Comparison of Erikson & Kohlberg’s Developmental Theories

Name the chosen significant developmental aspects and stages of your adult life & identify key aspects of each of the two developmental theories

Adult development refers to psychological and social changes in an human life. These changes could be fast and gradual. Changes occur at the cellular level and are partially explained by biological theories of adult development and aging. (Hayflick, 1998). These biological changes are often described as theories of human development. Stage theories typically focus on “age-appropriate” developmental tasks to be achieved at each stage. I have chosen to discuss Erikson’s Theory Personality and Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.

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The first chosen developmental aspects and stages of my adult life is Erik Erikson’s theory based on human development over a life span (Erikson, 1963). Erikson developed 8 stages starting from childhood, adolescence and adulthood, stages shown below.

Stage Domain Age
1 Trust vs. Mistrust 0 to 1.5 yrs
2 Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt 1.5 – 3 years
3 Initiative vs. Guilt 3 – 6 yrs
4 Industry vs. Inferiority 6 years to puberty
5 Identity vs. Role Confusion adolescence
6 Intimacy vs. Isolation early adulthood
7 Generativity vs. Stagnation middle adulthood
8 Integrity vs. Despair late adulthood

During each stage, one developmental task is dominant, but may be carried forward into later stages as well. According to Erikson, individuals may experience tension when advancing to new stages of development, and seek to establish equilibrium within each stage. (Glassman & Hadad, 2009)

The second development aspect and stages of my adult life is Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development (Kohlberg, 1981). Kohlberg’s model is based on moral reasoning and ethical behaviour which involves 6 developmental stages. Each stage is grouped into 3 levels; pre-conventional morality, conventional morality and post-conventional morality as shown below.

Level Level Description Stage Stage Attributes
1 Pre-Conventional 1 Obedience and punishment orientation
2 Self-interest orientation
2 Conventional 3 Interpersonal accord and conformity
4 Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
3 Post-Conventional 5 Social contract orientation
6 Universal ethical principles

Kohlberg found that moral development was mainly formed around justice and would continue through human life span. Kohlberg was determined to find out how people justify their actions if they were placed in a predicament where their morals were pushed. Progress through Kohlberg’s stages happens as a result of the individual’s increasing competence, both psychologically and in balancing conflicting social-value claims. Knowledge and learning contribute to moral development. Specifically important are the individual’s “view of persons” and their “social perspective level”, each of which becomes more complex and mature with each advancing stage.

Analyse the chosen developmental events with reference to two major developmental theories.

The first developmental event I have chose is Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (young adulthood) from Erikson’s 8 stage theory.

This stage typically occurs ages from 20 to 39 years. At the beginning of this stage the previous stage is ending at Idenitiy vs. Role Confusion, which is the part of young adults lives where they still feel the need and urge to fit in with friends. Young adults want to fit in with their peer group and be accepted. Moving into the next stage of having the feeling of either isolation, which is pulling away from intimacy and relationships. This can be evidenced by being afraid of rejections or being hurt and distancing yourself from any type of love interest because of these negative feelings, or be able to form an intimate relationship. Once people have established their identities, they are ready to make long-term commitments to others. They become capable of forming intimate, reciprocal relationship through marriage or close friendships

The second developmental event that I have chosen is Level 2- Conventional from Kohlberg’s Model. This consists of Stage 3 & Stage 4.

This level typically occurs at adolescence and young adulthood. Young adults begin to judge the morality of actions by comparing them to society’s views and expectations. This is characterised by an acceptance of society’s conventions concerning right and wrong. A young adult will obey rules and follows society’s norms even when there are no consequences for obedience or disobedience.

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During Stage 3 of Level 2, young adults enter the social order and conform to social standards. Stage three reasoning may judge the morality of an action by evaluating its consequences in terms of a person’s relationships, which now begin to include things like respect, gratitude and the concept of treating others how you would like to be treated. It is important to be liked and fit in with society.

In Stage 4 of Level 2 young adults begin to understand the importance of obeying the laws and social conventions in order to maintain a functional society. Stage 4 provides a sense of justice and the ability to determine what is right and wrong. legal responsibility is evident at this stage. Morality starts to become dictated by outside forces.

Reflect on your personal responses and experiences in relation to these significant developmental aspects and stages

I believe that within my life I am at the developmental stage of each of Erikson’s Theory: Love, Intimacy vs. Isolation and Kohlberg’s Model: Conventional- Stages 3 and 4

At this point in my life I believe my romantic relationship is at the Erikson’s stage of Intimacy vs. isolation as I am getting to a time in my life where I want a serious relationship however I acknowledge that I am frightened of getting hurt and won’t allow myself to open up, therefore I isolate myself to protect my ego from being bruised. Erikson (1963) states that in this stage our egos cannot bear the pain of rejection such as being turned down or our partners breaking up with us.

In regards to Kohlberg’s Model I believe I am at the Conventional Level and a mixture of both Stages 3 and 4. In my personal relationships I show and also expect respect from others. I also am aware of kindness and privileges in life and show gratitude -even for the small things. I treat my family, friend and colleagues as I would like to be treated. At this point in my life I have such high morals as evidenced in stage 4, in regards to drugs. I am 25 years old and do not use drugs ,however I have friends around me who use drugs recreationally. I am acutely aware of what is right and wrong, and what is legally and socially acceptable in societal norm. I have an acute sense of moral judgment and do not like getting involved with those that abuse this position. I think how stupid can you be drugs are so dangerous not only can they psychically harm you but mentally as well, apart from being against the law.

In conclusion, I feel that a combination of the developmental philosophies as designed by Erikson & Kohlberg are relevant to the stage in my life that I am currently in. I believe that psychological development involves physical, sensory, cognitive, social and emotional processes, and the interactions among them. If I focus on where my future lies, it becomes clear that change is inevitable. This will occur through the progression through the different developmental phases.

Reference current literature and integrate relevant theory into your essay discussion

Erikson, E.H. (1963) Childhood and Society. 2edn. New York: Norton

Glassman, W.E. & Hadad, M. (2009) Approaches to Psychology . Fifth Edition. London. Mcgraw-Hill

Hayflick, L. (1998). How and why we age. Experimental Gerontology, 33, 639-653.

Kohlberg, L. (1981) The Meaning and Measurement of Moral Development (Volume 13)



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