Development task

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The development task is a task within the framework of the personal development and maturation of the human being, which, when mastered, leads to a change. The term refers to the idea that, in accordance with the internal and external processes that take place as we grow old, certain tasks must be solved at each age. If this succeeds, the personality is stabilized. The result can vary greatly from person to person, but also for individuals from development stage to development stage. Developmental tasks arise throughout life.

Change of development task

The formulation of development tasks is subject to change and depends on the integration into a culture and an age. There are other tasks when there is great need and z. B. Child labor is more widespread than in an affluent society , where it is possible for young people to spend a long time in training or to continue to be supported by their parents at home. In earlier times, the transitions from one stage of development to the next were accompanied by rituals more than today . The next stage of development was considered to have been reached when the associated ritual had been completed, regardless of whether personal maturity was also developed accordingly.

Development tasks according to Havighurst

The concept of development tasks was first defined by Robert J. Havighurst (1948). He assumes that in the course of his life an individual is faced with a wide variety of problems that need to be overcome. In the respective phases of life, special age-appropriate tasks arise, the accomplishment of which is influenced by various interacting factors (they have an additive or interact) effect. On the one hand, these are internal factors that lie in the nature of the human species, its individual disposition and person, and, on the other hand, external factors that lie in the physical, social or socially designed environment (technical: intrabiological, socio-cultural and psychological Influences).

  1. biological changes within the organism such as B. puberty or menopause
  2. Tasks set by society (e.g. in training or at work)
  3. general values, the pursuit of higher things and goals that the developing individual sets for himself.

Havighurst defines nine different phases of life to which he assigns different, age-appropriate development tasks. He assumes that there are periods within the life span that are most suitable for completing certain tasks (sensitive periods). They have to be mastered successfully to ensure human satisfaction. This does not mean that certain processes cannot be rescheduled for a later period. However, learning and development processes require significantly more effort after the sensitive period has ended. A failed attempt at coping can not only cause dissatisfaction, it can also lead to difficulties in coping with later tasks.

Age and development tasks using the example of Havighurst:

early childhood (0–2), childhood (2–4), school transition and early (5–7) and middle (6–12) school age, adolescence (13–17), youth (18–22), and early (23 –30), middle (31–50) and late (51 and over) adulthood .

To give a few examples:

Havighurst assigns the following tasks to the phases of adolescence and youth:
  • Gaining autonomy / detachment from parents
  • find one's own identity in the gender role
  • build your own system of morals and values
  • Develop your own future prospects and / or make a career choice
He assigns the following to early adulthood: marriage, the birth of children, coping with work and professional life and finding your own lifestyle .
In mid-adulthood, he focuses on running the home, raising the children, and pursuing a professional career.
Havighurst assigns later adulthood to directing energies into new roles, accepting one's own life, and developing an attitude towards death.

Development tasks according to Hurrelmann

The social scientist and educational scientist Klaus Hurrelmann developed Havighurst's approach further and placed it in a framework of socialization theory. Development tasks therefore describe, on the one hand, the expectations that the social and physical environment brings to a person. On the other hand, they name the requirements that result from the physical and psychological dynamics of personal development. If these tasks cannot be fulfilled, there is development pressure due to the comparison with peers. The so-called "productive processing" of the inner reality of body and psyche and the outer reality of the social and physical environment takes place in four dimensions according to his approach (see Hurrelmann and Bauer: Introduction to socialization theory , 2015, p. 108) :

1. Qualification: The training of the discipline and the intellectual and social skills in order to take on active activities which are personally gratifying and have a benefit for the common good. 2. Binding: The development of a self-image of body and mind in order to achieve one's own identity, and the ability to enter into fulfilling contacts with other people and a close bond with particularly loved ones. 3. Consumption: The development of psychological and social strategies for relaxation and regeneration and the ability to deal productively with business, leisure and media offers. 4. Participation: The development of a value orientation and the ability to actively participate politically in shaping living conditions.

In his book “Lebensphase Jugend” he transfers this approach to adolescence and comes to the following differentiation of developmental tasks (Hurrelmann and Quenzel: Lebensphase Jugend , 2016, p. 27).

  1. Acquiring competence for the social membership role of a working person (qualification): The aim here is to acquire such cognitive and social skills as well as professionally relevant specialist knowledge that activities of social relevance can be taken on. If this dimension of the development task is fulfilled and a job is successful, there is the possibility of independent financing of livelihood and thus of "economic reproduction" of one's own existence and thus of society as a whole.
  2. Acquiring competence for the social member role of a family founder (binding): This is about the emotional and social detachment from the parents, i.e. the family of origin, establishing close contacts with friends and peers and entering into a loving, intimate partnership. If this dimension of the developmental task is fulfilled, a firm couple and partner bond (with quite different sexual orientations) can take place, which leads to a family with one's own child and thus a "biological reproduction" of one's own existence and society.
  3. Acquiring competence for the social membership role of an economic citizen (consumption): The aim here is to deal with all offers of the economic, leisure and media sector and its diverse relaxation, self-awareness and entertainment programs independently and in line with one's own needs and interests its financial costs. If this dimension of the development task is fulfilled, a young person has the ability to use consumer and leisure activities to their own advantage and to run their own household. In addition, a “psychological reproduction” succeeds, that is, a recovery and restoration of the creativity and productivity that were consumed in other areas of life.
  4. Acquiring competence for the political citizen's role as a member (participation): The aim here is to acquire the ability to actively participate in affairs of the social community. If this dimension of the development task is fulfilled, a young person has the competence to articulate his own needs and interests in public. Through his civic and / or institutional participation he is able to contribute to strengthening the self-regulation ability of society as well as to its social cohesion.

Hurrelmann's approach to socialization theory also addresses the question of what consequences result from inadequately coping with development tasks. When young people try to solve the developmental tasks, but are unsuccessful because of insufficient personal or social resources, an unbearable “development pressure” arises. Young people react to it essentially by taking three risk paths (Hurrelmann / Quenzel 2016, p. 222): - One can speak of an outwardly directed, externalizing variant of inadequately coping with developmental tasks if a young person responds to the resultant Developmental pressure reacts with aggression towards others. The strong impairment of self-esteem, which results from the failure to cope with one or more development tasks, is countered by an outward-looking attitude. You don't want to face failure with your personality core and shield it from further injuries. By attacking the outside world, by destroying and annihilating a supposed opponent, one creates the deceptive feeling of having mastered a challenge without getting any further with the actual challenges.

- The second variant of a risk path is characterized by evasive action (evading variant). This getting out of the field is expressed in flight-like behavior, in unsteady, changeable social relationship patterns and in behavior at risk of addiction, such as the uncontrolled consumption of legal and illegal drugs and food and the unrestricted use of electronic media. This risk path shows aggressive external and self-aggressive features and is symptomatic of avoiding laborious work on oneself and on the difficult life situation that could lead out of the problem constellation. With a kind of anesthesia one sets oneself apart from the unpleasant development tasks that one has so far mastered poorly or not at all.

- In the inwardly directed, internalizing variant of problem behavior, a young person reacts to the developmental pressure through withdrawal and isolation, disinterest and apathy, psychosomatic disorders and depressive moods. Self-aggression through to suicide attempts can also occur as problem behaviors. These behaviors can be interpreted as a symptom of a lack of coping skills, the occurrence of which is attributed to one's own weaknesses without knowing a solution.

According to this theory, coping with developmental tasks represents a demanding form of “working on one's own personality”. In an open society with rapidly changing situational requirements, improvising elements of lifestyle are at least as important as routine behavioral patterns. Hurrelmann describes the mixture of self-reference and sensitive, exploratory behavior, which is well-directed towards opportune points of view, as "egotactics". In his opinion, young people are pioneers in the development of a way of life that reacts to the current cultural, economic and social changes in society and is gradually adopted by older generations.

Further theorists of the development problem

Because the development tasks differ from those that Havighurst formulated for the American middle class in the 1940s due to their anchoring in the respective historical starting position, other theorists have also developed the concept further. These include the developmental psychologists Flammer and Alsaker and Seiffge-Krenke and Gelhaar. They indicate that the timing of development tasks has changed. Developmental tasks such as building friendships with peers and developing emotional autonomy from parents are now tackled relatively early in adolescence, while the completion of school and vocational training has been postponed. Dekovic should also be mentioned. He looks at the changes in the parent-child relationship in adolescence that aim to achieve a new and more conscious relationship with the world.

The development task in history

Early emergence of concepts that lead to the importance of development tasks: Even the "old philosophers" thought about the diversity of individual phases of life, although they did not yet coined the concept of the "development task". However, they already divided human life into successive, differing phases according to their respective philosophy, for example:

Solon : Seven-year cycle
Hippocrates : childhood: spring / youth: summer / middle age: autumn / old age: winter
Plato : youth / middle age / old age
Aristotle : youth / middle age / old age
Cicero : childhood: powerlessness / youth: debauchery / middle age: seriousness and constancy / old age: wisdom
Ptolemaeus : seven ages = seven planets
Shakespeare : seven stages

In the early approaches to human development, Albertus Magnus (1200–1280) was the first to insist on expanding the hitherto purely philosophical or humanities theories through empirical research (the scientific branch emerged). He described it as empirical research on "natural issues".

Johann Amos Comenius (1592–1670) divided human life into four levels up to the age of 24 and thus justified the need for school lessons to be different and adapted to the respective age.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) represented a natural maturation of humans, attributed negative influences within this process to the external conditions of civilization and developed the first forerunners of the stage theories / phase theories of human development. The stage model is a stage of development that builds on one another. This theory assumes that the one stage-specific development task must first be mastered before the next, corresponding to the age stage, can build on it.

Johannes Nikolaus Tetens (1736–1807) searched for general developmental laws and their conditions over the course of the entire human lifespan.

Erik H. Erikson conceived a step model of psychosocial development . He defined certain developments (for example the creation of basic trust versus basic mistrust), the management of which he assigned to the various age periods. Erikson combined a step model of development with tasks to be mastered that are decisive in a development phase. The essential innovation in developmental psychology in his concept is the thought of the crisis always associated with a developmental step, which includes the possibility of a negative solution. In doing so he created the basis for the psychology of the developmental task and overcame the pure phase model of development, as it is e.g. B. can still be found in Sigmund Freud .

See also


  • JC Coleman: The focal theory of adolescence. A psychological perspective. In: K. Hurrelmann, U. Engel (Ed.): The Social World of Adolescents. de Gruyter, Berlin 1989, pp. 43-56.
  • H. Fend: Developmental Psychology of Adolescence. 3. Edition. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2003, ISBN 3-8100-3904-7 .
  • A. Flammer, FD Alsaker: Developmental Psychology of Adolescence. Opening up inner and outer worlds in adolescence. 4th edition. Huber, Bern 2011.
  • AM Freund: The role of goals in development. In: Psychological Rundschau. 54, 2003, pp. 233-242.
  • RJ Havighurst: Human Development and Education. David McKay, New York 1953.
  • K. Hurrelmann, U. Bauer: Introduction to socialization theory. 11th edition. Beltz, Weinheim 2015, ISBN 978-3-407-25740-6 .
  • K. Hurrelmann, G. Quenzel: Life phase youth. 13th edition. Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2016, ISBN 978-3-7799-2619-1 .
  • R. Oerter, L. Montada (Ed.): Developmental Psychology. 6., completely revised Edition. Beltz PVU, Weinheim 2008, ISBN 978-3-621-27607-8 .
  • G. Quenzel: Developmental Tasks and Health in Adolescence. Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2015.
  • R. Siegler, J. DeLoache: Developmental Psychology in Childhood and Adolescence. 1st edition. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-8274-1490-3

Web links


  1. Psychological development. Development task youth ". Fern-UNI of the comprehensive university Hagen
  2. ^ Oerter & Montada, 2002
  3. Psychological development. Development models. Fern-UNI of the comprehensive university in Hagen
  4. Psychological development. Development. Fern-UNI of the comprehensive university in Hagen