Erikson's stages of psychosocial development provides a central framework for attempting to define some the major changes in social behavior that take place at various points throughout one's life. In his theory, Erikson proposed eight stages that range from infancy into late adulthood. Along with the stages, he included a psychosocial crisis requiring resolution if/when a person is to move from one stage to the next. Although these stages indicate that it is only appropriate for that particular age group, these stages represent guidelines because individual and cultural difference must be taken into consideration. "Successful resolution of a crisis will depend on how a particular culture views the crisis, the sequence in which a particular stage occurs, and the solution evolving from it" (Gardiner & Kosmitzki, 2008, p. 38). If the other seven psychosocial crises have been successfully resolved, the mature adult develops the peak of adjustment. Erikson believed that this stage involves much reflection. As older adults, some can look back with a feeling of integrity that is, contentment and fulfillment, having led a meaningful life and valuable contribution to society. Others may have a sense of despair during this stage, reflecting upon their experiences and failures. They may fear death as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives. People who "resolved" the crisis are less likely to make it through that particular stage. My general hypothesis is that the elderly of rural Tanzania will demonstrate a higher level of preponderance (superiority in power or influence) and stereotyping towards individuals in the community based on the levels of integrity and despair (of the elderly). I will be using a longitudinal study; a form of research where the group of subjects is studied over an extended period of time. For this particular study, observations will be made every month for six months. These observations will be made observers in the town market (one of the most populated areas). The population sample that I will be using is a group (about 25) of late adulthood (defined by Erikson) individuals. In defining stereotyping, it is a commonly held belief about specific social groups, or types of individuals. When performing the study, the observers will be monitoring the amount of verbal cues (insults, threatening remarks) and non-verbal cues (body language, avoiding certain individuals). If elderly individuals are experiencing integrity, then they will be less likely to stereotype. However, if they are experiencing more despair, then they may be more likely to stereotype individuals. Given the above conclusions, some possible interpretations are that the elderly individuals may not stereotype any more than anyone else. Also, in studying the theory, the stages represent Western ideals; this could promote ethnocentrism. The theory should reflect ideals of all cultures. An example of this is looking at individualist cultures vs. collectivist cultures. In Western cultures and societies, stereotyping could have an entirely different meaning than in collectivist cultures and societies. In thinking about social practices, the elderly may be teaching their children and grandchildren to have biases and stereotypes towards other individuals. Grandparents serve as the prime model for a grandchild, and the child will echo the words and actions of their grandparents. If grandparents are not careful, they may say or do something that will be misinterpreted by the child and therefore projected negatively within the community. The domain I want to explain is the social cognitive domain. Social cognition is the encoding, storage, retrieval, and processing of information relating to members of the same species. When individuals of a particular culture share the same main beliefs, this information can help define this culture and make it unique. Relating back to integrity and despair, if individuals have a positive perspective and outlook on life, this image will be portrayed to others and they will look to them for guidance and wisdom. However, if individuals have a more negative perspective and outlook on life, this will not reflect well with the community.
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