Erik H. Erikson adapted and expanded Freud’s theory of development to include the entire life span, believing that people continue to develop throughout life. He describes eight stages of development. Erikson envisions life as a sequence of levels of achievement. Each stage signals a task that must be achieved. The resolution of the task can be complete, partial, or unsuccessful.
Erikson believes that the greater the task achievement, the healthier the personality of the person; failure to achieve a task influences the person’s ability to achieve the next task. These developmental tasks can be viewed as a series of crises, and successful resolution of these crises is supportive to the persons’ ego. Failure to resolve the crises is damaging to the ego. Erikson’s eight stages reflect both positive and negative aspects of the critical life periods.
The resolution of the conflicts at each stage enables the person to function effectively in society. Each phase ha sits developmental task, and the individual must find a balance between, for example, trust versus mistrust or integrity versus despair. When using Erikson’s developmental framework, nurses should be aware of indicators of positive and negative resolution of each stage. It is also important to be aware that the environment is highly influential in development, according to Erikson.
One can enhance an individual’s development by being aware of the person’s developmental stage and by helping the person develop coping skills relative to stressors experienced at that level. One can strengthen an individual’s positive resolution of a developmental task by providing the individual with appropriate opportunities and encouragement. For example, a 10- year- old child can be encouraged to be creative, to finish schoolwork, and to learn how to accomplish these tasks within the limitations imposed by health.
Erikson emphasizes that people must change and adapt their behavior to maintain control over their lives. In his view, no stage in personality development can be bypassed, but people can become fixated at one stage or regress to a previous stage under anxious or stressful conditions. For example, a middle- aged woman who has never satisfactorily accomplished the task of resolving identity versus role confusion might regress to an earlier stage when stressed by an illness with which she cannot cope.
Erikson’s eight stages of development include Infancy, central task is trust versus mistrust; Early Childhood, central task is autonomy versus shame and doubt; Late Childhood, central task is initiative versus guilt; School Age, central task is industry versus inferiority; Adolescence, central task is identity versus role confusion; Young Adulthood, central task is intimacy versus isolation; Adulthood, central task is generativity versus stagnation and Maturity, in which the central task is integrity versus despair.
The indicators of positive resolution for each stages are; learning to trust others for Infancy; self control without loss of self –esteem, ability to cooperate and to express oneself for Early Childhood; learning the degree to which assertiveness and purpose influence the environment, beginning ability to evaluate one’s own behavior for Late Childhood; beginning to create, develop, and manipulate, developing sense of competence and perseverance for School age; coherent sense of self, plans to actualize one’s abilities for Adolescence; intimate relationship with another person, commitment to work and relationships for Young Adulthood; creativity, productivity, concern for others for Adulthood and; acceptance of worth and uniqueness of one’s own life, acceptance of death for Maturity or in the last stage of life of being an adult.