Sample Psychology Paper on Life Course Theories

Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life

Erikson’s eight stages of life theory describe human development in terms of unique crises in each of the stages. Erikson perceives challenges associated with each of the eight stages of life as the result of ego crises. The first stage is described as the basic trust versus mistrust stage, in which a child’s life is characterized by hope that whatever goes wrong in life will ultimately turn around. The most important interactions at this stage are with the mother (Fleming 9-5). As such, a child in this stage learns how to trust or mistrust depending on whether their needs are met. Problems can arise in the child as a result of unmet needs, child abuse and over indulgence. The second stage is defined as the autonomy versus shame or doubt stage where an individual struggles with their personal identity. The other stages also depict similar conflicts and dilemmas where the child is faced with the challenge of picking up certain characteristics. Personality disorders can arise from any of the stages where there have been issues in terms of interactions with others.

For a young adult, the impacts of negative events in any of the stages of life can result in adverse personality effects. For instance, issues such as depression, psychosocial disorders and anxiety disorders are common among young adults who have had negative experiences in their childhood, particularly in the trust versus mistrust stage. An example is evident in the person of Sybil in the movie Sybil, who experiences multiple personality disorder in response to abuse received from her mother in childhood. Abuse and neglect can be the cause of long lasting impacts in people and identifying the origin of certain feelings in a psychiatric patient can be the beginning of treatment efforts and can help to determine the efficiency of treatment.

Leonard Pearlin’s Theory of Psychological Distress

Pearlin’s theory of psychological distress is drawn from the assertion that most of interpersonal relationships define the manner in which people’s personalities are portrayed. Psychological distress thus implies patterns of maladaptive behaviors that people may exhibit in interpersonal relationships as a result of past unsatisfactory relationships. Individuals suffering from psychological distress may find it difficult to deal with daily life issues, and performing their social roles. Marcussen (1-2), defines identity crises in terms of the meanings that social roles present for the affected individuals. Self esteem is considered in this regard as a driver of effective management of psychological distress. For instance, individuals with low self esteem are more likely to suffer from personality discrepancies in relation to their own aspirations. On the other hand, those with high self esteem are associated with lower levels of discrepancy and higher capacity to manage depression and anxiety.

The theory of psychological distress draws directly from common psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and multiple personality disorders. In most cases, the evidence of psychological distress is through its outcomes on personality and autonomy of the victims. For instance, young adults may display symptoms such as depression, which may need treatment through psychosocial therapy. To a great extent, realizing the expected outcomes can be linked directly to the identification of specific drivers of psychological distress in the patient. The theory can therefore be deduced to be effective in addressing psychosocial issues in young adults. The treatment process efficiency also depends on the level of distress in the individual. For instance, psychologically distressed individuals with high self esteem are more likely to be reactive to their personality discrepancies and the psychiatrist has to be aware of such outcomes.


Works Cited

Fleming, James S. Erikson’s psychosocial development stages. Retrieved from

Marcussen, Kristen. Identities, self esteem and psychological distress: An application of identity – discrepancy theory. Sociological Perspectives, vol. 49, no. 1, (2006), pp. 1- 24. Retrieved from