Each stage of personality development is accompanied by its own challenges. It seems from the moment of conception to the time we have breathed our last, it is a never-ending sequence of events to overcome and master.
I have an image in my head constantly of a piece of marble on a pedestal that is being hammered on by the sculptor. Each blow of the hammer on the chisel chips away another unneeded piece of marble. The artist is not so much chipping away as he is removing the obstacles to the inner beauty that lies within the marble. Eventually the intended work of art is released from its confines and we get to view the created work.
I think that personality development happens in this same manner. Environmental influences come in the form of family of origin, education, mentors, teachers, associates, friends, cultural dynamics, sociocultural factors, and others. The experiences of pain, suffering, joy, elation, love, confusion, broken relationships and restored ones all place a different emphasis on our personalities and serve to mold us into the person we were intended to be. So, each stage of personality development is crucial and remains in an interactive state with each other stage of development. Each stage can be recognized by certain characteristics, but are also interchangeable.
Having said this, in my opinion there are two stages that appear to be of profound importance. The first is the prenatal phase and the last is the stage typically called the late adulthood stage or “old age.”
During any other stage of development the human can muster resources to overcome obstacles to growth. The prenatal phase puts the organism at the mercy of the mother, inherited biogenetics, and the relative healthy environment of the embryonic fluid. A woman’s mental condition, emotional equilibrium/disequilibrium, physical state, environment, level of stress, and a host of other factors can profoundly impact the fetus. A mother’s level of toxins, nutrition, and stress can even influence some genes to stop functioning completely.
The young life attempting to grow inside the mother is influenced by several factors while developing. Some of these are medications, radiation, pollutants, infectious diseases, antibiotics, antidepressants, hormones, diet pills, over-the-counter meds, caffeine, lead, pesticides, petrochemicals, carbon monoxide, mercury, PCP’s, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and other factors can profoundly influence the development of a fetus. The literature states that mothers who are experiencing a great deal of stress are four times more likely to deliver their babies prematurely.
Humans that are delivered prematurely are susceptible to low birth weights. Babies with low birth weights have been shown to be at risk for learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, and breathing issues. It is also clear that the actual delivery of the child may be influenced by the mother’s level of stress. The birth process is even stressful for the newborn child. Each contraction forces the new human out of the birth canal and into an unknown region of existence. Additional doses of adrenaline and noradrenaline are released to assist the child in overcoming the trauma of birth. In all of these areas, the child is at the mercy of the environment, the mother, the doctors who deliver and the attendants. This is a risky stage!
An elderly person is also at the mercy of several factors. Elderly people do not heal as quickly as others. Diseases are more advanced and less controllable by antibiotics or medicines. Various kinds of disorders, failures of body systems, diseases, mental states all become heightened in the elderly.
Coupled with these phenomena is the cultural tendency to disregard the psychological, emotional, and social needs of the elderly. Discrimination of the elderly is obvious and they are indeed and oppressed population. Along with advanced years may come increased loneliness, lack of purpose, depression, and loss of any significant transcendental meaning. All of these serve to cause a general malaise that can eventually lead to profound depression and possibly suicide.
Many times an elderly person is left to survive alone and live on a limited income that does not adequately supply necessary food, medicines, lodging, and opportunities for social interaction. Again, the elderly are at risk when diseases enter the picture. The onset of diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, hormonal imbalances, loss of memory, brain diseases, sleep disturbance, diminishment of eyesight, hearing loss and others all serve to limit the elderly.
It is possible that psychological disequilibrium and mental disorders may result from the onset of various physical diseases. Depression is evident in the lives of some elderly resulting from the loss of loved ones and general lack of wholeness of life. Peace and an overall sense of well being often does not accompany the elderly as many social, personal, and spiritual undergirdings have been removed by the ravages of time.
These two stages of personality development, prenatal and late adulthood find the human especially vulnerable. At any other stage, the person can use whatever devices they have, voice, intellect, social interaction, higher thought processes, and others to come to their aid. At these two stages, these may not be available.