The Transformation From Childhood to Youth

The transformation from childhood to youth can be both a complicated and beautiful process. From birth, we are exposed to both the wonders and unpleasantries of the world. However, during our early years, we begin to develop our morals, values, and skills necessary to navigate life. Our environment and those we surround ourselves by consistently shape these characteristics and experiences. Throughout this article, we will explore different theories on how we develop as humans and what occurs during the transformation from childhood to youth.

Erik Erikson’s 8 Stages of Human Development

Personality, Morality, and overall life experiences, when combined, simultaneously contribute to our individuality and connection with others. Renowned psychologist Erik Erikson developed a theory of 8 stages that help explain how the combination of cognitive development and environment interact as we grow. Throughout these stages, Erikson outlines how specific psychosocial influences particular outcomes in the developmental stages within the transition from childhood to youth.

Stage 1: Trust vs Mistrust

The first stage, Erikson theorizes, develops between 0-1 ½ years of age. This stage is known as trust vs mistrust It simply means that the infant is brand new to the world and, therefore, unsure of what is happening around them. They have no choice but to rely on their primary caregiver for a sense of direction and understanding (McLeod, 2018). In cases where the required kind of care is given predictably, consistently, and reliably the infant will develop a healthy sense of trust and security. However, when the care does not fall into those positive categories, the infant is at high risk of developing a sense of mistrust, making them feel insecure, anxious, and suspicious of those around them (McLeod, 2018). This first stage is crucial in our ability to adapt to a new environment and laying the groundwork for our transition from childhood to youth.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt

Erikson theorized that stage two takes place between 1 ½ -3 years of age. This stage involves a child’s willingness for self-control. Essentially, they are searching for a sense of independence and, if encouraged to do so, can develop a healthy sense of will. When this is done successfully by both caregiver and child, the child possesses a strong sense of confidence to successfully navigate the world (MCLeod, 2018). For instance, when the caregiver criticizes or even controls the child, the child then begins to formulate a lack of self-confidence and loses trust in their ability to navigate society (McLeod, 2018). This stage, like many others, will be a key factor in the transformation from childhood to youth.

Stage 3: Initiative vs Guilt

This stage is believed to be where a child becomes more assertive. Typically, this happens around their preschool years where they start to interact socially more frequently with other children. An example of this would be if we had two children in a classroom and gave them one cookie each. Then all of a sudden, child A snatches child B’s cookie. However, child B then goes to tell a teacher or other trusted adult and that their cookie was taken. Based on this second stage, Child B would need to feel supported in order to grasps the concepts of taking intuitive and the benefits that come along with it. (McLeod, 2018). Meeting a child with aggression, shame, and any other negative response can allow them to become timid, moving forever.

Stage 4: Industry vs Inferiority

During the ages of 5 and 12, Erikson believed that children begin to analyze their behaviours with their peers. In other words, children begin to compare themselves to their peers, and if they feel aligned with their peers, they will develop high self-esteem (Maryvilee 2020). In this stage, children must be encouraged to achieve their milestones and praised for taking the initiative to enact positive behaviours in the presence of their peers. If a child is made to feel as though they are not meeting societal expectations, they will begin to feel inferior (Maryville, 2020). This stage reappears stronger during the transformation from childhood to youth, especially as youth begin to seek and desire the approval of their peers even more.

Stage 5: Identity vs Role Confusion

The fifth stage of Erikson’s stages of development takes place during adolescence. This will be another key stage as we explore the discussion of transformation from childhood to you, as identity is a significant aspect of youthhood. During adolescence, teens go through a variety of experiences to develop a sense of self (Maryville, 2020). For adolescents who can clearly and strongly identify who they are, they are more likely to develop strong goals and become high-achieving individuals. On the other hand, those who have a harder time separating their own beliefs and behaviours from their friends and family over time become dependent and confused about their identity.

Stage 6: Intimacy vs Isolation

This next stage is theorized by Erikson to take place during young adulthood. The primary focus during this stage is on forming meaningful, loving, and intimate relationships. It is during this time in our lives that we focus more on sharing our personal experiences and, ultimately, life goals with someone outside of our family (McLeod, 2018). When an individual feels safe and secure in this step, it leads to their ability to form healthy, safe, caring, and committed relationships. However, when an individual is not able to successfully form these types of relationships, they are more likely to self-isolate, become depressed, and develop feelings of loneliness (McLeod, 2018). The success of the previous stages helps in formulating the development of healthy intimate relationships.

Stage 7: Generativity Vs. Stagnation

The seventh stage of Erikson’s theory occurs during middle adulthood and centres on the idea of an individual contributing to their society. This can take a variety of different forms, but most individuals feel a sense of generativity when they have raised their children, volunteer frequently, and other forms of community involvement. In cases where individuals feel as though they have not contributed anything to their society, they may experience feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and uselessness (Maryville, 2020). This stage is crucial to an individual’s sense of purpose, and age plays a significant factor in whether one feels generativity or stagnation.

Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs Despair

This final stage refers to an individual’s sense of fulfilment. Occurring during the late stage of adulthood, individuals begin to reflect on their accomplishments in life and analyze whether or not they feel fulfilled by their life choices. If the individual can look back on their life and feels as though it was successful, they develop a sense of integrity ultimately are filled with their life (McLeod, 2018). When an individual does not feel a sense of success or fulfilment, they can begin to feel despair and bitterness. Additionally, Erikson theorized that by this final stage, we as individuals would have developed a sense of wisdom as we reflect on our life choices (McLeod, 2018). Although this eighth stage is past our scope of discussion, it does bring full circle the realizations of transformation from childhood to youth.

The Transformation From Childhood to Youth

Summarizing Erikson’s 8 Stages of Human Development

Erikson’s theory of the eight stages of human development provides a strong foundation on the psychosocial point of view of how we develop. The stages in culmination outline what occurs during specific milestones in our lives and how these stages contribute to human development. As we discuss the transformation from childhood to youth, we must keep Erikson’s stages of development in mind. The main reason for this is because Erikson outlines the interaction of psychological factors and social environment on the influence of one develops. In addition, Erikson describes the negative effects of when the environmental needs are not successfully met and the negative impact it can have on human development.

Piaget’s Stages of Development

To further our discussion of the transformation from childhood to youth, it is important to mention the work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. As Erik Erikson developed the theory of human psychosocial development, Piaget developed his theory on the four stages of cognitive development. It is equally important to understand how we change over time during the transformation from childhood to youth on both cognitive and environmental levels.

Stage 1 of Cognitive Development

The first stage of Piaget’s cognitive development is the sensorimotor stage. This stage is theorized to last from birth until 2 years of age and focuses on an infant’s ability to understand the world around them through movement. These movements include grasping, sucking, looking, and listening to that allow the infants to gather information about what is occurring (Cherry, 2021).

Interestingly enough, infants also undergo a phenomenon known as object pertinence. Object pertinence refers to an infant’s ability to understand that objects can exist despite them being out of sight (Cherry, 2021). Piaget believed that object pertinence was an essential aspect of cognitive development and correlated to their very egocentric understanding of the world. This means that infants can only interrupt the world from their perspective (Chery, 2021).

Stage 2 of Cognitive Development

The second stage of cognitive development is known as The Preoperational Stage. In this stage, children begin to understand their world through pretend play, language, and symbols. This stage begins at age 2 and ends around the age of 7, which is right around young childhood. Children in this stage also cannot understand other people’s perspectives, as well as the idea of constancy ((Cherry, 2020)). When it comes to constancy, children cannot fathom the idea of having two identical entities or objects be the same despite being in different forms. For example, if you took dough and split it into two identical pieces but rolled one piece into a ball and flattened the other, children in this stage would not understand that both pieces contained the same amount of dough. Add closing sentence?

Stage 3 of Cognitive Development

Following the preoperational stage is the Concrete operational stage, which occurs 7 to 11 years old. In this stage, children can think logically about concrete experiences, understand conservation, and apply specific information to general principles. It is during this time that they begin to move away from their egocentric way of thinking and understand other people’s perspectives (Chery, 2020). Although they are not fully able to understand the perspective of someone, this stage transforms their world into an entirely new one.

Stage 4 of Cognitive Development

The final stage of Piaget’s Cognitive development theory is the formal operational stage and occurs at age 12. The formal operational stage follows the adolescent stage and allows the individual to think more abstractly (Cherry, 2020). In this stage, they spend a lot more time thinking morally, philosophically, socially, politically, and ethically about the world around them. Ultimately, in this stage, individuals can understand multiple outcomes to a variety of problems, perspectives of others, and how to use deductive reasoning. This final stage continues to develop into their youth and is constantly evolving (Cherry, 2020).

Comparing and Contrasting Erikson and Piaget

Although Erikson and Piaget focus on human development in different aspects, it is important to understand them both to have a complete picture of human development. Even more so, to understand the transformation from childhood to youth and the factors that allow that transition to be as healthy and successful as possible. Erikson focuses more on how our psychological make-up and environment (both physical and the people we are surrounded by) affect how we develop in certain ways. Piaget’s theory, however, focuses on how our cognitive development is influenced by the world around us and how through various cognitive stages, we develop and experience the world. Both theories are essential in understanding how we develop. While Erikson and Piaget both touch on cognitive development, they differ in that Erikson interrupts how These transitions for many individuals can feel like an Awkard time but occurs to everyone and is a completely natural process.

Adolescent Development

Now that we have some understanding of how psychosocial development can influence human development, it is important to understand the stages of adolescence. Adolescence is a time in our lives where individuals undergo a variety of changes in the social, physical, mental, and emotional aspects of their lives. Analyzing the transition from childhood to youth, these changes can occur simultaneously and not necessarily one after the other. This can make the process a lot more difficult if the appropriate care and support are not provided.

Physical Stage of Adolescent

The physical changes that occur during the adolescent period can be some of the most Awkard and confusing changes during this time in our lives. These changes are characterized into three main groups. These three groups are growth spurt, secondary sex characteristics, and primary sex characteristics (Cleveland Clinic, 2018). The way these physical changes present themselves can vary. Often, there is the little conversation surrounding these changes, and many young adults can feel uncomfortable talking about them. However, these changes are vital to the transformation from childhood to youth, and as a society, we should normalize these types of conversations.

Intellectual stage of Adolescent

During the transformation from childhood to youth, the brain is undergoing significant changes. As a child, our cognitive abilities focus more on what is tangible and solely what we experience from our point of view. However, as we transition into our youth, our brains begin to interpret multiple perspectives of a given circumstance, conceptualize abstract ideologies, and see multiple outcomes (Cleveland Clinic, 2018).

Social and Emotional Stages of Adolescent

The changes that occur in young adults when it comes to the social and emotional aspects are one of the most important and difficult changes that occur. During this transition, young adults are continuously developing their sense of self and spend a majority of this phase trying to sort through and affirm their identities (Cleveland Clinic, 2020). Arguably, this is one of the most important stages in our lives because the experiences and responses that we endure mould us into our adulthood. The lessons, traumas, joys, etc., follow us into the later stages of our lives and ultimately help determine who exactly we are. Additionally, adults must respond and foster environments to help youth succeed in healthy and successful circumstances.

Anxiety Affecting Teens

Teenagers, like many adults, are affected by numerous mental health disorders. The most common among them is anxiety. Anxiety can present itself in many forms. However, social anxiety is a more common diagnosis, especially among teens (Monroe, 2021). Social anxiety refers to the overwhelming feeling of nervousness or panic when in social situations or by just thinking of social situations (Monroe, 2021). For many teens, the root of social anxiety is rooted in a lack of self-confidence. This feeling can be so extreme that it invokes an irrational sense of fear within that individual. The development of social anxiety can have genetic factors but, when coupled with environmental pressures, can increase the likelihood of an individual developing social anxiety. While social anxiety is common among teenagers, it is also common for individuals to feel isolated from their peers because of the belief that they are the only ones dealing with this type of mental health condition.

Supporting Our Youth

The infamous saying that it takes a village to raise a child holds a lot of validity, especially when it comes to the transformation from childhood to youth. From birth to young adulthood, there needs to be a sense of security, comfort, independence, consistency, and support. As outlined by Erikson and many researchers, establishing these aspects with any youth is essential to their development because when these aspects within their upbringing and relationships are missing, it can have adverse effects. It is important that adults who youth trust are willing to listen and pay close attention to the types of conversations that the youth would like to express (Monroe, 2021). As a society, it should also be our responsibility to normalize conversations, especially the more difficult ones like race, sex, sexual orientation, and sexual identity, in safe and empathetic spaces. The transformation from childhood to youth can be awkward and confusing already. A more accepting and open society can lessen the pressures during this time and help develop individuals who are capable of forming and maintaining healthy relationships.

Supporting Our Youth


This article explored the various stages and theories that centre around human development. Furthermore, it narrows down to focus on the transition from childhood to youth. The theories of Erikson and Piaget provide strong insight into the cognitive and environmental factors that contribute to that transition process. However, it should be noted that although these characteristics are labelled as stages and are associated with different ages, these stages can present themselves differently in every individual. Numerous factors can influence the experiences that are endured and their outcomes. Just as these manifestations are not so clear-cut, neither is the response of our society. As a whole, there needs to be a disruption of the status quo and more advocacy for the needs of our youth around the world. Additionally, there needs to be an openness and willingness of our youth to have conversations in any aspect they feel necessary. In essence, there needs to be a sense of vulnerability and trust between both parties. All in all, the transition from childhood to youth is a process that we all experience but do so in different ways. Therefore, it is our responsibility to spark the conversation and keep the dialogue going.

Work Cited

Adolescent development. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.).

Cherry, K. (2020, March 31). What are Piaget’s four stages of development? Verywell Mind.

Cherry, K. (n.d.). How infants know that unseen objects continue to exist. Verywell Mind.

Erik-Erikson.html. (n.d.)

Monroe, J. (2021, June 2). A guide to teen mental disorders. Newport Academy.

Stages of human development: What it is & why it’s important. Maryville Online. (n.d.).

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