In contrast to Freud's six psychosexual stages (with a focus on early childhood) and Erikson's eight psychosocial stages (across the life span), Jung believed that there were four basic stages of development: childhood, adolescence, middle age, and old age. Jung placed more importance on middle age than the other stages. Coincidentally, middle age is the stage of life when Jung became deeply reflective and reinvented himself (Jung, 1928/ 1954b).

Childhood: Characteristics and Therapeutic Interventions

Childhood is the first stage. In Jung's view, children are ruled by primitive urges and desires, and it is the role of the parents to discipline children and to help them individuate and develop their personality. He took a family perspective when it came to problems in childhood. Jung believed that people develop "complexes" in response to problems in the family. Rather than treat a child, he would treat the entire family (Jung, 1928/1954b). Although Jung believed that children were unique individuals who entered the world with their own unique inherited, collective unconscious, he also recognized that some children were more impressionable than others and were more affected by the character of their parents, the culture, and environmental influences (Frankel, 1998).


Adolescence ranges from childhood to early adulthood. This spans the time in which young people are making educational plans, creating intimate relationships, and choosing careers. Jung believed that each person has ways of dealing with the outside world. For example, how one relates to oneself and others has to do with where one falls on the introversion-extraversion continuum. Adolescence is a period when individuals are discovering their personality characteristics and persona and reconciling it with parental and societal expectations. Wickes (1927) interpreted this as the parents' unconscious impinging on the child's developing psyche. This is evidenced when parents impose their fears and phobias on their children. Likewise, they may superimpose their hopes and dreams on their children and live vicariously through their achievements. For example, American parents attend sporting events wearing their child athlete's jersey number and drive home in cars displaying bumper stickers touting pride in their child's athletic and academic accomplishments. Some parents welcome the changes that come to the family when children enter adolescence. Others deny the changes and restrict their children as if they were toddlers. Children in these families may complain that their parents "don't want them to grow up." Others parents join in their children's youthful energy and are their children's "best friend," competing with them for attention and becoming overly involved with their children's friends (Frankel, 1998).

Middle Age

In contrast with Freud, who focused on early childhood, and Erikson, who put equal emphasis on development across the entire life span, Jung focused on experiences and development in middle age. This developmental stage marked the point in Jung's life when he himself went through a period of self-examination and in-depth psychoanalysis. Jung believed that this is the stage when people naturally reexamine their lives, goals, and accomplishments. Jung was particularly interested in the problems encountered by middle- aged adults. For example, he examined issues associated with people who refuse to face adult responsibilities (the eternal child; Sharf, 2008).

Old Age

Jung believed that when people enter old age, they become more reflective of their life experiences and in touch with their unconscious. He thought this was the time full of end- of-life issues such as mortality and the legacy left behind. He believed that people continue to develop across their life span.

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