Understand the Difference Between Life Stage Vs Life Cycle

The finite nature of human existence requires that life consists of a life cycle that begins with birth and ends with death. This cyclical path affects everyone. During the cycle of living, people traverse through various stages of psychological development called life stages. Often, when a person does not transition properly through a life stage, the emotional deficiencies accumulate, compounding maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns. By addressing issues arising out of a particular life stage, life cycle psychologists work to help people overcome deficiencies so that they can successfully develop during the remaining life stages of their physical life cycle.

Studying the complete scope of life normally relies on two basic assumptions:

(1) that every human being shares in common series of developmental steps or life stages through which they progress and

(2) that each stage builds upon the successes or failures of the one before it.

From infancy through adolescence and on through young, middle, and late adulthood, the human experience is generally similar, although the exact age at which each life stage is attained by each person is not always the same.

Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is foundational for most studies of the emotional stages that occur during the human physical life span.

Each stage, according to Erkison, has its own challenges that every person must master as follows:

– Infancy (Trust)

– Toddler (Autonomy)

– Pre-school (Action and Ambition)

– Childhood (Industry)

– Adolescence (Identity)

– Early Adulthood (Intimacy)

– Middle Adulthood (Generativity)

– Late Adulthood (Integrity)

According to Erikson, each season develops a particular virtue, one of many qualities that are essential to a positive completion of the life cycle. Failure to master the challenges at each step creates negative results in the form of maladaptive or malignant behavior. Mastering development at every season of living ensures a balanced, healthy life.

Erikson associated steps in his life theory of psychosocial development with Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development to expound upon Freud’s work.

Perhaps the most significant lesson learned when considering life cycle psychology is how important the early seasons of life are in determining one’s state at death, since – while alive – every season builds upon the one before it.

When differentiating between the two terms at hand, it is important to recognize that a life stage speaks of emotional development while the life cycle refers to the physical existence (from birth to death) that encompasses a series of predictable life stages. Those who adapt well to each developmental challenge have the best chance of being satisfied with their life cycle when it ends in death.