Ask The Rabbi

Ask The Rabbi


What are the stages of normative psychological development according to Chabad Chasidism?

The Rav Name:

What are the developmental challenges of every stage? and what is the proper approach needed by parents to foster further, correct development?

The stages of normative psychological development are: Gestation, Nursing, and First and Second Stages of Maturity. We explain them as they are manifest in healthy individuals, each at the correct time. It is pointed out that these terms refer to stages of mental and emotional maturity, which do not necessarily develop at a corresponding pace to physiological stages bearing the same names

Gestation (0-2): The stage of Ibur is characterized largely by egocentrism; similar to the biological state, in which the fetus receives its entire sustenance from the mother, with no awareness of its own dependent nature. At this stage, the innate personality of the child also beings to emerge, making this an essential step in the building of a healthy sense of self. It is imperative for the parents to respect this innate nature, and allow the child to be who he is.

Nursing (2-13): The stage of nursing has two primary stages: Yenika (Early Nursing) and Hinuch (Conditioning)

Early Nursing (2-6): At this age, the nucleus of the innate self already exists, and the parents and immediate environment are required to sustain it through the appreciation of the child’s uniqueness, in the framework of warm and loving relationships (particularly from the mother). During the Nursing stage, the consciousness begins to open to that which lies beyond it, and the child gradually begins to relate to his environment, albeit only to the degree that it fulfills his self-interests (e.g. the hand, the breast).

Conditioning (6-13): Following the first stage of Early Nursing, which entails the nourishment of the self by fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, thereby building in the child a positive self-image, the second stage begins, known as Conditioning. This stage begins gradually at the age of three, and intensifies between the ages of six to thirteen. By the age of six, the child’s personality traits (midot) are fully developed, and a process of boundary construction begins. During this stage, the child’s intellect develops to the point that it can control his emotions. Various mental capabilities develop, primarily, self-control, responsibility, free will, and the ability to view others objectively, and not merely in the context of the self. Gradually, these boundaries are internalized until the age of thirteen, when, according to Jewish tradition, the child becomes fully responsible for his choices and his actions. This process prepares the child for fulfilling his duties towards G-d and other human beings.

Maturity: During the stages of Gestation and Nursing, also known as periods of mokhin d’katnut (constricted consciousness), an individual’s actions are motivated primarily for reasons of self-interest. With the stage of Maturity, the person comes to realize that his own life and concerns are not the ultimate determinant of reality. There are two aspects to this stage.

First Level Maturity – the Consciousness of the Mother (mokhin d’imma) (13-20): In this stage, the person comes to view the other not merely in terms of what the other can give to him, but for what the other is in himself. He recognizes the other’s autonomous standing and value – an awareness that can engender extremely true and deep human relationships.

Second Level Maturity – the Consciousness of the Father (mokhin d’abba) (20 and older): At this stage, an aspect of the psyche is revealed that experiences reality in a state of egolessness (bitul) or Ayin. This entails a qualitative leap from the previous levels and signals an association with a hidden, transcendental dimension. When a person unites with this dimension within him, which is the root of his soul, he experiences a full expression of his unique and authentic identity at the very moment that he unites and surrenders himself to his divinely ordained mission in this world.