Robert Havighurst proposed that learning is a basic concept and skill that is natural to the human condition. It is a process that doesn’t stop throughout the entire life of an individual. The Havighurst theory suggests that human development can be separated into six separate and distinct stages.
1. Infancy and Early Childhood
During this initial development stage, humans learn the basics of what it takes to survive in the world. People learn to walk, talk, and gain control over their bodies. This includes learning about gender differences, being able to eat solid foods, and controlling how waste is eliminated from the body.
Infancy and early childhood is also the time when initial language concepts are discovered. Children at this stage begin to realize their physical reality and can describe basic social concepts, such as friendship.
During this stage, Havighurst also suggests that humans are preparing their minds to be able to read one day.
2. Middle Childhood
During this development stage, children begin to learn basic physical skills. These can be used for playing games, vocational skills, or social interactions. There is a growing awareness of the self and a “wholesome” attitude toward what is seen in the reflection.
At this time, children find ways to get along with peers who are of a similar age. They begin learning gender-based roles in the society and refine the skills needed for reading, writing, and basic mathematics. There is a development of the concepts needed for dialing living activities, personal independence, and attitudes toward different social groups or institutions.
This development stage is also where humans begin to develop their sense of morality, their value scales, and their conscience.
At this stage, people seek to create relationships that have a mature quality to them. Gender-based roles for the society are achieved and there is a gradual acceptance of one’s personal physique and how to use it to their advantage. An emotional independence from the family is achieved.
During this development stage, there is a movement toward planning out the aspects of one’s life. A priority is set on defining what will be desired in a future companion, which may include marriage. Family life becomes a priority on a group level instead of on an individualized level.
Preparing for a career is part of this stage as well. Individuals will set ethical values for themselves to guide their behavior and create an ideology that can lead them toward their goals. The overall mission of this stage is to discover, desire, and then achieve behaviors that would be considered socially responsible.
4. Early Adulthood
This is the stage of development that is commonly referred to as “settling down.” A mate will be selected and people learn to live with their desired partner. A family may be started and raising children becomes a priority. The focus of this stage is ultimately to create and then manage a loving home environment.
There will also be an emphasis on furthering one’s career while looking for volunteer, civic, or political responsibilities. Many will seek to find a welcoming social group that reinforces the comfort that is hopefully being experienced at home.
5. Middle Age
This developmental stage is about establishing an economic standard of living and then being able to maintain it. Children are generally in their teen years at this stage, which gives parents a priority in shaping their perspectives during their own developmental stages.
Leisure activities become adult-orientated instead of kid-orientated. Civic and social responsibility is achieved. Relationships involve one’s spouse or partner just as much as they involve personal attitudes. There are adjustments made for the physical and psychological changes of middle age while a transition to becoming a parental caregiver is often required.
6. Later Maturity
In this stage, people encounter a decreasing level of strength and personal health. Retirement activities become a priority, with many needing to adjust to a lower level of monthly income. Some may eventually need to cope with the death of a partner or spouse.
There is a priority during this stage to join specific affiliations that are associated with age, such as the AARP. Changing civil and social obligations occur as there is a greater need to accept the help of a caregiver as time moves on.
At some point, developing a satisfactory physical living arrangement becomes necessary. This arrangement may require evolving supports as an individual continues to age.
The Havighurst theory shows that as time passes, each person goes through specific development tasks that complete them as an individual. By recognizing each stage, it becomes easier to support each person in what they’re attempting to accomplish.