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Erikson’s, Havighurst’s, Bronfenbrenner’s Theories


The subject is a white male in the early adulthood developmental stage. He experienced emotional and physical abuse as a child and has a history of substance abuse, which affected his progression through developmental stages as defined by Erikson. The first stage of psychosocial development by Erikson is infancy, which is characterized by the conflict of trust versus mistrust. The developmental task of this stage is receiving primary care, which could have been impaired due to the parents’ attitudes. The second and third developmental stages present challenges of autonomy and initiative, respectively. Despite problems evident in the family of the subject, it is possible that he completed the central tasks presented by these stages effectively. In middle childhood, the primary task is attaining school education, and the completion of this task was also influenced by abuse.

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During early and late adolescence, young adults develop their personal and group identities (Broderick & Blewitt, 2013). At these stages of life, the subject was influenced by negative peer group experiences and internal conflicts that affected his progression through these stages of development. Today, the subject is in the middle of his early adulthood stage, which is centered around the ego quality of love. However, his past experiences affected his socioemotional development, making it difficult to form attachments. This paper aims to analyze the subject’s developmental history by applying Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and supporting the analysis with Havighurst’s developmental task theory and Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory where relevant. The paper will also provide evidence-based recommendations for solving the current challenges faced by the subject and for completing further developmental stages successfully.

Identifying Data

The subject is a 27-year-old white male. He was never married and is currently single. He lives in a rented apartment and is employed part-time at a local supermarket. The subject has a tendency to switch jobs and states that he is looking for something that would interest him in pursuing a full-time career. He attended a college and studied for a Bachelor’s degree in computer science, but decided to drop out after the second year. He has a history of unemployment and an unstable overall living situation, which can have a significant influence on his progression through adulthood. He has a casual manner of dress.

For the interview, the subject was wearing a clean t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, as well as sunglasses and a sports jacket. He appears to be relatively healthy and has no signs of obesity, cognitive impairment, or other health issues. The subject’s body shape is slim, and he has a healthy skin color. His general self-presentation is confident, with straight walk and posture. The subject showed the willingness to talk about all of his life experiences, even those that were unpleasant or those he considered shameful, which shows a general openness and initiative for improvement. Overall, despite the history of abuse and unstable living situation, the subject does not present any signs of depression or other psychological issues that could affect his well-being and future life.

Relevant History

The interviewee was born into a middle-class family. His father worked as a legal attorney and was 26 when the subject was born, whereas his mother was aged 28 and worked as an accountant. The subject has no siblings and has not maintained a close relationship with other members of the family, such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The subject states that his father had anger management issues, whereas his mother had alcoholism, which affected relationships within the family. The father was physically abusive, whether the mother was sometimes negligent of the child. The subject believes that neglect helped him to become more independent at a young age, which led to the successful resolution of the crisis between autonomy and doubt.

The first episode of abuse that the patient remembers occurred at the age of six and the episodes became more frequent during middle childhood and early adolescence. Although he motivated the subject to be more diligent and achieve success in school education, it affected his relationship with his peers. He was exposed to negative peer influence and started drinking and smoking at the age of 13 due to the pressure from his friends. One of the primary developmental tasks during middle childhood is establishing friendship and learning teamwork skills, whereas early adolescence is characterized by emotional development and peer group membership (Broderick & Blewitt, 2013). However, the completion of these tasks was affected due to family abuse and negative peer influence. The subject suggests that both factors made him wary of people and caused him to avoid friendly and romantic relationships in further life.

The subject’s family and personal history present many risk factors for psychological issues, which could develop later in life. For instance, abuse by parents is a significant risk factor for mental health issues. According to a study by Sugaya et al. (2012), physical abuse during childhood is a major risk factor for ADHD, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, physical abuse is linked to substance abuse in adulthood (Sugaya et al., 2012). Given that episodes of abuse were rather frequent, the subject has a severe risk of developing these mental health issues further in his life: as noted by Sugaya et al. (2012), the frequency of abuse is directly linked to the severity of the risk. History of unemployment and unstable living situation are also important risk factors that can affect the subject’s mental health. For example, Strandh, Winefield, Nilsson, and Hammarström (2014) found that unemployment can lead to depressive and nervous symptoms in the long term.

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Moreover, unemployment is also positively linked to suicide, especially if there are existing mental health concerns: according to Strandh et al. (2014), “unemployment creates heightened vulnerability for later mental illness and suicide” (p. 914). Lack of formal education presents as a major risk factor for building a successful career, which in turn could lead to a higher risk of mental health issues resulting from unemployment. The subject also presents several risk factors for substance abuse, which can lead to a relapse. For instance, unresponsive mothering behavior and exposure to alcohol in early childhood are considered to be the risk factors for substance abuse (Sloboda, Glantz, & Tarter, 2012). Moreover, deviant peer group influence, low parental warmth, and early substance use during middle childhood and adolescence are all risk factors for substance abuse later in life (Sloboda et al., 2012). Overall, the subject’s personal and family history present significant risk factors for a relapse into substance abuse.

However, there are also certain personal attributes and experiences that can be considered protective factors for developing psychopathology. For example, the patient has managed to develop a strong connection with two of his college classmates, who are now his closest friends. According to the subject, they have a strong positive impact on him, as they are moving through their developmental stages successfully. They also have no history of substance abuse or other mental health problems. As noted by the subject, they rarely drink alcohol, which motivates him to refrain from it, too. According to research, social support is a significant protective factor for a variety of mental health risks.

For instance, Kleiman and Liu (2013) indicate a positive influence of social support on the development of resilience. Moreover, the presence of social support was found to lower the risk of suicide, as it increases feelings of belongingness and increases self-esteem (Kleiman & Liu, 2013). The positive influence of friends also motivated the subject to improve his lifestyle. He admits that he participates in moderate physical activities with his friends and works to improve his diet as a result of their influence. A healthy lifestyle can also act as a protective factor for mental health issues. For example, Cairns, Yap, Pilkington, and Jorm (2014) indicate that risk factors for depression that are evident in the adolescence, such as substance use and dieting, can be moderated by a healthy diet, exercise, and relationships with positive peer groups.

The analysis of the subject’s family history, as well as the risk factors for psychopathology, suggests that the patient is at high risk for developing depressive symptoms and suicidal tendencies later in life. Moreover, there is also a risk of relapse of substance abuse, which is especially high due to the subject’s past history of substance abuse in late adolescence. Nevertheless, there is also an opportunity to ensure the moderating effect of protective factors, including social support and a healthy lifestyle. In order to prevent unwanted mental health issues, it is crucial to increase the number of protective factors, for instance, by forming a stable romantic relationship and developing realistic career goals to prevent unemployment.

Environmental Factors During Key Developmental Periods

The subject’s key developmental periods were full of challenges that affected the fulfillment of developmental tasks. Most of these challenges occurred in the subject’s microsystem, which involves the immediate environment, such as home and school. Applying Bronfenbrenner’s model to the subject’s history can help to understand the impact of various stressors and supports on the subject’s development.


According to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory, proximal processes occurring in the child’s microsystem are the key factors influencing his or her progression through developmental stages of life (Broderick & Blewitt, 2013). In the subject, these processes were greatly affected by central stressors, such as parental abuse and neglect. He was also influenced by deviant peer behavior in late adolescence, which affected his psychosocial behavior, eventually leading to substance abuse. However, the subject indicated no significant peripheral stressors that had an influence on his life and development.


The primary sources of support for the subject throughout his development were interpersonal relationships and education. First of all, the subject admitted that in early and middle childhood he had a lot of friends and enjoyed spending time with them. Having a strong circle of friends throughout childhood mediated the effects of a negative home environment, allowing him to complete most of the developmental tasks for these stages successfully, as interpersonal relationships are a significant part of development in both early and middle childhood (Broderick & Blewitt, 2013).

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The subject also indicated that he had a good relationship with his teachers, which probably helped with the completion of developmental milestones in middle childhood by assisting him in developing crucial skills and succeeding in school education. School success was also an important part of the support scheme for the subject, as he excelled in most of the school disciplines until the age of 13. Successful completion of education can help in developing adequate self-esteem; moreover, it can equip the person with the skills and abilities needed to progress through further life stages. Although the subject dropped out of college, his school experience shows great potential for acquiring knowledge, which can help him to build a stable career, thus contributing to his further development. Interpersonal relationships remain the primary source of support for the subject in his current early adulthood stage.

Interpersonal Style and its Development

The subject’s interpersonal style is complex, as it was influenced by a variety of factors throughout his development. There are three main categories of relationships that are currently present in the subject’s life, and his interpersonal style in these relationships is somewhat different.


The patient has a distant relationship with his parents, which is probably due to the negative experiences that he faced as a child. His family lives in another town, and he rarely visits his parents except for holidays. Although the relationship between the subject and his family is no longer characterized by physical and emotional abuse, he has a tendency to withdraw from contact where possible and exhibits a significant degree of mistrust towards his parents. It is likely that the subject is still affected by the abuse inflicted by his parents and this causes a strain in his relationships with them.


As mentioned above, the subject has a strong network of close friends that he has known for almost ten years. He has a mature and trustful relationship with them, which allows him to receive social and emotional support when needed. It is also important to note that the subject’s friends are more successful at moving through the early adulthood stage of life, which makes them a source of positive influence and advice that could potentially help the subject to resolve his current challenges.

Romantic Relationships

The subject indicated that he has never had a serious romantic relationship in his life. Most of his relationships were purely sexual and lacked the emotional component. The subject actively pursuits women but tends to withdraw before growing an attachment. This could be a result of his negative relationship with parents and the resulting fear of emotional attachment. For instance, maternal neglect impaired the fulfillment of the first developmental stage by Erikson, which was focused on the conflict between trust and mistrust. Failure to move through this stage successfully could have affected the subject’s ability to form social attachments. Moreover, abuse that occurred in early childhood could have affected the subject’s sex-role identification, whether negative peer influence and substance abuse in adolescence most likely disrupted the formation of sexual relationships and sex-role identity.

Current Challenges

In order to understand the current challenges faced by the subject, it is crucial to review both the Eriksonian theory and Havighurst’s developmental task theory. The subject is now in the middle of his early adulthood developmental stage. According to Erikson’s theory, this period of life aims to develop the ego quality of life by creating stable relationships and planning a family (Broderick & Blewitt, 2013). A similar approach to early adulthood is taken by Havighurst. Havighurst’s developmental task theory expands on the principles outlined by Erikson by separating early adulthood developmental tasks into five categories: a romantic relationship, family life, job life, social life, and physical changes (Hotteman, Hennecke, Orth, Reitz, and Specht, 2014).

For instance, selecting a mate and learning to live together with a romantic partner are the main developmental tasks for the romantic relationship section (Hotteman et al., 2014). Starting a career, on the other hand, is the primary focus of job life in early adulthood (Hotteman et al., 2014). Both tasks present a significant challenge for the subject, as outlined above. To progress through the life stage successfully, the subject has to fulfill these goals. Another important challenge faced by the subject is the need to resolve the conflict with parents. Despite the abuse and neglect in the past, his parents show the willingness to establish a supportive connection. However, if the trauma is too strong, it is unlikely that the subject will be able to form an adequate relationship with his parents again. Instead, he needs to seek a way to overcome the trauma and manage the effects that it had on his other interpersonal interactions.

Conclusion: Prognosis and Recommendations

Overall, the subject had a complicated history of development and was affected by a variety of factors during his key developmental stages. Stressors such as parental abuse, deviant peer influence, and unemployment had a significant effect on the evolution of his personality. For instance, impaired relationships with parents led to the difficulties in building a stable romantic relationship, whereas negative peer group influence caused the subject to develop substance abuse later in life. The subject’s history affected his progression through developmental stages as outlined by Erikson (Broderick & Blewitt, 2013). Moreover, past stressors and disorders also present significant concerns about the subject’s future development. For instance, they pose a risk of depression, suicide, and relapse to substance abuse, as indicated in the above sections. Nevertheless, the subject also has some significant protective features, such as social support and stress resilience, which will likely mediate the effect of risk factors on his further life.

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The subject’s interpersonal style and lack of formal college education also affect the fulfillment of Havighurst’s early adulthood developmental tasks, which include finding a partner and starting a career (Hutteman et al., 2014). At the moment, the subject does not seem to be concerned about getting started in occupation and beginning a stable romantic relationship. However, it is unlikely that the subject will be able to live a fulfilling life without improving his interpersonal style or finding a proper job. To improve the subject’s psychosocial processes causing these challenges, as well as to prevent depression and substance abuse in further life, it is recommended that the subject receives cognitive behavioral therapy alongside social-emotional training (Southwick & Charney, 2012).

Cognitive-behavioral therapy would help the subject to establish positive coping mechanisms and strengthen his executive function, thus improving resilience to depression (Southwick & Charney, 2012) and minimizing the risk of relapse to substance abuse. Social-emotional training, on the other hand, would help the subject to improve interpersonal skills (Southwick & Charney, 2012), which would assist in fulfilling developmental tasks for the early adulthood life stage. With the aid of these interventions, as well as the existing social support, the subject will likely be able to enhance his life both in the short term and in the future, thus moving through further developmental stages successfully.


Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (2013). The life span: Human development for helping professionals. New York, NY: Pearson Higher Ed.

Cairns, K. E., Yap, M. B. H., Pilkington, P. D., & Jorm, A. F. (2014). Risk and protective factors for depression that adolescents can modify: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, 169(1), 61-75.

Hutteman, R., Hennecke, M., Orth, U., Reitz, A. K., & Specht, J. (2014). Developmental tasks as a framework to study personality development in adulthood and old age. European Journal of Personality, 28(3), 267-278.

Kleiman, E. M., & Liu, R. T. (2013). Social support as a protective factor in suicide: Findings from two nationally representative samples. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150(2), 540-545.

Sloboda, Z., Glantz, M. D., & Tarter, R. E. (2012). Revisiting the concepts of risk and protective factors for understanding the etiology and development of substance use and substance use disorders: Implications for prevention. Substance Use & Misuse, 47(8-9), 944-962.

Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D. S. (2012). The science of resilience: Implications for the prevention and treatment of depression. Science, 338(6103), 79-82.

Strandh, M., Winefield, A., Nilsson, K., & Hammarström, A. (2014). Unemployment and mental health scarring during the life course. The European Journal of Public Health, 24(3), 440-445.

Sugaya, L., Hasin, D. S., Olfson, M., Lin, K. H., Grant, B. F., & Blanco, C. (2012). Child physical abuse and adult mental health: A national study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 25(4), 384-392.

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