Why is psychosocial stimulation necessary for youth?
By: Sahil Pawar
Adolf Meyer, a Swiss-born psychiatrist, once said that one cannot fully understand the individual presentation of mental illness and its perpetuating factors without understanding how that person functions in their social environments. The concept of psychosocial development and its catalyst, psychosocial stimulation, can help better understand the same.
What is psychosocial stimulation?
Psychosocial development assesses the combined influence that psychological factors and the surrounding social environment have on an individual’s physical and mental wellness, and thus their ability to function. Psychosocial stimulation, is therefore, mindful and strategic behaviour in terms of actions, thoughts, and words that encourages one to have optimal psychosocial development.
In simple terms, psychosocial development is a fancy phrase that refers to how the individual needs of a person mesh with the demands of society. Whereas, psychosocial stimulation helps to achieve well functioning psychosocial being. In the case of toddlers, an example of psychosocial stimulation can be making them play games that encourage cognitive skills development. While, in the case of teenagers, a push to participate in various extracurricular activities is a form of psychosocial stimulation.
Research suggests that psychosocial development of an individual begins during early childhood and takes critical leaps during adolescence and early adulthood. How well a youngster performs socially is dependent on several factors, especially their physical and psychological well-being. Therefore, constant psychosocial stimulation can help youngsters not only perform well socially but also enhance their overall ability to function as a human being.
Why is psychosocial stimulation necessary for the youth?
Consider this example. Gifted youngsters are constantly getting recognized for their achievements. But, how would they react when they fail at something? In most cases, when gifted people experience failure, they are more prone to mental breakdowns as compared to others. They may feel that they need to always succeed in order to be accepted. One failure may lead them to believe that they are not really gifted and then feelings of shame, doubt, inferiority, and guilt start to sink in.
In an article titled, ‘The Psychosocial Development of Gifted Children’, Stephen Chou explains that these overwhelming emotions may be the reason why such children may choose to hide themselves after facing failure or strive to be a perfectionist. This happens because in terms of psychosocial development, many gifted children are underdeveloped. The fact that they have not fully experienced the emotions of shame, doubt, inferiority, guilt etc. makes it difficult for such individuals to handle these emotions when they do experience them.
Chou explains that it is important for guardians or caretakers to make sure that children or youngsters experience these emotions in some form and teach them how to deal with those emotions. The sooner children learn to respond to psychosocial stimulation, the more beneficial it is, because their minds are still developing, more so during early childhood and adolescence. Strategic psychosocial stimulation is therefore very important for the youth to enable them to function well as adults and have a satisfactory life.
Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development:
Erik Erikson, a 20th-century psychologist and psychoanalyst, formulated the eight-stage life cycle theory in 1959 on the supposition that the social environment plays a critical role in self-awareness, adjustment, human development and identity.
According to Erikson, a person passes through eight developmental stages that are built on each other. At each stage one faces a crisis. Each crisis must be mastered as soon as possible, otherwise a person’s psychological health is in jeopardy. By resolving the crisis, one develops psychological strengths or character traits that help one lead a healthy social lifestyle.
1. Trust vs. Mistrust
The first stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development begins at birth and continues till approximately 18 months of age. The outcome is either trust or mistrust. Infants depend solely upon their caregivers. Thus, if caregivers are sensitive and responsive to the needs of their infants, it helps them develop a sense of trust. Apathetic caregivers who do not meet the needs of their infants may cause the babies to develop feelings of anxiety, fear and mistrust causing them to see the world as unpredictable.
2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
The second stage takes place between the ages of 1.5 and 3 years. If parents/guardians allow the toddler to develop at their own pace during this stage, the child can acquire self-confidence and self-reliance. However, if parents are overcritical or overprotective, the child may doubt their ability to control themselves and their world.
3. Initiative vs. Guilt
The third stage of psychosocial development arises between 3 and 5 years of age. Children during this age can develop initiative through social interactions and by engaging in play and other activities. If the people surrounding the child criticize the pursuits of the child, feelings of self-doubt and guilt may arise.
4. Industry vs. Inferiority
The fourth stage occurs between the ages 5 to 12 years. A child begins to compare themselves with their peers during this period. The child learns to be productive and starts to evaluate their efforts. In turn, the child can develop a sense of accomplishment and pride in their social life. If a child feels that they do not measure up, feelings of inferiority or incompetence may develop.
5. Identity vs. Role Confusion
The fifth stage of psychosocial development often results in an adolescent identity crisis. Between the ages of 12 and 18, an individual develops a sense of self and establishes their identity by experimenting with various social roles. Adolescents who are successful at forming a cohesive and positive identity will grow up to have a strong sense of identity. Whereas adolescents who do not find an identity or are pressured into one may experience confusion concerning their role and develop a weak sense of self.
6. Intimacy vs. Isolation
The sixth stage ranges from late adolescence to early middle age i.e. from 18 to 40 years. A firm sense of self must be developed during adolescence to create intimate relationships with others during this stage. Adults who struggle with a positive self-concept may experience emotional isolation or loneliness.
Stages 7 – Generativity vs. Stagnation and 8 – Integrity vs. Despair are applicable for ages 40-65 and 65+ respectively. We are not discussing these stages as we are focusing on psychosocial development and stimulation in youth.
Examples of psychosocial stimulation for youngsters:
- Showing love and affection for them through a hug, cuddle, read, or talk throughout the day. This will encourage them to do the same.
- Encouraging them to try new things. Helping them see what they are capable of and letting them know that you are proud of their accomplishments.
- Giving the young ones an opportunity to socialize with their peers. Helping them explore their world and get to know the people in it.
- Parents/guardians can model kind and generous behaviors when interacting with other adults and children. This will act as an example for young ones.
- Showing your feelings and letting them see when you are happy or sad. This helps youngsters to develop empathy for others.
- Establishing daily routines as they can make them feel more confident and secure. This will teach them that events can happen in an organized way. Also, creating routines that are predictable but flexible can help reduce anxiety.
It is clear from Erik Erikson’s model that at each stage of life one faces a crisis, more so during the stages of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. To fare well through these crises, it is crucial that youngsters are well equipped from the beginning for optimal psychosocial development through consistent psychosocial simulation. If ignored, lack of psychosocial stimulation can severely affect the quality of life youngsters may lead as an adult. A licensed psychological expert can help one understand the concept of psychosocial development better and can provide personalized guidance in terms of psychosocial stimulation suitable at specific life stages.
Cherry, Kendra. “Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development.” Very Well Mind, 18 July 2021, https://bit.ly/2vDDcNl.
“Psychosocial.” Wikipedia, Accessed 15 July 2022, https://bit.ly/3RXl4Xd.