Phases of man, the research seems weighted

July 8th, 2007 - chosen as a TWTWTW article

We all know about "Terrible Two's" and you might have knowledge of the loads of work done on stages we go through up until late teens and then ... nothing .. well, very little. What about others?

I dunno, how about a name for 37-45 - search for meaning and how to contribute?

When I was doing my Counselling degree we were taught quite a few different 'modalities' (schools of thoughts, types of practice) - everything from the old school Freudian based Psychoanlaysis, through the "happy pill" of Cognitive Behavioural (my label) and the "being there" Person-centered Therapy (my label once again) to the more modern theories of NLP and Narrative Therapy (the one that resonates most with me). There are many more, check out the Wikipedia: Branches of psychology.

The majority of the modalities had a base in some sort of 'phases of human development'. That's to say that we all, no matter what culture, ethnicity or environment develop in basically the same way - in essence we are all of the human animal.

I actually fought against this and still have a nagging doubt that it's merely a construct placed upon us by theorists in order to make their life/theories easier to manage. Much like HR departments will insist on salary bands; these bands are not there for the employee, who may be able to negotiate more, or the even the actual employing person, who may wish to pay more but can't, the bands are there to make HR administration easier *

But I digress. Phases of man (short for 'human' and not just a male!?!)

OK, let's assume that there are a basic set of phases that humans all progress through. We can give them names, sliding age ranges and even attach later-life issues for those that don't transition quite as naturally as they should.

In fact, here they are [Wikipedia]:
  • Prenatal
  • Infancy
  • Toddler
  • Early Childhood
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Early Adulthood
  • Middle age
  • Old age
  • Death
An alternative (but very similar) list was proposed by Erik Erikson (Eric, son of Eric ... hmmm, wonder why he became a psychologist) with his Psychosocial Development Theory:
  • Infancy (Birth-12 Months)
  • Younger Years (1-3 Years)
  • Early Childhood (3-5 Years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-10 Years)
  • Adolescence (11-18 Years)
  • Early Adulthood (18-34 years)
  • Middle Adulthood (35-60 Years)
  • Later Adulthood (60 years-Death)
Which set of phases you want to use is fine with me ... my beef is that both (any) of them are weighted towards one end, the beginning. They have (in bold) a lot of research, thought, detail and actual phases up until the age of 18 (or so). And then ... three - early, middle, late/old.

If you want to see the weighting in detail check out the Wikipedia: Stages of Development - I'd say that there's about 5 page-downs for the first set (birth - 18yrs) and only 1 page-down for the rest (19yrs - death). That doesn't seem right does it? If we live to be 75.34 (male) or 80.44 (female) as you probably will in New Zealand (source: Wikipedia) that gives us around 80% of the detail for 24% (male)/22% (female) of the lifespan ... seems very top heavy **

I get that there's a stack of growing in the early days. I have two kids and can see that there's oodles going on inside them and there is probably buckets of neuron connectivities being generated, switched and discarded.

What I think also though is:
  • Kids are easier to research upon
  • Kids are more fun to research with
  • Researching on people that are the same/older than yourself feels "too close to home"
  • It's hard to be objective about yourself - not many psychology papers about the phases of a forty-year old coming out of the 5-10 year old bracket
But the whole 'it's all about the kids' thing doesn't feel right. I think/believe there is more to life than 'early', 'middle' and 'old' ... it seems too glib.
Am I right? Did I miss a whole class one day and the answer is out there? Is it just those three phases? Am I only one asking this? Am I just being self-centered?
Let me know, leave a comment!

[Annoying paragraph alert - summary, I don't believe any of what I've just written]
All of this only works if you buy into the 'phases of man' in the first place which I don't really. As I said near the top my view on life is much more akin to a story and I also view it as a 'flow' like a river. Phases are like arbitrarily chopping up Lord Of The Rings into 3 books because the publisher thought it would cost less and sell more ... it's one story though.

This posting was brought to you by MiramarMike proudly supported by Wikipedia - once I was in Wikipedia I just couldn't be arsed to find links from anywhere else, sorry.

* More on that sometime in the future
** Totally unscientific but trying to get the point across - argue with me, I dare you


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