Significant trauma can cause PTSD, anxiety, grief, and depression at any age. But it can also have lasting effects even after a person has recovered. A childhood tragedy might lie dormant for many years until triggered by a similar event, person or reaction. Teenage disasters might cripple the growth of a budding adult leaving them perpetually immature. A catastrophe as an adult might spark a negative outcome of a mid-life crisis.
Understanding the overall impact of traumatic events at any age can help to identify areas of personal development that need to be addressed. Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development points out the positive and negative impact trauma can have on a person’s life. This chart below serves as a summary of his theory. Here is some basic information to consider:
- Everyone passes through all the stages as they age. However, the success of one stage is not necessarily dependent on previous stages.
- The important events are guidelines only and not inclusive.
- The significant relations are generalities and can be different based on family structure.
- Each stage has the potential for achieving either a virtue or maladaptation. For instance, the virtue of Hope is formed when Trust overrides Mistrust. The maladaptation of Withdraw is formed when Mistrust overrides Trust.
- Trauma during any stage can cause a person to become stuck in that stage. And healing from a stage can occur any time after the stage is completed.
|Stage||Age||Important Events||Significant Relations||General Characteristics||Virtue||Maladaptation|
|Trust vs. Mistrust||Birth – 1 year||Feeding||Maternal||Are my parents trustworthy?||Hope||Withdraw|
|Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt||1 – 3 years||Toilet|
|Paternal||Can I do things|
|Initiative vs. Guilt||3 – 6 years||Exploration||Basic Family||Am I good or bad?||Purpose||Cruelty|
|Industry vs. Inferiority||6 – 12 years||School||School||Am I|
|Identity vs. Role Confusion||12 – 18 years||Social|
|Peer Groups||Who am I?||Fidelity||Radicalism|
|Intimacy vs. Isolation||18 – 34 years||Intimate Relation-ships||Friendships Spouse||Shall I share my life with someone or live alone?||Love||Promiscuity|
|Generativity vs. Stagnation||34 – 64 years||Work Parenthood||Work|
|Will I succeed in life?||Care||Overextension|
|Ego Integrity vs. Despair||65 to death||Reflection on Life||Humankind||Have I lived a full life?||Wisdom||Disdain|
To explain the impact further, here is an example. A five year old child endures physical abuse at the hand of an alcoholic parent. The child believes the lie that if they behaved properly, then there would be no abuse. They feel guilty for making the parent upset and occasionally are cruel to a younger sibling. As an adult, they struggle with feeling overly responsible offset by intense frustration and rage.
Healing from the initial trauma of physical abuse can minimize the impact of guilt and cruelty without excessive therapy. This can transform a negative outcome of stage three into a positive result.
Identifying the traumas at each stage allows a person to see more clearly the lasting impact of long-term suffering. The good news is that things can get better and a person can recover.