6 Stages of Human Development and Growth

Learning the following six stages of human development and growth, synthesized from Maslow and Kohlberg, will help you understand your deeper developmental needs and what to do when.

Before reading about the adult stages of human development and growth, consider the following two points:

1. Stages of human development and growth come from developmental psychology. This psychology makes broader generalizations, so open your mind to thinking in terms of patterns over decades of time.

This is very different than considering individual emotions and goals, as is done in most personal development training and therapy.

2. The primary principle involved in the stages of human development and growth is that certain things in life can only be learned with age and experience. When two teenagers decide to get married, they have no idea what they are in for and you can’t tell them, either. They just have to go through it, come out the other side of their learning curve, look back and then they get it.

There is no technique in the world that can give them what they are missing: life experience. Life experience takes time. As we go through life, if we are willing to take responsibility for ourselves and learn as much as we can along the way, we will develop maturity and character.

However, it is not a given. The passing of time does not necessarily lead to growth, but it is necessary to grow for those so inclined.

The reason why we need to understand the human developmental stages is to know what to do when.

When we have a broad understanding of the stages of human development, we know where we are in life. We know which goals are appropriate for which stage of development and which needs to satisfy. We also understand what not to worry about.

When communicating with people or helping others grow and develop, you can know which goals are realistic and appropriate for their level of growth and development.

It all begins with understanding the developmental model and learning to apply it to people.

stages of human development and growth

Following is a synopsis of what happens at each of six stages of human development and growth. Our purpose here is to apply this to adults, starting around age 18-20. This is not a child development model.

All ages are considered psychological, not chronological, as developmental lag (not acting your age) is a universal phenomenon.

Dependency: How do I survive?

Human Development Level I (pre-adult). There are not many adults living at level one. This is a state of high dependency, like a child. A level one adult cannot take care of himself well. Can’t keep a job. Doesn’t have much social skill. There are people at level one and they are most concerned with where their next meal is coming from and what is happening today. They don’t plan for the future. They aren’t proactive. The key word that applies to them is extreme dependency.

Personal Power: How do I establish myself in the world?

Human Development Level 2 (age 20-30). Most adults start out at level two. The challenges of life are how to get by and become a viable person. Primary concerns are establishing oneself in the world, which means getting ahead, getting an education, making money, making connections, competing for a place in society.

Because of their needs for certainty and viability, Level II people are concerned with power, self and other control, right and wrong and winning/losing. This is a high anxiety time in life and the challenges are great. Most personal empowerment books and seminars are designed, consciously or unconsciously, to address Level II needs.

Belonging: Where do I fit in?

Human Development Level 3 (age 30-35). Once the need for viability in the world is met, we tend to relax a little and focus on more social needs, like belonging. We tend to reach out and get involved in the community. We may be raising a family at this point, so we want to be more involved. Kids may lead us to greater involvement in church, schools and other families. Or, since we are less concerned with money, competition and the dog eat dog world (having won many battles and satisfied much of the need) we want to reach out to others and find out where we belong.

Level 3 is a time for being socially concerned. We may tend to seek others’ approval or catering to social expectations. We find our place in the world through the back and forth process of reaching out to others and receiving feedback.

Deep Self-Awareness: What is really important to me?

Human Development Level 4 (ages 35-45). Once we are viable in the world and know where we belong, we are ready to explore our identity at a deeper level. We are free to begin to question what is really important in life. This leads us to discover our values.

Our values may be different that our parents’ values, or they may be the same. We may find we value things that our friends don’t value. This is often a period of introspection, though it commonly leads to a personal crisis. We’ve worked hard. We’ve joined in and played the game. Now, we want to know what really is important to us. We’ve lived half of our lives. For what? What really matters?

Discover what is really important sets us apart from the crowd and at level four we become less concerned about what other people think. Our identity finally becomes clear. We know what we value, even if it doesn’t comply with social expectations. As a result, as we progress, we often become more selective in how we socialize.

Life Mission: What is my purpose?

Human Development Level 5 (age 45-65). After a longer period of mature introspection and values clarification, we are prepared to fully comprehend and embrace the purpose of our life.

At this point, we are viable, comfortable with where we belong and we know what is most important in life. This is an ideal situation in which to identify and expand our mission.

From here on, the level of focus on what matters most is extraordinarily high. We are filled with the kind of purpose that can only come from years of paying our dues.


Human Development Level 6 (age 65+). Having successfully met so many critical developmental milestones over the course of a lifetime, we now enter in a rare, self-actualized state of being in which we basically are at peace with ourselves. We feel at home in our bodies, comfortable in our own skin. We are beyond internal strife and conflict, beyond any need for social approval and content with out lot in life.

We enjoy who we have become and are able express ourselves genuinely and with honesty. In spite of our acceptance and enjoyment of life, we understand and accept our ultimate passing.

iNLP Center Staff
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