Erik Erikson was an associate ego scientist who developed one of the most widely known and powerful theories of development.

While his theory was supported by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s work, Erikson’s theory focused on psychosocial development rather than psychosexual development.

The stages that form up his theory are as follows:

Ø  Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust

Ø  Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Ø  Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt

Ø  Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority

Ø  Stage 5: Identity vs. Confusion

Ø  Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation

Ø  Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation

Ø  Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair

Let’s take a better look into the background and different stages that form Erikson’s psychosocial theory.

Overview about theory

So what precisely did Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development entail?

Like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that temperament developed in a series of stages.

Unlike Freud’s theory of internal representation stages, Erikson’s theory delineated the impact of interaction with society across the different stages.

Erikson was curious about how social interaction and relationships changed within the development and growth of citizenry.

Each stage in Erikson’s theory builds on the preceding stages and paves the way for the following periods of development.

In every stage, Erikson believed folks experience a conflict that is a turning point in development.

These conflicts are focused on either developing a psychological quality or failing to develop that quality.

Throughout these times, the potential for private growth is high, but there is also the potential for failure.

If folks succeed in getting through the conflict, they emerge from the stage with psychological strengths which will serve them well for the remainder of their lives.

If they fail to deal effectively with these conflicts, they will not develop the essential skills required for a powerful sense of self.

Erikson also believed that ability motivates behaviors and actions.

Every stage in Erikson’s theory focuses on becoming competent in a region of life.

If the stage is handled well, a person can feel a way of mastery that typically displays itself as ego strength or ego quality.

If the stage is managed poorly, a person might not be able to obtain a higher stage of development.

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust

The first stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development happens when a child is between the ages of birth and one year old, and is the most elementary stage in life.

The child is completely dependent, so developing trust is predicated on the reliability and quality of the child’s caregivers.

At this stage in development, the child is completely dependent upon adult caregivers for everything that he or she needs to survive, such as food, love, warmth, safety, and nurturing.

If a caregiver fails to produce adequate care and love, the child can begin to feel that he or she cannot trust or rely upon the adults in his or her life.

If a toddler successfully develops trust, he or she will feel safe and secure within the world.

If caregivers do not pay adequate attention to the children within their care, the child may fail to develop trust.

This can lead the child to believe that the planet is inconsistent and unpredictable.

No child develops 100% trust or 100% doubt. Erikson believed that the best form of  development was 50% trust and 50% doubt.

Once this happens, children acquire hope that Erikson delineated as openness to expertise tempered by some caution that danger also exists in the world.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

The second stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development takes place in a child’s first few years of life and is concentrated on children developing a greater sense of private management.

At this point in development, kids begin setting out to gain a bit of independence.

They set out to perform basic actions on their own and make choices concerning what they like or do not like.

By permitting youngsters to make choices and gain agency over their lives, folks and caregivers will facilitate children developing autonomy.

Like Freud, Erikson believed that bathroom coaching was a significant part of this method.

However, Erikson’s reasoning was quite different from that of Freud’s.

Erikson believed that learning to manage one’s bodily functions ends up in a sense of control and a way of independence.

Alternative vital events are making choices over what foods a child likes or toy preferences.

Children who successfully complete this stage feel secure and assured, whereas children who don’t succeed might experience feelings of inadequacy and timidness.

Erikson believed that achieving a balance between autonomy and shame and doubt would lead children to act with intention and understand limits.

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt 

The third stage of psychosocial development takes place throughout the educational institution years.

At this point in psychosocial development, children begin to exert their power and management over the planet through directive play and alternative social interactions.

Children who succeed at this stage feel capable and ready to lead others.

Children who fail to amass these skills are left with feelings of guilt, self-doubt, and lack of initiative.

Stage 4: Business vs. Inferiority

The fourth psychosocial stage takes place between when a child is about age five to age eleven.

Through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and talents.

Children who are inspired by their teachers and other people in their lives develop a sense of ability and belief in their skills.

People who receive very little or no encouragement from teachers or peers can doubt their ability to achieve success.

Successfully finding a balance at this stage of psychosocial development results in the development of competence, within which children develop a belief in their skills to handle the tasks set before them.

Stage 5: Identity vs. Confusion

The fifth psychosocial stage takes place throughout the usually turbulent young years.

This stage plays a vital role in developing a way of private identity which can still influence behavior and development for the remainder of a person’s life.

People who receive encouragement and reinforcement throughout personal exploration can emerge from this stage with a powerful sense of self, and feelings of independence.

People who remain unsure of their beliefs and wishes at the end of this stage can feel insecure and confused concerning themselves and the future.

When psychologists speak about identity, they are speaking about all of the beliefs, ideals, and values that facilitate, form and guide a person’s behavior.

Finishing this stage with success leads to a value that Erikson labeled as a capability to measure up to society’s standards and expectations.

While Erikson believed that every stage of psychosocial development was vital, he stressed the importance of the acquisition of ego identity.

Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we tend to develop through social interaction and becomes a central focus throughout the identity versus confusion stage of psychosocial development.

According to Erikson, our ego identity perpetually changes, thanks to new experiences and data that we  tend to acquire in our daily interactions with others.

As we go through new experiences, we tend to experience challenges that may facilitate or hinder the development of identity.

One’s identity offers them an integrated and cohesive sense of self that endures through their life.

This sense of private identity is formed by each person’s experiences and interactions with others, and it is this identity that helps guide our actions, beliefs, and behaviors as we age.

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation

This stage covers the years of early adulthood when people begin exploring personal relationships.

Erikson believed in the importance of individuals developing committed relationships with people.

People who accomplish this step can create enduring and secure relationships.

Remember that every step builds on skills learned in previous steps.

Erikson believed that a strong sense of private identity was vital for developing intimate relationships.

Studies have shown that those with a poor sense of self do tend to participate in less committed relationships and some suffer with feelings of emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Successful resolution of this stage ends up in the virtue called love, which leads to the flexibility to create lasting, meaningful relationships with people.

Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation

During adulthood, we tend to build our careers and families.

People who are fortunate throughout this stage might feel fulfilled by being active in their home and community.

People who fail to succeed at this stage can feel unproductive and uninvolved with the world.

Care is the virtue achieved once this stage is handled with success.

Helping one’s children grow into adults and developing unity with your life partner are vital accomplishments of this stage.

Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair

The final psychosocial stage happens once a person is older and mature and is based on reflecting back on life.

At this point in development, folks recall the events of their lives and decide if they are proud of the life that they lived or if they regret the things they did or did not do.

Those who are unsuccessful throughout this stage might feel that their life has been wasted and can experience regrets.

The individual is left with feelings of bitterness and despair.

Those who feel pleased with their accomplishments can feel integrity.

Success in this section means looking back on one’s life with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction.

These people can attain wisdom, even when tackling death.

Stages by Age:

Stage 1: Infancy (birth to eighteen months)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Trust vs. Mistrust

Ø  Vital Events: Feeding

Ø  Outcome: During the primary stage of psychosocial development, kids develop trust once caregivers offer dependability, care, and tenderness. An absence of this can cause mistrust.

Stage 2: time of life (2 to three years)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Ø  Vital Events: Toilet coaching

Ø  Outcome: Children have to be compelled to develop private management over physical skills and independence.

Potty coaching plays a very important role in helping children develop this sense of autonomy. Children who are shamed for their accidents could also be left without feelings of autonomy.

Success throughout this stage of psychosocial development ends up in feelings of autonomy, while failure ends up in feelings of shame and doubt.

Stage 3: an educational institution (3 to five years)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Initiative vs. Guilt

Ø  Vital Events: Exploration         

Ø  Outcome: Children have to be compelled to manage their surroundings. Success during this stage ends up in feelings of purpose.

Children who try and exert an excessive amount of power experience disapproval, leading to feelings of guilt.

Stage 4: faculty Age (6 to eleven years)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Industry vs. Inferiority

Ø  Vital Events: School

Ø  Outcome: Children have to deal with new social and educational demands.

Success ends up in feelings of ability, whereas failure ends up in feelings of inferiority.

Stage 5: Adolescence (12 to eighteen years)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Identity vs. Role Confusion

Ø  Vital Events: Social Relationships

Ø  Outcome: Teens have to be compelled to develop a sense of self and private identity.

Success ends up in a capability to remain faithful to oneself, whereas failure ends up in role confusion and a weak sense of self.

Stage 6: Young Adulthood (19 to forty years)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Intimacy vs. Isolation

Ø  Vital Events: Relationships      

Ø  Outcome: Young adults have to be compelled to create intimate, warm relationships with people.

Success results in robust relationships, whereas failure results in loneliness and isolation.

Stage 7: Middle Adulthood 

Ø  Basic Conflict: Generativity vs. Stagnation

Ø  Vital Events: Work and adulthood

Ø  Outcome: Adults have to participate in things that will be fulfilling to them, which typically involve having kids or doing something positive for other people that will make a name for them.

Success results in feelings of utility and accomplishment, whereas failure ends up in shallow involvement within the world.

Stage 8: Maturity (65 to death)

Ø  Basic Conflict: Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Ø  Vital Events: Reflection on life

Ø  Outcome: Erikson’s theory differed from several others as a result of its self-addressed development throughout all the stages, which results in maturity.

Older adults have to be able to look back on their lives with a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage ends up in feelings of knowledge, whereas failure ends up in regret, bitterness, and despair.

At this stage, folks reflect back on the events of their lives and see a life they feel was well-lived, and can feel happy and prepared to face the end of their lives with a way of peace.

People who look back on their lives and solely feel regret can instead feel fearful that their lives will finish before they accomplish the things they feel they ought to have done.

FAQ Questions

What are Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development?

Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development are trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame/doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair.

What does Erik Erikson’s theory explain?

Unlike Freud’s stages of development, Erikson’s stages of development describe how one’s experiences with society affect their personal development. 

Why are Erikson’s stages important?

These stages of life build off of each other, and will affect how a person’s identity forms throughout their life.

Interested in this topic? See below for some articles that expand on Erikson’s stages of development:

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