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Erikson’s 8 stages ( A complete insight)

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Erickson’s 8 Psychosocial Stages of Development(A Complete Guide)

This article will explore the 8 stages of Erickson’s psychosocial theory that focuses on how social events affect our personality! It will highlight the conflict in each stage and describe what the possible outcomes could be.

What Are Erickson’s 8 Psychosocial Stages of Development

The 8 stages of Erickson’s Psychosocial development have been listed below:

  • Stage: Trust vs Mistrust
  • Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt
  • Stage 3: Initiative vs Guilt
  • Stage 4: Industry vs Inferiority
  • Stage 5: Identity vs  Confusion
  • Stage 6: Intimacy vs Isolation
  • Stage 7: Generation vs Stagnation
  • Stage 8: Integrity vs Despair

Before we look at each stage in detail, let us explore Erickson’s theory of personality development.

What Is Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development?

Erickson was a famous professor at Harvard and Yale even though he did not even own a bachelor’s degree; he is known for coining the term ‘Identity Crisis’ and came up with his theory of psychosocial development which differs from Freud’s theory of psychosexual development!

He was an American German psychologist who with his wife Joan came up with their famous theory we will be studying in this article. He was inspired by Sigmund Freud and his theory on how individuals develop.

The theory of psychosocial development believes that every healthy individual must pass through conflicts they experience at every stage of their life, from infancy to old age, in order to develop a health personality. The conflict arises due to the discrepancy between the needs of the individual and those of society. If the individual is able to cope with this conflict they will not only develop a healthy personality but also gain an important virtue. Those who do not pass these stages fall short of their personal development. He focuses on how social experiences and not the sexualones affect our personality development.

We will now look at each stage in detail!

The 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development.

Trust vs Mistrust – Stage 1

This stage is from the birth of the child up to 1 years of age where they are not sure if they can trust those who are around them. The mother’s role is vital during this stage where she must make sure that the infant feels safe and secure and well taken care of. 

If the infant can trust others during this stage of life then this means they can also trust others later on in life and they will not be very distant or suspicious of people and will be able to develop good relations. It is important that mother’s give much time and attention to their child; they can do this by feeding them timely, ensuring frequent physical contact and making sure they do not leave them crying alone.

However, if the mother is unavailable, not loving enough or inconsistent, this will result in the baby developing mistrust. Hence it is important enough attention is given to the infant that too continuously.

Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt – Stage 2

This stage usually lasts between the 1st and 3rd years of life where the child can either gain a sense of identity in terms of self control and being able to choose for themselves or shamed for their accidents.

It is during this stage that the child explores their surroundings and examines their own body and discovers what skills and resources they have in terms of moving around and picking up and tasting things. An important part of this stage is to allow the child to develop autonomy and this can be done if the child is given enough freedom to experiment and not be shamed for what mistakes they make.

Potty training allows children of this age to develop some sense of control over themselves. If they are encouraged to control their body functions then they will feel confident and have some control in their life.

Success at this stage leads to a sense of autonomy whereas failure leads to doubt and shame and an inability to develop oneself openly.

Initiative vs Guilt – Stage 3

This stage occurs during the preschool years when the child is around 3-5 years of age. This stage entails experiencing one’s environment and seeing how much control they have over it. If they are encouraged to explore their environment successfully, the child will develop a sense of taking an initiative whereas if they are scolded for being too open or explorative in their surroundings they will be made to feel guilty.

It is important that both parents encourage their child to explore the surroundings. They should keep an eye on the child but make sure they push him or her to go a bit far without them as well so they do not feel too attached.

Industry vs Inferiority – Stage 4

At this stage, the influence of peers and teachers is very powerful. The fourth stage lasts from the 5th to 11th year of the individual’s life and they must be encouraged in their areas of work otherwise they will feel incompetent or useless.

If they get the right encouragement they will feel skilled and competent in their area and work harder to achieve better results. Hence parents must make sure they provide a healthy and constructive environment to their children and not one that is critical.

Examples of children who experience too much conflict at this stage include being scolded by their teachers for trying out new things and not doing exactly what they were asked to; it is important for the teacher to realize that children are to be given an environment in which they can grown their already present skills in a healthy manner. They will act differently and that is okay!

Passing this stage successfully means the child will be confident in the skills they have and apply them through hard work otherwise if they fail at this stage they will feel inferior.

This stage is similar to Piaget’s Concrete operational stage.

Identity vs Confusion – Stage 5

It is important that at this stage parents do not enforce their beliefs on the child. They must let them explore their surroundings and find an appropriate identity that they want to match or follow. This occurs during the teen years from 12 to 18 years of age and may be quite turbulent!

If children are encouraged to explore they will feel independent, understand society’s needs and be able to establish a sense of control as well as that of identity in them.

Intimacy vs Isolation – Stage 6

This is a very important stage of life that occurs between the years of 20 to 40 and individuals are greatly affected by their friends and loved ones at this stage. If they are able to form intimate, long term relations then they will feel safe and secure however, if not then they will feel lonely and isolated.

It is important that elders and the society encourage young adults to seek out relationships that are beneficial for them in the long term and carry traits of loyalty, commitment, honesty and true friendship. At this stage, people will leave those relations that they were involved in only for the sake of fitting in. The relations they will form now will be the ones they want to continue for their own well being and that of the other.

Generativity vs Stagnation – Stage 7

It is important that elders leave behind a lesson for others or impact the world by contributing in a beneficial way. People who have not resolved prior conflicts and feel pessimistic and lonely may not be able to pass this stage and will live a stagnant life. However, those who feel as if they have something to contribute to society will get out of their homes and try to teach others or help them.

Also, people have children whom they raise in a good manner so that they can continue life in a peaceful and productive manner. It differs how one gives back – what matters is giving back!

Integrity vs Despair – Stage 8

This is the final stage of Erickson’s Psychosocial Development where the individual can either be happy with what they did in life or regret their decisions. It occurs in old age and can result in being confident and having a sense of integrity or despairing about what one has done.


This article described the stages of Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development by listing each stage and describing it in detail. It not only introduced the theory that outlines these stages but highlighted the outcome of each stage and how it should be tackled.

Frequently Asked Questions: Erickson’s 8 Psychosocial Stages of Development

How many stages are there in Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development?

There are 8 stages in Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development that last from infancy to old age.

How can an infant develop trust?

An infant can develop trust if they have a loving and attention giving caretaker who does not neglect them.

Who is Erickson?

Erickson is an American German psychologist who focused on how social events affect our development.


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