Significant trauma can cause PTSD, anxiety, grief, and depression at any age. But it can also have lasting effects even after a person has recovered. A childhood tragedy might lie dormant for many years until triggered by a similar event, person or reaction. Teenage disasters might cripple the growth of a budding adult leaving them perpetually immature. A catastrophe as an adult might spark a negative outcome of a mid-life crisis.

Understanding the overall impact of traumatic events at any age can help to identify areas of personal development that need to be addressed. Erik Eriksons Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development points out the positive and negative impact trauma can have on a persons life. This chart below serves as a summary of his theory. Here is some basic information to consider:

  • Everyone passes through all the stages as they age. However, the success of one stage is not necessarily dependent on previous stages.
  • The important events are guidelines only and not inclusive.
  • The significant relations are generalities and can be different based on family structure.
  • Each stage has the potential for achieving either a virtue or maladaptation. For instance, the virtue of Hope is formed when Trust overrides Mistrust. The maladaptation of Withdraw is formed when Mistrust overrides Trust.
  • Trauma during any stage can cause a person to become stuck in that stage. And healing from a stage can occur any time after the stage is completed.

StageAgeImportant EventsSignificant RelationsGeneral CharacteristicsVirtueMaladaptation
Trust vs. MistrustBirth 1 yearFeedingMaternalAre my parents trustworthy?HopeWithdraw
Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt1 3 yearsToilet


PaternalCan I do things


Initiative vs. Guilt3 6 yearsExplorationBasic FamilyAm I good or bad?PurposeCruelty
Industry vs. Inferiority6 12 yearsSchoolSchoolAm I


Identity vs. Role Confusion12 18 yearsSocial


Peer GroupsWho am I?FidelityRadicalism
Intimacy vs. Isolation18 34 yearsIntimate Relation-shipsFriendships SpouseShall I share my life with someone or live alone?LovePromiscuity
Generativity vs. Stagnation34 64 yearsWork ParenthoodWork


Will I succeed in life?CareOverextension
Ego Integrity vs. Despair65 to deathReflection on LifeHumankindHave I lived a full life?WisdomDisdain

To explain the impact further, here is an example. A five year old child endures physical abuse at the hand of an alcoholic parent. The child believes the lie that if they behaved properly, then there would be no abuse. They feel guilty for making the parent upset and occasionally are cruel to a younger sibling. As an adult, they struggle with feeling overly responsible offset by intense frustration and rage.

Healing from the initial trauma of physical abuse can minimize the impact of guilt and cruelty without excessive therapy. This can transform a negative outcome of stage three into a positive result.

Identifying the traumas at each stage allows a person to see more clearly the lasting impact of long-term suffering. The good news is that things can get better and a person can recover.