis” can be defined as a crisis that affects the social life of an individual. For instance, the global pandemic of 2020 is a social crisis. This developmental theory postulates that people adjust through their stages of development based on how they adjust to the social crisis. In addition to that, this theory deeply analyses the role of the environment in an individual’s growth. This study is targeted to examine the impact of the environment on the development of an individual based on Erikson’s psychological development theory and it commits to simplifying the concept further.

Eight Stages of Development

According to Erikson, there are eight stages of development. The details of which will be discussed below

Stage 1: Trust Vs Mistrust

It is the first stage of development. Needless to say, it starts at birth and lasts until the newborn reaches 18 months. At this stage, a child is entirely dependent upon their caregiver. Their caregiver provides them with food, clothing, and other necessities which are required of them. By providing the child what they require, indirectly the caregiver is assuring them that their caregivers can be trusted. The children learn to depend on others in this stage.

Stage 2: Autonomy Vs shame and doubt

It is at this stage; the newborn starts asserting their independence little by little. Needless to say, it starts at 18 months (approx.) and lasts until the child reaches the mark of 3. By age three, most children develop their food preferences and toilet habits. It is at this stage, the children start fighting their feelings of inadequacy.

Stage 3: Initiative Vs Guilt

This stage lasts between 3 to 5 years. At this stage, kids start socializing. In most countries, kids enter play school by this age. It is where the kids are encouraged to plan, take responsibility and achieve goals. It is also the time when the kids start asking questions. Hence, the caregiver needs to maintain a positive social image to assert a good influence on the kids. Scolding too much or hitting the kid might send a negative message and inflict a sense of guilt among them which can stop them from interacting with others and expressing their creativity.

Stage 4: Industry Vs Inferiority

This stage starts at 5 and lasts till the kid reaches 12. By this age, the circle of influence of the kids broadens. It is at this stage they start seeing others as competitors and start comparing themselves with others (classmates). Depending upon their performance, they develop feelings of accomplishment or in some cases inferiority. Hence, bad parenting, for instance, providing them with negative feedback or negative reinforcement might shake their confidence level.

Stage 5: Identity Vs Confusion

This stage is also known as adolescence (age 12-18). This stage inflicts a sense of existential crisis among the children. They start questioning everything – starting from “How do I fit in this society?” and “Why is this happening to my body?”. The children start building their values, beliefs, and goals by questioning their existing values, beliefs, and goals. Pressuring them at this stage might inflict a sense of rebellion among the kids. At this stage, the people around them need to provide them with space and learn to respect their boundaries. Instead of pressuring them to shape their beliefs in a certain way, it might be helpful if they provide them access to valuable resources that might have a positive influence on their lives. It is at this stage, they start getting affected by social systems and natural disasters. Due to the pandemic, schools and colleges were closed. Being unable to participate in social interactions and extra-curricular activities somehow sawed their confidence level (Meherali et al., 2021).

Stage 6: Intimacy Vs Isolation

This stage lasts till a person reaches 40 years. It is at this stage, a person learns to truly understand themselves. At this stage, they feel fulfilled and start looking for intimacy. Intimacy can be loosely interpreted as long-term relationships. They do not feel the strong sense of identity crisis bothering them, instead, they feel the need to fill the voids in their life with someone special that makes them feel secure and safe. At this stage, people are more likely to develop anxiety and depression. It is one of the reasons why there was an increasing trend in mental health issues among working professionals all over the world during the pandemic (Imran et al., 2020).

Stage 7: Generativity Vs Stagnation

At this stage, the lives of most become stagnant. As a result of which they feel the need to fulfill the needs of others. This stage lasts till a person turns 65 years old. It is at this stage, people decide to take a child or contribute all their earnings to a charity. They feel the need to do something better for the community. At this stage, people need constant positive feedback from others, otherwise, they start feeling like a failure – unable to provide for their family, unable to contribute to their work, and unable to make a difference.

Stage 8: Integrity Vs despair

The pace of life starts slowing down, which makes it the reflection stage. People start reflecting on their journey in life. Based on their reflections, they feel accomplished and, in some cases, full of regrets (Maree et al., 2021).

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory

Bronfenbrenner in his theory has explained that a person’s development is largely impacted by their surrounding environment. In many ways, he tried to explain a child’s development as a complex system of relationships that are easily affected by their surrounding environment. This study is targeted to examine the impact of the environment on the development of an individual based on the ecological development theory of Bronfenbrenner and it commits to simplifying the concept further.

Five Ecological systems

In short, the ecological development theory of Bronfenbrenner has explained that five ecological systems directly impact a child’s development process. The details of which will be discussed below


Microsystems are the system comprising the people who directly impact a person’s life. Teachers, families, classmates, and neighbors are included in this category. When the person and any element of the microsystem engage in social interaction, the influence becomes bi-directional. That means the elements of the microsystem are just as much influence as the child itself by that interaction. The bi-directional influences are very strong and insightful and they deeply contribute to the child’s development process (Guy-Evans et al., 2020).


Mesosystem can be defined as the connection between the structures of a child’s microsystem (Paquette & Ryan, 2015). That means the child’s ability to develop a healthy relationship directly depends upon the existing relationships between the child’s microsystems. For instance, a child neglected by their parents won’t be able to form strong bonds with their teachers.


The exosystem defines the structure in the microsystem in which the child does not function properly. For instance, if a child is more connected to his/her father than her mother, then once their father leaves, the child will not be able to function properly. As a result of which they are more likely to get engaged in a conflict with their mother more frequently. This event may have either of two outcomes: the child might get attached to his/her mother or he might start resenting their mother even more. The likelihood of the former event is more.


The individual characteristics of the child form the macro system. It includes gender, socioeconomic status, the standard of living, family background, race, and ethnicity of the child. Researchers consider the macrosystem as the outermost layer of a child’s ecological system. This layer has been recorded to have a cascading influence on all the other layers. For instance, children born into a poorer family or third-world nation understand the value of hard work and money. These characteristics are more likely to make them more hardworking than those born into a well-to-do family or a first-world nation.


Transitions in one’s lifetime play an important role in the chronosystem. This is the only concept in this theory where the dimension of time is directly involved. Bronfenbrenner has demonstrated that any physiological changes in one’s life can affect their life’s trajectory. Some examples of physiological changes include the death of either of the parents, divorce or separation, major accidents, etc. For instance, divorce affects one’s life in many aspects. To begin with, people are forced to deviate from a lifestyle they are habituated with. The first year of divorce can be very difficult but as years pass it gets easier (Soyer et al., 2019).


It can be concluded that while Erikson’s Psychological Development Theory has well-defined the stages of development, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory has made it clear that instability and unpredictability of family life stand in the way of a child’s development process.


Guy-Evans, O. (2020). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory.

Imran, N., Zeshan, M., & Pervaiz, Z. (2020). Mental health considerations for children & adolescents in COVID-19 Pandemic. Pakistan journal of medical sciences, 36(COVID19-S4), S67.

Kropf, N. P., & Greene, R. R. (2017). Erikson’s eight stages of development: Different lenses. In Human Behavior Theory (pp. 77-100). Routledge.

Maree, J. G. (2021). The psychosocial development theory of Erik Erikson: critical overview. Early Child Development and Care, 191(7-8), 1107-1121.

Meherali, S., Punjani, N., Louie-Poon, S., Abdul Rahim, K., Das, J. K., Salam, R. A., & Lassi, Z. S. (2021). Mental health of children and adolescents amidst COVID-19 and past pandemics: a rapid systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(7), 3432.

Paquette D. & Ryan J. (2015). Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory Available at:

Soyer, G. F. (2019). Urie Bronfenbrenner: the ecology of human development book review.

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