Erikson’s 8 Stages of psychosocial development

Erikson’s 8 Stages

This blog aims to explain Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development are based on resolving eight different conflicts encountered at different stages of life, to help an individual lead a healthy, happy and prosperous life.

What was Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory? 

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a psychoanalyst who followed Freud’s psychosexual theory to develop an eight-stage psychosocial development theory. Each of the eight stages mentioned in Erikson’s theory reflects a basic conflict that needs to be resolved in order to help an individual become successful, content and an active member of society. On the other hand, if the individual fails to resolve the conflict successfully, he experiences negative emotions such as lack of confidence, hopelessness etcetera and fails to become a contributing member of his society.

The eight stages in Erikson’s psychosocial development theory include trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair.

Other than contributing to his psychosocial theory, Erikson also explained the stages of psychosexual development theory proposed by Freud, in the light of cultural inference. He proposed that certain cultures are required to resolve the conflict in each stage in different ways which are in accordance with their culture and primary needs. 

Importance of Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

In the view of Erikson, an individual’s personality is the most significant factor in forming close relationships. Empirical evidence has proved that the individuals who own a weak personality gravitate towards weak, less committed relationships and tend to experience loneliness, isolation, and depression.  

Erikson believed that the eight stages of his theory are psychosocial in nature for they reflect the psychological needs of an individual conflicting with the needs of his society. 

In his view, if an individual successfully resolves all conflicts encountered at different stages of his life, the individual will own a very strong personality and will possess the basic virtues to help him deal with problems in his life. On the other hand, if the individual fails to resolve the conflicts efficiently, he will not be able to reach the other stage successfully and will own a weaker personality with a very poor sense of self. Nevertheless, the individual can work on these stages later in his life. 

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development 

Stage 1: Trust vs Mistrust (birth to 18 months)

The first stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development is trust vs mistrust. At this stage of life, the infant learns to trust others. The guardians of infants play a major role in this stage because the infant is dependent on them for his survival. If they give sufficient time, love and care to their infant, and fulfill all the basic needs of the child, the child will develop a sense of trust. The infant will realize the world can be trusted and is a safe place to live in. On the other hand, if the caregivers fail to provide a trustful environment to their infant, ignore him, do not fulfill his needs on time, the infant will develop feelings of insecurity, negative emotions like anxiety, he will feel endangered and will not be able to trust others in his later life.  

Erikson’s 8 Stages of psychosocial development

Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt (2 to 3 years)

The second stage of Erikson’s psychosocial theory, autonomy vs shame and doubt, deals with allowing children to learn self-control. When the children come of age 2, they crave to explore things around them. The things which they were just able to see as infants, they wish to touch them and control them now. At this stage, the child starts showing their likes and dislikes about things in their surroundings such as toys, food etcetera. At this stage, if the children are interrupted or stopped from exploring things too often, they develop feelings of shame and doubt and feel uncertain about their actions and decisions in the future. If they are supported and allowed to express their feelings about certain things in their environment such as food, they develop feelings of autonomy. This helps children feel confident in themselves and helps them in their later life while taking important decisions with full confidence. 

Stage 3: Initiative vs Guilt (3 to 5 years)

In the third stage of psychosocial theory, initiative vs guilt, the child explores things. The child who focuses on making plans to achieve things and interact with one another successfully resolves the conflict of this stage. Such a child makes ambitions and successfully accomplishes his goals in his future. While on the other hand, the child who doesn’t take initiative, stays reserved and is not allowed by his parents to explore things, feels guilty and is always uncertain about his actions. The children of over-controlling parents often develop feelings of guilt.

Erikson’s 8 Stages of psychosocial development

Stage: Industry vs Inferiority (6 to 11 years)

At this stage of psychosocial development, the children learn to identify and deal with the demands of society. They show academic competence and compete with each other to make their mark. The children between 6 to 11 years of age, experience this stage. They start comparing themselves with others. If they are better, they feel confident, proud and competent in their school and family life. If the children fail to resolve the conflicts at this stage, they develop feelings of inferiority, incompetency and other negative emotions. Such children experience adverse experiences and their complexes may continue in their later life. 

Stage: Identity vs Role Confusion (12 to 18 years)

The important event at this stage is social responsibility.  When children are in a growing age, they come across various things, a number of questions come across their minds, they wish to know about themselves, their ambitions and capabilities. Adolescents who successfully identify their true selves, their goals, and potentials, seem to pass this conflict. They learn their values, beliefs, and perspectives. While the adolescents who fail to recognize themselves and their needs, who are under the pressure of their parents to follow their orders, and who are not allowed to express their true selves, experience role confusion and could not resolve their conflicts successfully. 

Stage: Intimacy vs Isolation  (19 to 40 years)

At this stage of life, individuals form intimate relationships with others. Once an individual has accomplished his goal, he looks forward to sharing his life with a partner. If the earlier stages are not passed successfully, the individual feels difficulties in forming intimate relationships. He might face issues while maintaining relationships. If an individual fails to identify his real self, he develops a negative self-concept and feels isolated and abandoned.

Stage: Generativity vs Stagnation (40 to 65 years)

At this stage of life, individuals work on saving things for their future generations. This stage deals with two conflicts, generativity and stagnation. Generativity deals with accomplishing one’s ambitions, finding work, raising children and saving things for them like money, business etcetera, contributing to society such as by serving them by being a professional. The individuals who fail to do this, stagnate in their lives and feel unproductive. They feel they have not contributed anything to their society and family. They lose their interest in work and stagnate in their lives.

Erikson’s 8 Stages of psychosocial development

Stage: Integrity vs Despair (65 to death)

The last stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development theory is integrity vs despair. This stage starts at the age of 60 and lasts until the death of the individual. At this stage of life, individuals who feel they have identified their true selves accomplished their ambitions and contributed to their family as well as society, feel a sense of integrity. On the other hand, the individuals, who feel their life was not worth living, made no contributions, did not fulfill their desires and were not able to find their true selves, experience feelings of despair. Rather than focusing on the present moment. They focus on what they should have done in the past. This makes their lives bitter, unpleasant and they experience depression. 

Erikson’s 8 Stages of psychosocial development

Helpful Resources

Here are some recommended books to help you increase your knowledge about human development, different theories based on human development and how these theories define our lives. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Question: What are the 8 stages of lifespan development?

Answer: The eight stages of lifespan development include infancy: trust vs. mistrust, toddlerhood: autonomy vs. shame and doubt, preschool years: initiative vs. guilt, early school years: industry vs. inferiority, adolescence: identity vs. role confusion, young adulthood: intimacy vs. isolation, middle adulthood: generativity vs. stagnation, and late adulthood: integrity vs. despair.

Questions: What are the 4 stages of identity development?

Answer. According to James Marcia, a psychologist, there are four stages of identity development. These include achievement, moratorium, foreclosure, and diffusion.

Question: What are the stages of growth?

Answer. There are four stages of growth and development in humans: infancy (birth to 2 years old), early childhood (3 to 8 years old), middle childhood (9 to 11 years old), and adolescence (12 to 18 years old)

Question. What is the cognitive stage of development?

Answer. The cognitive stage of development deals with the development of cognitive processes and potentials. According to Jean Piaget, the founder of the theory of cognitive development, cognitive development is based upon actions and later progresses to changes in mental operations.

Question. What are the five major developmental theories?

Answer. The five major developmental theories are Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory, Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, Freud’s Psychosexual Developmental Theory, Bandura’s Social Learning Theory and Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory.

Question. What does Erikson’s theory focus on?

Answer. Erikson was a psychoanalyst and like Freud, he was of the view that an individual’s personality is developed in a series of stages. The difference between the theories of Erikson and Freud is that he focused on psychosexual needs while making his theory while Erikson’s theory is based on the psychosocial needs of the individual. 

This blog explained the eight stages of Erikson’s psychosocial development theory. This blog aimed to clear your concepts about psychosocial needs and their importance in the development of an individual’s personality. Some books are also recommended for you which can help you learn more about the developmental stages and theories based on different perspectives of development such as cognitive, social etcetera. Let us know through your comments if you have any queries. We will be glad to assist you. 

References: 

Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development by Saul McLeod (2018)

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development by Kendra Cherry (2019)

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Erikson’s 8 Stages of psychosocial development

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.