Although we often consider that “life” is one thing we all experience, the truth is that there are some nuances that make each of us go through it in different ways. One of the factors that makes it change is the material context in which we live, such as the type of family we are born into, the money we have, the place we live, etc.
However, a no less important factor is the way our own body makes us live . And, in that sense, the passage of years and age makes us experience things differently.
Are there “life stages”?
That is why, for example, in the history of psychology many authors have proposed to classify stages of life , especially those that are part of one of its phases: childhood. Although each one defined his own criteria to decide where one ends and the other begins.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, defined different stages of psychosexual development, a theory closely related to his idea of the unconscious mind.Jean Piaget, in turn, laid the foundations of Evolutionary Psychology by establishing stages of cognitive development that go from childhood to adulthood.
But all these ideas are framed in a broader theoretical context that tells us about the stages of life in general, valuing both psychological and physical changes.
The different phases of life we go through
Next we will see which are the main stages of life that define how we behave , how we perceive reality and what our needs are.
While it is true that the boundaries of these stages are not very clear and it is debatable whether some begin or end earlier or later, there is relative consensus about what they are and how they occupy our lives.
1. Prenatal stage
Life begins before birth, and the prenatal stage is the one that includes the moments when one has not yet left the uterus . In that period we are already able to learn through touch and sound, that is, that the human brain already associates stimuli with adequate responses.
2. Early childhood
Early childhood begins at birth and ends around the age of 3 or 4 . It is the stage in which the most important steps are taken in the development of language and in addition the essential learning about how the world works and the movement of things takes place.
In addition, the use of language is starting to create increasingly abstract and complex concepts that will help to reach a deeper level of understanding about things.
3. Early childhood
This stage of life is the one that, more or less, goes from 3 to 6 years old ; that is why it is also defined as a preschool stage.
In this phase, one forms a self-concept and gains the ability to think about the mental states of others, either to intuit their intentions or to know what information they do not know. This ability is called theory of mind.
4. Middle childhood
Intermediate or school age children range from 6 to 11 years old . At this stage there is much progress in the ability to understand mathematical operations and the structure of complex sentences.
Similarly, the importance of having good relationships with others and giving a good image begins to gain weight, and inclusion in a group of friendships is also more valued.
Adolescence is from 11 to 17 years old . It is a crucial stage, since the capacity to think in abstract terms is consolidated and, in addition, hormonal changes occur that can produce a certain emotional lability.
Moreover, in adolescence the most intense part of the search for one’s identity takes place, and the social circles to which one wants to belong gain a lot of influence on the person.
6. Youth stage
This stage goes from approximately 18 to 35 years old . Here, the most lasting circles of friendship are consolidated and one learns to live with a high degree of independence, so that one is hardly dependent on one’s parents any more. Psychologically and biologically, physical and mental abilities also come to a head, and between the ages of 25 and 30 they begin to decline slightly.
7. Stage of maturity
Maturity ranges from 36 to 50 years . In this phase, the labour facet is consolidated and a specialisation is learnt that will allow the generation of income to live independently in most western countries.
On the other hand, expectations of change in one’s own life are becoming moderate and life goals are becoming more oriented towards stability.
8. Stage of Mature Adulthood
This phase goes from 50 to 65 years old . In this phase, it is usual to consolidate the level of income at levels that allow us to live better than before, but physical changes are produced that we must know how to manage. At the same time, the value of stability also increases.
9. Senior Citizens
The third age begins at 65 years of age , and in it a new independence is gained when the usual work obligations disappear and when the sons and daughters that one may have had leave.
In some cases this results in Empty Nest Syndrome, and exposure to grief is more frequent as family members of the same generation and friends die.