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Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

Deepa Kartha
Erik Erikson formulated his theory on the psychosocial stages of development of a healthy human in the 1950s. Let us look at what each stage means and how it affects the life of a human being.
Erik Erikson, the famous developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, developed a theory known as the Psychosocial Stages of Development. In this theory on personality development of humans, Erikson put forward eight stages, that begin when a child is born and end when the person dies at an old age.
In every developmental stage, an individual faces some challenge that he/she has to learn to solve to become successful in life. Also, each stage is a key to the next; if a person does not succeed in one of the stages, he/she would have difficulties in the later stages.
According to Erikson, the most important factor in the personality development of an individual is the ego identity. Human beings strive to create an ego identity that helps them to survive in the mortal world. This ego identity is not a constant entity, but changes and evolves, depending on the experiences and incidents in a person's life.
Each psychosocial stage of development teaches an individual to learn certain qualities that remain with him/her for the entire life and regulate his/her future development.

Different Stages of Psychosocial Development

Basic Trust versus Mistrust:

When a child is born, he/she has no knowledge of the world. Parents become the basis of their existence, and influence their behavior and development. Through the love and affection that they receive, children learn to trust their parents, which also aids in developing the value of hope that gives them the confidence to trust and believe others in the world.
However, if children fail to gain the love and compassion of parents, they would have problems in trusting others around them. This stage usually lasts till two years of age.

Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt:

This is the stage when a child grows from a totally dependent infant to a toddler. During this period, the child learns to move around independently and is toilet trained. With this newly-gained independence, the toddler starts exploring things around him/her and makes choices about the food to eat, clothes to wear, toys to play with, etc.
If parents encourage this, the child develops the will to try new things and becomes self-competent. Sometimes, parents are very restrictive and keep check on every movement of the child. This creates a sense of shame and doubt in the mind of the child to try to experiment new things and challenges in life.

Initiative versus Guilt:

The third stage of development begins when a child enters three years of age and continues till he/she reaches the age of five. During this period, the child starts attending pre-school and learns new things. He/she begins to interact in a social environment, and starts exploring his/her power and control over peers through play.
If encouraged, they develop a sense of purpose to achieve things, which also helps in developing leadership qualities. If a child is discouraged at this stage, he/she would develop a feeling of guilt for taking initiative, which would stop him/her from doing so in the future.

Industry versus Inferiority

This stage lasts from the age of five to thirteen years. During this stage, the child starts attending school and learns a number of skills, like reading, writing, etc., and tries to gain competence in them. He/she becomes a little more independent, and also begins to learn/adopt moral values and recognize the difference between various individuals/cultures.
At this stage, the child should be encouraged, not only by the parents, but also by the teachers. The child may sometimes fail in his/her endeavors, and if the care-givers are not supportive, he/she may develop inferiority complex, which would affect his/her growth in the rest of the stages.

Identity versus Role Confusion

One of the crucial stages that comes during adolescence, teenagers are in a confused state of mind during this period, since they are expected to behave neither like a child nor as an adult. Besides, he/she also has to cope with the physical changes that are taking place and strives to create his/her own identity in relationships, society, career, etc.
He/she develops a sense of fidelity and attaches great importance to relationships, especially friendship. The adolescent also develops his/her sexual identity and learns about gender roles. Parents have to be very careful in handling behavior and emotions of an adolescent so that they emerge as confident adults ready to take on the responsibilities of life.

Intimacy versus Isolation:

People in the age group of 20-40 years fall into this stage. By the time a person reaches adulthood, he/she achieves a sense of identity and is ready to share it with others by forming intimate relationships based on love and commitment. People who are fearful of intimacy and commitment become isolated and depressed individuals.

Generativity versus Stagnation:

This stage depends on the success rate of the other stages. Here, the person is in middle adulthood, ranging from 40 to 60 years. By this time, the person's career is already set, and he/she also has a family and children.
It is a period where a person learns to care about others and give back to the society what he/she has received from it. Individuals who are not able to achieve all this are said to develop a sense of stagnation and meaninglessness in their lives.

Ego Integrity versus Despair

In this last stage of psychosocial development, an individual's ego identity is fully formed. When a person reaches this stage, he/she begins to look back at his/her life and analyze his/her accomplishments and failures.
If the person has achieved success in all the stages of development, he/she develops a sense of integrity and wisdom, which is gathered through the past stages. However, if an individual has failed in all those stages, he/she develops a sense of despair towards his/her whole existence.
Erikson's theory suggests that the behavioral and psychological problems people face in their lives can be linked to the different stages of development. This theory is a boon for psychologists to understand and help people who are facing certain troubles in their lives.