Blog 1: Childhood Stages

Having been nagged into producing blogs about my own ideas, I am now also producing (less frequent!) blogs about the sort of content I include within the workbooks I produce each month for my regular TA 202 workshops and webinars.  This month’s topic is Interactions & Relationships and here is a small sample of what will be covered.  There will of course be lots more, such as ego states, strokes, TA proper, time structuring, psychological games, attachment, transference, passivity, symbiosis, roles, personality adaptations, personality styles, and my model of AP3.  For that though, you will need to attend 😉

Vincent Lenhardt (1991) presented a model that can be used to relate childhood stages to later interactions with practitioners. Originally presented at a conference, Lenhardt (2004) subsequently referenced his ideas to Symor (1983).  The material below is an adaptation based on notes taken and diagrams noted by Hay (1991).

Stage 1 – Dependence – in which two people appear to share one set of ego states. Drawn by Lenhardt as Parent and Adult in one person with the Child in the other, that was similar to the way in which Schiff & Contributors (1975) diagrammed symbiosis; however, elsewhere in the same book Schiff at al made it clear that they were using an ego state model in which Adult was an adaptation in the service of the Natural Child (for which they drew a fourth circle alongside Adapted Child) and not Adult in the sense of being in the here-and-now.  Hence the diagrams below of the Hay variations of the Lenhardt diagrams exclude Adult from the symbiosis.

Stage 2 – Counterdependence – in which the Parent and Adult ego states which were diagrammed as non-existent in Stage 1 are now shown with dotted lines to indicate that they are being developed. A characteristic of this stage is that the ‘little’ person wants to break away but also wants to be able to come back, just as a small child will move away from their parent but will be checking that they could run back again if they become scared.

Stage 3 – Independence – now both parties are shown as having a full set of ego states but it is as if the ‘little’ person is operating behind a boundary, whilst still appearing to be in a symbiosis with the other person. The message here is that the ‘little’ person wants to be left alone; they no longer exhibit the need to come back to the other person.

Stage 4 – Interdependence– now both parties are shown as having their full set of ego states, with the ‘little’ person now fully developed and able to operate in all ego states when they are no longer with the other person. Lenhardt (1991) showed a line between as for Stage 3 but Hay dispenses with this and instead shows a range of possible transactions.

In terms of management, Lenhardt (1991) proposed that these stages could be linked to the Hersey & Blanchard (2001) Situational Leadership stages, which he referred to as Tell, Sell, Negotiate, and Delegate. He suggests that they might also be characterised by the needs of the ‘little’ person for structure, permission, freedom, and the opportunity to reciprocate as an autonomous person.

Lenhardt (2004) provided work-based examples for each of the stages, and goes on to include some further degrees of autonomy as described below and shown in the diagrams following:

  • Dependence – the person within a company knows their job but cannot make decisions yet because there is still much to learn
  • Counterdependence – the person wants to distinguish themselves from others and is likely to rebel but still to blame the other person for any unwanted outcomes
  • Independence – the person now acts independently but the risk is that this includes a rejection of corporate expectations
  • Interdependence – the symbiosis is now functional but Lenhardt points out that this is only the third degree of autonomy, with the fourth degree of autonomy still to be attained.

Finally, Lenhardt refers to:

  • A fourth degree of autonomy – where the person can be institutionally on a level with, subordinate to or superordinate to (in charge of) others, depending on the systemic situation.
  • a fifth degree of autonomy – where the person takes a transcending view and does not identify themself only on the basis of the particular relational situation. Lenhardt refers to this as the degree of meaning, which he explains as relating to personal, managerial and company levels. He references Varillon’s (1975) descriptions of the term ‘meaning’ as being about: direction, or in corporate terms the objective; significance, or in corporate terms values; and experience, which within an organisation corresponds to motivation.


Hersey, Paul, Blanchard, Kenneth H., & Johnson, Dewey E. (2001). Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources. Eighth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.

Lenhardt, Vincent (1991) personal communication – presentation on Coaching & Teambuilding at EATA/DGTA Conference July

Lenhardt, Vincent (2004) Coaching for Meaning: the culture and practice of coaching and team building Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan

Schiff, Jacqui & Contributors (1975) Cathexis Reader: Transactional Analysis Treatment of Psychosis New York: Harper & Row Publishers Inc

Symor, Nola Katherine (1983) Cycle de la dépendance, Actualités en analyse transactionnelle, vol. 7: 27

Varillon, François (1975) Joie de croire, joie de vivre Paris: Centurion

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