Growing PainsA Timeline of Human DevelopmentAs Seen Through They Eyes of Erik Erikson and Sigmund FreudBy Rob Leinheiser

1 Month - 12 Months

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From birth, newborns are able to do a large variety of actions and mental activities. The child is aware of it's surroundings and the people around it from the moment it
leaves the womb. Infants can be seen many times following objects of interest with their eyes. When being spoken to, they also turn their attention to the speaker.
Newborns are very responsive to their mothers, as one can imagine. The responses to their faces and their speech are much more intense than with strangers. Newborns are very reliant on reflexes to meet their needs at this stage in their life as well. Hand-to-mouth, sucking, rooting, and grasping reflexes are examples of this.

As months go on, the child becomes even more reactive to its environment and the stimuli around it. It is able to respond more actively, using sounds, laughs, and it's limbs to interact with others. Grasping and motor skills become more precise and controlled. Head movement slowly increases, with the baby able to hold itself up after a few more months

In many conditions, by the end of the first stage children can crawl around on their own, supporting their weight. And in some cases, they can even stand on their own.

Sigmund Freud


At the point of birth, until the end of the first year, Sigmund Freud classified children as being inside the Oral stage. During this stage, the child receives instant pleasure and gratification through stimulation in the mouth. Prime examples are sucking and eating. Newborns get much pleasure through suckling while eating. They also enjoy sucking on objects like pacifiers and toys.

Fixation in this stage can be cause by either an over indulgence of oral stimulation or a complete lack of it. The fixation can lead to classic cases where individuals need to be doing things with their mouth to be happy, such as smoking, nail biting, drinking and obsessive eating.


Though Erikson's first stage is also somewhat classified by an infants oral stimulation, it relies more on a basic struggle or conflict the child must come to terms with. In this case, the Child deals with the concepts of trust versus mistrust. Because a newborn is so reliant on others for its needs, without establishing trust it cannot survive. a lack of proper care can impair this trust, and cause issues for the person later in life.

Like Freud, this stage lasts until age one.

1 Year - 3 Years

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Children make major strides in development during this time. Motor skills increase drastically. Standing on ones own develops into walking with aid, and
eventually, by oneself. Children are also able to make precise, accurate movements when they need to (playing with blocks, etc.). And one of the most important concepts, that will be discussed later, is potty training.

Memory and cognition also advance in this stage. Children have more permanent memory of both events and emotions. This allows them to make decisions based on past experiences. Cognition also get's better, with problem solving skills advancing.


At this point, Freud's anal stage begins. It lasts until about 3 years. Unlike the oral stage, in this stage, the child gains satisfactions through the holding and releasing of feces. The process of defecating become enjoyable. It is appropriate that potty training begins during this stage. Having power over their body's natural process impacts the child's life as well, and helps in development. Potty training teaches them how to control this newfound power they have, not only over their body, but also later in life.

Fixation during this stage can result either from too strict or too lenient toilet training. Too strict can lead to obsessive individuals later in life focused on controlling every aspect of their life. Leniency can cause for a lack of control in later life, whether that be in aggression, emotion, or some other aspect.


Erikson's stage of muscular-anal is very similar to Freud's at this point. Erikson explores the concept of control as well as Freud. He also expounds on shame and guilt during this stage. Toilet training, among other things, are all new endeavors for the child. Whether it succeeds or fails in these endeavors, and how it is handled can have a serious bearing on their self confidence.

Children who are criticized for their failures are often brought up with low self confidence, believing that they cannot accomplish things. Erikson advocates a more lenient and understanding method when handling these events.

3 Years - 6 Years
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After three years, children have significantly advanced brain function than from when they were first born. Mastering the basic concepts in the first years of life, they are now able to move on to more complicated, abstract concpets. Morality begins significant development during this period.


Freud described this stage as the Phallic stage, lasting until about 6 years of age. During this time, the child gains immediate pleasure not through it's mouth or anus, but in the handling of it's own genetiles, particularly in boys. It is at this age that they begin to understand the differences between sex.

Freud also introduced the concepts of the Oedipus and Electra complexes into this stage. He said that children begin to feel these impulses early on and continue throughout their lives.

Oedipus Complex
Electra Complex
A male has innate and uncontrollable desires for his mother. Though he does not understand that these feelings are sexually driven, he finds himself in constant battle with his father for the attentions of his father. Ultimately, deep down, the boy wishes to kill his father and marry his mother.
A female has innate and uncontrollable desires for her father. Though she does not realize that these feelings are sexually driven, she finds herself in constant battle with her mother for the attention of her father. Ultimately, deep down, the girl wishes to kill her mother and marry her father.


Erikson classified his stage during this period as the conflict between initiative and guilt. At this point a child can now carry out social and individual functions on it's own. However, when it does Something wrong, it responds with guilt. This guilt, acquired through the morality development discussed earlier, is a significant obstacle within their child's life. It guides them to make the right choices and see how their actions affect others. Though they wish to do what they please, they are held back by these restrictions they put on themselves.

6 Years - 11 Years

external image large_VBSqueenapostles.jpgThe time before puberty has no real significant changes taking place. Morality is again developed further, and social skills progress as well.


Freud's fourth stage is known as the latent stage. During this time, there is no serious conflict or stimulation from activity. Children often become almost indifferent to sex and it's implications. Gender roles take shape and children usually play within their own gender group.


Unlike Freud, Erikson does see some growth during this stage. At this time, the child deals with the conflict between competence and inadequacy. Children in this stage generally have to deal with fitting in to social norms. Boys play sports, girls do, girly things. Whether or not the child is able to participate in these activities can have significant bearing on their self confidence, as with the muscular-anal stage.

12 Years - 19 Years
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Arguably the most important time within development of human beings. During thois time, puberty onsets and creates active sexual feelings for the first time.
Physical growth reaches it's peak at this point and teenagers seem to "rebel" from their parents to gain a sense of their own identity. Freud and Erikson both have arguments for this.


This is actually Freud's last stage of development, as he agued that it never ends. After puberty, the child enters the genitel stage. During this stage, pleasure can only be obtained through sex with another. This frustration can lead to outbursts and other behavior typically associated with teenagers.

Because the focus switches from inner needs to outer needs, the individual also develops greater moral and social skills for others. Empathy can be felt and used to accomplish tasks.


Erikson argued that this stage was the most important in an individual's life. It created the conflict between an individuals sense of identity and otherwise role confusion. Playing multiple roles in society, the individual must choose which one is most important to them.

Conforming to social norms versus being true to your own beleifs, interests, and characteristics, can certainly upset how people turn out in life if not handled well. Resolving it can create healthy and happy human beings with a good sense of self worth. Leaving matters unresolved or creating an image that is not true can leave an individual unstable and unhappy.