Critical Essay on the Bucket List Psychological Analysis

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Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erickson developed the psychosocial development theory that has eight stages following a person's life from the time they were born to the day they pass away. During each stage the person goes through, there are advantages and disadvantages that could shape and affect the individual's life. Each situation the individual goes through is of psychosocial nature because it involves the need of the individual which conflicts with the social needs (McLeod, 2018). For this case study, I interviewed my aunt named Felicita Brynelson-Garcia (who I call Aunt Fela) who is turning 66 on November 15 and is the sixth child out of seven. I explained what the interview was going to be about and what each stage entailed.

As we discussed the first stage of Erickson‘s theory which is Trust vs. Mistrust, I explained that it occurs from birth to the age of one and that as a baby there is no one to rely on other than the care of a giver such as a mother and that if she received care that was consistent and reliable she would develop a sense of trust which would carry on to other relationships. If this stage is successfully passed the individual will now have a basic strength of hope. Hope that as a new crisis arises there will be someone there to take on the responsibility of support (McLeod, 2018). If proper care was not positive she may become mistrusting, full of fear, and may become anxious. I asked my aunt Fela if she remembers her older siblings telling her that she cried so much as a baby, if her siblings took care of her, or if her mother (my grandma) did everything.

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My aunt Fela told me that even though there were seven children and her being the sixth one, her mother took care of her because she didn’t work. My aunt told me that her mother believed it was her job to take care of each and every child of hers; not the sibling's responsibility. With my grandmas' mindset, I believed she played a vital role in my aunt successfully putting her trust in her mother who stayed consistent and reliable.

Stage two of the theory is Autonomy vs. Doubt and Shame. I explained to my aunt that it occurs during the ages of one-year-old to three years old and during this stage, she might have been focused on controlling her personal and physical skills; and may have developed a sense of independence. The skills include holding on, letting go, toilet training, putting on shoes, and toy playing (McLeod, 2018). I told my aunt if she was supported by her parents during this stage she will develop a high sense of self-esteem and confidence, however, if she wasn’t she may become doubtful of her abilities and depend on others too much. If she successfully passed she will have the basic strength of will. After explaining, I asked if she remembered anything from that age and she told me that, because she was the sixth child out of seven there were already toys to play with, no new ones. She told me that my grandma chose the toys she played with. For instance, my aunt played with dolls while her younger brother would play outside in the dirt or with action figures. The food she ate was already made for her and mentioned the children never got to choose what they wanted to eat and if they didn’t want what was cooked, then my grandma would say “Then you’re not really hungry”. My aunt mentioned that her clothes would be picked out for her already and told me a story about how she once put her shirt on backward; I stopped and asked her if she got supported or yelled at for that. My aunt Fela said that her mom just laughed and said “That’s why I help you guys”. Fela told me she didn’t feel like she wasn’t supported or encouraged, it was just there were seven of them and my grandma didn’t have time to praise them for every little thing they did. My aunt told me that she didn’t doubt or shame herself for her actions at that age because she didn’t see her mother praise or reward any of her other brothers and sisters, so she didn’t know if there was a difference.

Stage three of the psychosocial development theory is Initiative vs. Guilt which occurs between the ages of three and five. I explained to my aunt that during this stage is when she would have established a sense of assertiveness with others and a significant part of this period is connecting with other children. This would have allowed her to explore skills through initiating playing activities, and if she succeeded in this stage she would have a basic strength of purpose. I told her that she would be seen arranging or making plans and creating new games with other children or even her siblings. Her parents may have even thought her behavior was aggressive (McLeod, 2018). Fela told me that back then kids were to be seen not heard. So my aunt never really got to explore her knowledge because she was taught it was disrespectful to talk when the elders when speaking. My aunt told me she remembers being aggressive whenever she would play at this age range with kids from school and siblings at home. She would make decisions on what toys she wanted to play with and what game she wanted to make up so the others could follow along. I asked my aunt if her parents supported that behavior and she said “Of course not, they got upset with me and told me to share, but I never understood why because my younger brother had his own toys to play with”. I asked Fela if her parent’s authority made her feel guilty, and she said no because she was logically thinking “I had the toy first so I don’t know why I had to share”.

The fourth stage of psychosocial development deals with Industrious vs. Inferiority and occurs between the ages of six through 11 years old. I explained to my aunt Fela that during this stage children are becoming more social and interacting with others and because of this develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities (Cherry, 2019). I told my aunt that her self-esteem would have relied on the individuals she surrounded herself with. If she was supported and encouraged in her abilities she would have been competent and felt confident in herself and what she can do. However, if she received no recognition or support from her parents or others, she would have felt inferior like she could not perform those skills and abilities which would hinder her potential. My aunt told me during this age range she used to participate in the school’s “field day” where they would compete against classmates in track events. She mentioned that none of her family would go to watch her but she said it didn’t affect her because her parents would never let any of the children go out and do anything; so this was her time of freedom. In class, however, she told me that she would do really well and felt proud of herself because she was the fastest at flash cards and the teacher would say “Let’s see who can beat Felicita today”. She said academics was beneficial for her sense of competence because she was getting encouraged by her teacher in class and whenever she would take a good grade home her mother would say a good job, however, she told me that good grades were expected of all the siblings for my grandparents. The closest to my aunt's age was her younger brother Rene and she told me they were always trying to one-up each other. If my aunt felt like her younger brother was getting more of the encouragement and attention she told me she would feel upset. She told me whenever she felt upset with her brother over that, she would not play with him or beat him up. However, she would always protect him; she played the cliche big sister role saying she was the only one who could treat or say stuff to her brother.

Stage five of the theory is Identity Cohesion vs. Role Confusion which occurs between the ages of 12 through 18. I explained to my aunt Fela that during this stage she would have been trying to figure out who she is or think about who she was wanting to be. This would have dealt with education, employment, beliefs, and exploring her own personal values. I told my aunt if she successfully passed this stage she would have the virtue of fidelity, which is the ability to live by society’s standards and expectations (Cherry, 2019). If she did not think about discovering who she was or wanted to be in life this may have caused her to have a crisis in her identity.

During this stage, my aunt told me that the only views on life she knew were her parents. She told me that my grandparents made her conform to their lifestyle. She wasn’t allowed to go out or do anything a normal teenager does. I asked if the person she thought she was then is the same person she is now and she said “Oh most definitely not”. This is because she felt her parents were ignorant about certain topics and an important one being sex. She felt like there was no trust. I asked her if she did anything during that age to make her parents not trust her and she said “No they just didn’t want us to do anything because they would have to go and support, and some of the things we wanted to do was difficult with seven kids because we didn’t have a lot of money”.

My aunt felt like she couldn’t do most of the things she liked or took an interest in because of her parents. Fela thinks some of those factors hindered her development in the sense of discovering who she was or wanted to be because she wasn’t able to explore the world. My aunt told me she left at 18 because she was motivated to find out what life was like without rules and she thought this is where she would find out who she truly was without the judgment of peers, friends, and family.

Stage six of the psychosocial development theory is Intimacy vs. Isolation and occurs between the ages of 18 and 35. I explained to my aunt Fela that it was significantly important for people to develop close and committed relationships with people because those who succeed at this stage will develop the basic strength of love and will be able to feel endured and secure (Cherry, 2019). I asked my aunt about this stage of her life because this is where you slowly realize who you are and where you might find love. If you are unable to be intimate with another you may end up unaccompanied and secluded from the world. My aunt told me that she didn’t give away her innocence until she was 18, which is pretty old in today’s society. She thought she was in love with her first, but she discovered he was just a learning experience to discover who she was and realized she only did it in a sense to spite her parents because they never talked about that topic and didn’t trust her. My aunt told me that building intimate relationships wasn’t just with boys; she said you can have some friends that you care deeply for and be intimate with them. She told me she was able to form relationships with people because they were so different from what she was used to. She loved learning and hearing what everyone was about. Whether it was their favorite movie, book, music, or even food. When she did find the love of her life she told me she had a forever best friend and said it was love at first sight. My aunt Fela told me it’s different from now a days because when you found the one back then they were the “one”. My aunt Fela married at the age of 20 and waited to have kids for six years; she wanted to have fun with married life because a kid is a serious commitment and responsibility. She had her son at the age of 27 and her daughter at the age of 33. She didn’t feel isolated or lonely because she felt everyone gravitated toward her and was easy to talk to because she was so understanding and attentive toward others.

Stage seven of the theory is Generativity vs. Stagnation which occurs between the ages of 35 and 55. I explained that this stage is kind of like leaving your mark on the world whether it was through what you did for a living, your kids, or what you did for society. Successfully passing this stage would allow one to feel accomplished and failure may lead to the individual feeling like they didn’t do enough or valueless. During this stage, my aunt told me she felt very accomplished. She had a bucket list of jobs she wanted to pursue and was able to cross off most of them on her list. She raised her kids to the best of her ability and I personally think she did a great job. Her son is an officer in the United States Air Force and her daughter is a nurse. My aunt worked for her hometown newspaper and volunteered her time by being the photographer for school and town events. My aunt still works as a home provider for the elderly and I ask why she hasn’t retired and she told me “I don’t have to retire I can work as long as I want to”. My aunt is so hard working it’s inspiring, her dream job which is on the top of her bucket list is to work at Disney World. I laugh because she always tells me, “I don’t care if I’m sweeping up trash as long as I’m in the presence of the magic”.

The last stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development theory is Ego Integrity vs. Despair which occurs at the age of 55 and up. I explained to my aunt that this stage is about reflecting on her life. If she reflects and says she is content with every decision and action she has taken then she has passed with integrity and gained wisdom, however, if she feels the opposite and has regrets, she may feel that her life was spent wastefully and will be left feeling despaired. My aunt told me as she looks back on life, the only regret she has is not joining the military because she loves to travel. However, she feels very accomplished with her job, kids, and her life. My aunt tells me there is still so much life to live and she says 65 is still young. In her words “You’re only as old as you feel and right now I feel good”. My aunt Fela feels content with life, and told me “Yes I’ve made mistakes but life is full of mistakes. It’s what you do after you’ve made one… now that’s the real test”.

Erikson’s Development Theory is important in understanding not only an individuals personality but their story. Each stage has its own pros and cons that can explain why an individual might be, act, or behave a certain way. Each pro and con can affect the individual but with the support and encouragement from others and discovering that it is okay to make mistakes we can become who are supposed to be and look back on life with no regrets.


  1. Cherry, K. (2019, September 5). Understanding Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved from development-2795740.
  2. McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 03). Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology.
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Critical Essay on the Bucket List Psychological Analysis. (2023, July 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from
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