Successful and Unsuccessful Maturity Growth
Welcome to Part 2 in my blog series on psychological maturity. In Part 1, psychological maturity was defined as well as explained. In this post, I hope to enhance your understanding of this concept by focusing on the goals of the maturity process as well as what happens when those goals are not accomplished.
Reiterating from Part 1, psychological maturity is the result of the natural and healthy process that individuals go through when their needs are met at various developmental levels over the life span. People who pass successfully through a maturity stage will have grown in terms of the way they perceive themselves, relate to others, and understand/interact with the world around them (1). According to Wilder and colleagues (2) in the Life Model developmental model presented in the book Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You, an adult who passes through each developmental stage will become fully functioning psychologically according to the perfect design of the human brain.
Neurological development, as outlined in each Life Model stage, involves transitioning through infancy, childhood, adulthood, parenthood and eldership. The growth through the maturity stages is hierarchical, meaning that we must fully accomplish the tasks at each stage of development in order to completely pass to the next level of maturity (5). Listed below are the primary tasks to be completed at each stage as well as the primary resulting problem that appears in adulthood when the related task is not completed:
- Infant Stage: Birth Through Age 3
- Primary Task – Learning to Receive
- If Task Not Completed – Weak and Stormy Relationships in Adulthood
- Child Stage: Age 4 Through 12
- Primary Task – Taking Care of Self
- If Task Not Completed – Not Taking Responsibility for Self in Adulthood
- Adult Stage: Age 13 to Birth of First Child
- Primary Task -Taking Care of Two People Simultaneously
- If Task Not Completed – Lacking the Capacity to be in Mutually Satisfying Relationships in Adulthood
- Parent Stage: Birth of First Child Until Youngest Child is an Adult
- Primary Task – Sacrificially Taking Care of Children
- If Task Not Completed – Distant or Conflicted Family Relationships in Adulthood
- Elder Stage: Beginning when the Youngest Child Has Become and Adult
- Primary Task – Sacrificially Taking Care of the Community
- If Task Not Completed – The Overall Maturity of the Community Declines (2)
We can see from the information above that there is a smooth and healthy design for maturity development. When an infant or child has his/her emotional and physical needs met by parents and caregivers, he or she has a solid foundation for the growth to continue unhindered throughout the remainder of their lifespan. Can you think of someone you know who is living with a fully developed human brain in elder level maturity? If you have had the privilege of observing one of these incredible human beings, you will notice the feeling of being safe, protected, inspired and motivated in his or her presence. The opposite is true when you are around an individual who is the age of a human who should be in elder level maturity but has gaps in the infant and child level. This person leaves others feeling dissatisfied, discouraged, and in certain situations, terrified because elder aged people who have the maturity level of an infant are often abusive to others.
Unfortunately, it is rare to meet an individual who has attained full elder-level maturity growth. According to Coursey (3), three-quarters of men are likely stuck in infant level maturity while three-quarters of women are hindered in the child stage. When you are able to encounter a true elder, you will see this individual acting stable even in intense conflict, modeling an ability to stay consistent in the expression of their healthiest self, parenting the community by seeing and encouraging the unique individuality in all members, and going as far as bringing community members into his or her personal life to mentor and help shape them in terms of their own psychological maturity (2).
According to the Life Model, an important phenomenon to be careful of during the maturity process is pseudo-maturity. Pseudo-maturity is the experience of having some ability to function at the adult, parent or elder level of maturity until a difficult situation arises (3). Maturity gaps can be seen in one’s inability to return to a relational mindset when a strong negative emotion surfaces. If our parents did not model for us returning to joy (or soothing their disposition during a hard time) from anger, fear, sadness, etc, we won’t have the skill to stay relational during upsetting circumstances either. “Mature people can return to a state of calm” (4) from intense emotions. Maturity causes us to see people as more important than problems, or relationships as more important than problems, and helps us to respond effectively in interpersonal conflict.
The above information shows us that a person can physically grow older yet be stuck in a lower-level stage of maturity. Because “the majority of our [American] population probably operates at the infant or child level of maturity” (2), the way that most of us relate to others and understand and interact with the world is impaired. “This reality becomes evident when you look at our broken marriages, abused and neglected children, high levels of violence, and substance abuse and sexual addiction problems” (2). This lack of growth in our American culture creates a sense of “meaninglessness, disorder, loss of direction and disintegration of all social structures from government to family.” (2) Our communities are unable to grow because there is no one to care for those who are at risk. When immature people are leading our communities and nation, there are detrimental consequences as their concerns are more for their own benefit than the benefit of the whole. “Poverty, violence, crisis, crime and mental disorders” (2) increase because there are no individuals who care enough to displace their own comforts in order to make the world a better place.
Maturity growth is essential to a successful and thriving human experience for everyone. Lack of maturity growth has detrimental consequences on all areas of life. The goal of each human is to find a way to fill in their own psychological maturity gaps in order to get to elder level maturity and help our communities, nation and world heal. This is a difficult task, yet it is so worth the effort. The human brain is the most incredible gift each of us has been given. It is incredible that the brain, like the body, can recover from malfunctions! How encouraging that we have the opportunity to grow beyond the negative things that happened to us. Now, in my next blog installment, Part 3 of this series, I will outline how to make up for unsuccessful maturity gaps, something that I imagine you’ve been wondering about since Part 1. Don’t miss out on finishing this series and getting on the path to your own maturity growth!
1. Mouer, Monica. Psychological Maturity: Part 1. Defining Psychological Maturity. https://www.familytransformation.com/2021/06/05/psychological-maturity-part-1-defining-psychological-maturity/
2. Friesen, J.G., Wilder, E. J., Bierling, A. M., Koepcke, R.. Poole, M. (2013). Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House Inc
3. Coursey, C. M. (2016). Transforming Fellowship: 19 Brain Skills That Build Joyful Community. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House, Inc.
4. Wilder, E. J., Kang, A., Loppnow, J., Loppnow, S. (2015). Joyful Journey: Listening to Immanuel. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House Inc.
5. Wilder, E. J., Khouri, E. M., Coursey, C. M., Sutton, S. D. (2011). Joy Starts Here. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House Inc.