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Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

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Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

Many people hope to look back on their life with a sense of pride and accomplishment. The interesting thing is that to do that, one must resolve certain conflicts throughout their life and develop psychosocially.

  • Who was Erik Erikson?
  • What is a conflict?
  • What are Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development, and what are their main conflicts?

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development: Definition

Erik Erikson was a psychologist that developed one of the most widely applied and popular theories of development, the theory of psychosocial development. Erikson was similar to Sigmund Freud, a neurologist who founded psychoanalysis. They shared the belief that a person’s personality developed in a set series of stages. The difference was that Erikson thought that a person's social experiences impacted that person across their entire lifespan, not just through teenage years. He was interested in how social interactions and relationships with others would have a part in the development and growth of humans.

Erikson put forth a theory about eight distinct stages of psychosocial development.

Erikson's Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson said that there is a conflict or crisis that we have to face in each of these eight stages. The way in which we respond to this conflict impacts our personalities and relationships. This experience of conflict is usually focused on either growing the positive quality from each stage or not being able to develop it and failing. With this, there is a possibility for positive and successful growth, but there is also always a possibility of failing and not being able to develop important qualities. Being successful at each stage helps you lead a positive and successful life. Failing at any particular stage makes it more and more difficult to grow into a successful adult with the skills necessary to succeed.

The eight stages of psychosocial development are infancy, early childhood, preschool, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and maturity (late adulthood). Erikson believed that each of these stages had the following:

  • A basic conflict

  • Important events

  • Key questions that needed to be answered

  • An outcome

Infancy is the first stage that occurs from 0 to 1 year old. In this stage, the primary conflict is trust vs. mistrust.

This conflict revolves around the safety of the baby's environment. If their world is safe, the outcome is a child that can develop trust with a reliable and caring caregiver, resulting in a trusting individual down the line. However, if the infant is not in a warm, nurturing, and reliable environment, they will later have problems forming close relationships.

The second stage occurs when a child is 2. In this stage, the basic conflict is autonomy vs. shame and doubt.

Think terrible twos!

During this stage, the toddler is trying to figure out how to do things for themselves. They might try and fail, but they desire the ability to do it on their own. Because toddlers are also still learning basic motor skills, their attempts at autonomy result in accidents. That is their way of learning and developing independence.

On the other hand, if a child is not allowed to try new things and do things for themselves, it can lead to shame and doubt. Without trying and failing, they'll never develop the ability on their own, leading to shame. A child that is overprotected or scorned may not be confident in their abilities and may eventually have a sense of shame over their actions.

For example, a child raised in an environment where independence is valued and fostered is more likely to develop a sense of independence and have feelings of autonomy. A child who is not raised in an encouraging and supportive environment that encourages and teaches independence is more likely to develop feelings of failure and/or doubts in themselves.

Children are in the third stage of Erikson's development, from 3 to 5 years old. In this stage, the basic conflict is initiative vs. guilt.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "there's no such thing as a bad question?" There's a chance you first heard this when you were in this stage!

A key facet of this stage of psychosocial development is the increase in questions from the child. They are learning to plan, figure things out independently, use their imagination, and make their own choices. However, if they are inhibited from making their own choices or ridiculed for asking questions, they will feel guilty.

Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development, Image of question marks with one glowing yellow. StudySmarterChildren need to feel comfortable asking questions to overcome the initiative vs. guilt conflict. pixabay.com.

The fourth stage occurs in school-aged children from the ages of 6 to 11. In this stage, the basic conflict is industry vs. inferiority.

Here, children continue developing and trying to learn and master newer, more complex skills. Due to this, they need positive reinforcement and encouragement from parents, teachers, and coaches to develop their own sense of industry. This also leads to children developing a strong and healthy sense of self.

If the child is not positively reinforced or ridiculed for their attempts, they will be left with a poor self-concept as they continue to grow.

Adolescents enter the fifth stage, which occurs from the ages of 12 to 18. In this stage, the basic conflict is identity vs. role confusion.

Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are. During this time in their lives, their relationships with peers become more prominent. Before peer relationships took priority, the person was surrounded by familial relationships. In this stage, a person might face a conflict between the values of their peers and family and will have to determine what they believe.

Think identity crisis! Erikson was the person who coined that term.

If a person cannot find their identity, they will experience role confusion and be lost about who they are, what they stand for, and what is next for them in life.

For example, adolescents who are comfortable with who they are and have a strong support group of friends through middle and high school are more likely to be confident in their identity and have strong social relationships with their peers. An adolescent who is unsure of where they fit in and lacks supportive friends and peers may develop a weak sense of self and/or a sense of failure.

Young adults enter the sixth stage, which occurs from the ages of 21 to 40. In this stage, the basic conflict is intimacy vs. isolation.

This stage's conflict is more straightforward than others. Without intimacy in their lives, people feel isolated. Erikson believed that people in this stage should share significant times in their lives with others (including a significant other).

The seventh stage occurs in middle adulthood from the ages of 40 to 65. In this stage, the basic conflict is generativity vs. stagnation.

Here, adults tend to focus on helping others and bettering the world for future generations. This could be through mentoring or doing work to make the world a better place.

If the middle adults do not have generativity and focus on others, they will stagnate. In stagnation, the adults will be self-absorbed and unconcerned with others.

Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development, Photograph of an older woman and a younger woman walking next to each other. StudySmarterHelping others is a way middle adults can leave their mark. pixabay.com.

The eighth and final stage occurs from the age of 65 to death in late adulthood. In this stage, the basic conflict is integrity vs. despair.

At this place in their lives, middle adults will reflect on their lives and try to figure out how content they are with the lives they led. If they are satisfied with their lives, they will feel integrity and peace. However, if they regret past actions, they will feel despair.

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development Table

StageAgeConflict
Stage 10-1 year old (infants)Trust vs. Mistrust
Stage 22 years old (toddlers)Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
Stage 33-5 years old (children)Initiative vs. Guilt
Stage 46-12 years old (school-aged children)Industry vs. Inferiority
Stage 512-20 years old (adolescents)Identity vs. Role Confusion
Stage 621-40 years old (young adults)Intimacy vs. Isolation
Stage 740-65 years old (middle adulthood) Generativity vs. Stagnation
Stage 865 years old until death (late adulthood)Integrity vs. Despair

Summary of Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development have served as a foundation of personality in psychology for decades. His eight stages' conflicts highlight key achievements necessary for people of that age group. If someone doesn't achieve the goal for that stage, they will experience social setbacks either immediately or down the line.

Erikson believed that when someone mastered the conflict of a stage, it led to increased confidence, also referred to as ego strength.

Ego strength is a term that Sigmund Freud used to describe one's ability for their ego to handle demands from their superego, id, and the reality around them. Erikson believed the ego strength increased within each stage as mastery of the conflict increased.

Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development - Key takeaways

  • Erik Erikson was a psychologist who developed one of the most widely applied and popular theories of development, the theory of psychosocial development.
  • There are eight stages of psychosocial development: infancy, early childhood, preschool, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and maturity or late adulthood.
  • Maturity (or late adulthood) is the eighth and final stage from 65 to death and has a basic conflict of ego identity vs. despair.
  • Ego strength describes one's ability for their ego to handle the demands from their superego, id, and the reality around them. One's ego strength is built by having a final sense of mastery after each stage of psychosocial development.

Frequently Asked Questions about Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development

The stages of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development are:


  1. 0-1 year old (infants), Trust vs. Mistrust
  2. 2 years old (toddlers), Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
  3. 3-5 years old (children), Initiative vs. Guilt
  4. 6-12 years old (school-aged children), Industry vs. Inferiority 
  5. 12-20 years old (adolescents), Identity vs. Role Confusion
  6. 21-40 years old (young adults), Intimacy vs. Isolation
  7. 40-65 years old (middle adulthood), Generativity vs. Stagnation
  8. 65 years old until death (late adulthood), Integrity vs. Despair

There are eight stages of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. 

Erikson's fifth stage of psychosocial development's conflict is identity vs. role confusion when teenagers try to find their sense of self and balance peer and familial relationships. 

Erikson's stage of psychosocial development in early childhood is the third stage with the conflict of initiative vs. guilt. 

Erikson's first stage of psychological development's conflict is trust vs. mistrust. It refers to a baby knowing whether they have a safe environment and can trust the people around them or not. 

Final Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Development Quiz

Question

What was Erik Erikson?

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Answer

Erik Erikson was a psychologist that developed one of the most widely used and popular theories of development, the theory of psychosocial development. 

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Question

How many stages of psychosocial development are there?

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Answer

8

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What are the eight stages of psychosocial development?


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Answer

Infancy, early childhood, preschool, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and maturity.

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Question

What is the basic conflict in the first stage?


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Answer

Trust vs. Mistrust

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What is the basic conflict in the second stage?


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Answer

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

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Question

What is the basic conflict in the third stage?


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Answer

Initiative vs. Guilt

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What is the basic conflict in the fourth stage?


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Answer

Industry vs. Inferiority

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What is the basic conflict in the fifth stage?


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Answer

Identity vs. Role Confusion

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What is the basic conflict in the sixth stage?


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Intimacy vs. Isolation

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What is the basic conflict in the seventh stage?


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Answer

Generativity vs. Stagnation

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What is the basic conflict in the eighth stage?


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Ego Identity vs. Despair

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What did Erikson say is always present at every stage of psychosocial development?


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Answer

Conflict

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How does one build their ego strength throughout their psychosocial development?


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Answer

By having a final sense of master after each stage of psychosocial development.

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At what ages does the stage of maturity occur?


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Answer

65 to death

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At what ages does the stage of infancy occur?


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Answer

0-18 months

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Question

Personality development occurs in a set series of stages. Who would agree with this statement?

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Answer

Freud and Erikson

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True or false. Erikson’s psychosocial development is comprised of seven stages.

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Answer

False

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According to Erikson, when do social experiences impact a person's life?

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Answer

Across the entire lifespan

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True or false. Erikson believed that our response to a conflict in every stage impacts our personalities and relationships.

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Answer

True

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Question

According to Erikson, what can happen to a child in the first stage if their environment is not safe?

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Answer

A child will later have problems forming close relationships

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This stage is where a child begins his attempts at autonomy.

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Stage 2

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Choose the best answer. A key facet of the Initiative vs. Guilt stage of psychosocial development is the increase in _____ from the child.

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Answer

Questions

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This stage is where positive reinforcement and encouragement from significant adults are required to help children develop a strong sense of self.

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Answer

Industry vs. Inferiority

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In Identity vs. Role confusion, a person might face a conflict between the values of their _____ and ______.

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Answer

peers and family

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Young adults enter this stage which occurs from 21 to 40 years old.

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Answer

Intimacy vs. Isolation

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According to Erikson, a person who is self-absorbed and unconcerned experiences:

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Answer

Stagnation

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