Impacts of Childhood Experiences on Adulthood

Topic: Developmental Psychology
Words: 1203 Pages: 4


Childhood experiences are crucial in determining an individual’s adulthood and social behaviors. Children who are born in violent communities are likely to exhibit anti-social or criminal behaviors. Individuals who are born into families that prioritize values and ethical behaviors are likely to become good members of society. Lifespan and development are shaped by social factors that may negatively or positively shape personal behaviors. Erik Erikson is one of the theorists who believed that personality develops from one’s childhood through different stages of psychosocial development. Meanwhile, Lawrence Kohlberg helped explain the changes in individual morality. The different personality changes that are exhibited during an individual’s adulthood are explained by Erikson’s psychosocial and Kohlberg’s moral development theories.

Lifespan and Developmental Psychology Theories

Erik Erikson and Lawrence Kohlberg are some of the greatest psychologists and theorists that helped explain the causes of behavioral change as an individual progresses from childhood to adulthood. Lifespan and developmental theories explain why individuals exhibit behavioral and cognitive differences based on their childhood experiences. Erik Erikson developed the theory of psychosocial development that explores how social interactions influence an individual’s behaviors. According to Erik Erikson, people undergo different stages as they advance into adulthood. The early stages that are crucial for children are trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, and industry versus inferiority. The four stages take place between birth and twelve years of a child, and may negatively or positively impact their adulthood.

While Erik Erikson’s theory focuses on social interactions, Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory is centered around morality. Moral reasoning is crucial for human social interactions since it helps differentiate right from wrong (Killen & Dahl, 2021). According to Lawrence Kohlberg, moral development occurs in a series of six stages (Nainggolan & Naibaho, 2022). During the pre-conventional morality stage, up to nine years, children make decisions based on adults’ expectations. Additionally, they develop moral consciousness based on the punishments meted on them upon breaking the rules. Although Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory is used to explain moral choices among children that may affect their adulthood, moral reasoning does not equal moral behavior (Goldschmidt et al., 2021). The psychosocial and moral development theories help explain how childhood experiences can affect adulthood.

Childhood Experiences Impacts on Lifespan

Children are vulnerable, and will often conform to social and moral standards set by their environment. The psychosocial theory helps in explaining how children gain social behaviors as they progress to adulthood (Barringer & Savage, 2022). While some of the behaviors positively influence children’s social interactions, some make them negative about their society and those around them. Meanwhile, moral reasoning determines an individual’s actions and inactions as they interact with other members of society. An individual’s moral perception is significantly shaped during childhood, and they express similar behaviors in adulthood (Barringer & Savage, 2022). Therefore, childhood experiences can either positively or negatively influence an individual’s moral and social behaviors.

Positive Childhood Experiences

Children’s behaviors are shaped by various social interactions as they progress into adulthood. According to the psychosocial theory of development, the main influences are certain occasions when children encounter others and how they are dealt with (Killen & Dahl, 2021). The social occurrence that is influential to children’s behaviors does not take place until they are sexually mature (Killen & Dahl, 2021). Children who are born in a family where the parents prohibit drug abuse, such as consumption of alcohol and cigarette smoking, are likely to avoid such actions during adulthood (Nainggolan & Naibaho, 2022). Additionally, during the trust versus mistrust stage, children need consistency and friendly care that promote effective relationships, which they carry on to their adulthood.

Meanwhile, positive moral reasoning is shaped in children in various stages according to Kohlberg’s theory of moral development (Nainggolan & Naibaho, 2022). During the pre-conventional stage, children develop moral behaviors according to the expectations of adults around them (Nainggolan & Naibaho, 2022). A child born in a Christian background will adopt values that are consistent with adult Christian teaching (Barringer & Savage, 2022). For instance, adults may warn children from stealing and hurting others. Consequently, they may avoid similar behaviors when they become adults. Other positive moral behaviors that children may carry on to adulthood include helping others, respecting other people, and being kind to other members of society. Positive moral reasoning and social behaviors among children impact their adulthood.

Negative Childhood Experiences

Some children are subjected to toxic family backgrounds that negatively influence their social interactions and moral reasoning. Negative environments include violent families and interactions with individuals who are drug addicts. The psychosocial theory suggests that children will exhibit behaviors as influenced by adults around them. Therefore, if a child is born in a family where drug abuse and violence are common, they will tend to be insecure with the people around them. As they progress into adulthood, they may develop anti-social behaviors that are detrimental to their personal growth and those around them. Goldschmidt et al. (2021) Parents can help their children avoid anti-social behaviors that affect their adulthood by encouraging social interactions and being kind to them.

Psychological Interventions to Negative Experiences

Negative childhood experiences can be detrimental to personal and social development when they become adults. Individuals who have anti-social behaviors and criminal minds are detrimental to the society. However, various psychological interventions can be adopted to reduce and manage the undesirable impacts. Behavioral therapy can be used to positively change harmful behaviors caused by childhood experiences. Additionally, the therapy can help individuals understand their essence, and positively contribute to social growth. Rehabilitation can help those who are indulged in drug abuse and other addictive behaviors. Although negative childhood experiences can ruin adult life, the situation can be reversed through psychological interventions.

Criticism of the Lifespan and Developmental Theories’ Application

Although the psychosocial and moral development theories explain childhood behaviors that influence adulthood, they fail in two significant ways. The two theories are solely based on the behaviors of adults who are around the children’s lifespan. The theories fail to explain the influences of individuals from external environments. For instance, although some children are born into violent families, they embrace other people such as musicians, politicians, and global leaders who have gone through such hardships but made it in life. Consequently, the children become something opposite to their childhood experiences when adults. Additionally, the theories fail to consider personal choices that may influence behavioral change in children as they become adults. Individuals may develop an inner motivation not to be influenced by their negative childhood experiences. Therefore, childhood experiences do not solely determine who a child will be when an adult.


Social factors during childhood can shape their adult lives since they carry on some behaviors throughout their lifespan. The psychosocial and moral development theories help explain how children adopt some behaviors that are crucial for determining their adulthood. While the psychosocial theory focuses on social factors, the moral development theory explores children’s moral reasoning as influenced by adults around them. The positive or negative behaviors gained during childhood can affect adulthood life. Behavioral therapy and rehabilitation can be adopted to reduce the impact of negative childhood experiences on adults. Parents and other caregivers should ensure that their interactions and behaviors positively influence children.


Barringer, M. N., & Savage, B. (2022). Societal inputs, religious outputs, and young adults: A cross-cohort analysis of attitudes toward same-sex relations and civil liberties for gays and lesbians. Review of Religious Research. Web.

Goldschmidt, L., Langa, M., Alexander, D., & Canham, H. (2021). A review of Kohlberg’s theory and its applicability in the South African context through the lens of early childhood development and violence. Early Child Development and Care, 191(7-8), 1066–1078. Web.

Killen, M., & Dahl, A. (2021). Moral reasoning enables developmental and societal change. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(6), 1209–1225. Web.

Nainggolan, M. M., & Naibaho, L. (2022). The integration of Kohlberg moral development theory with education character. Technium Social Sciences Journal, 31, 203–212. Web.

This essay was written by a student and submitted to our database so that you can gain inspiration for your studies. You can use it for your writing but remember to cite it accordingly.

You are free to request the removal of your paper from our database if you are its original author and no longer want it to be published.

Brain Development, Nutrition & Physical Activities
Aspects of Adolescent Development