Erickson's 8 Stages Of Psychosocial Development

Categories: Self RelianceTheory

Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development are based on (and expand upon) Freud’s psychosexual theory. Erikson proposed that we are motivated by the need to achieve competence in certain areas of our lives. According to psychosocial theory, we experience eight stages of development over our lifespan, from infancy through late adulthood. At each stage there is a crisis or task that we need to resolve. Successful completion of each developmental task results in a sense of competence and a healthy personality.

Failure to master these tasks leads to feelings of inadequacy.

Erikson also added to Freud’s stages by discussing the cultural implications of development; certain cultures may need to resolve the stages in different ways based upon their cultural and survival needs.

  1. Trust vs. Mistrust
  2. From birth to 12 months of age, infants must learn that adults can be trusted. This occurs when adults meet a child’s basic needs for survival. Infants are dependent upon their caregivers, so caregivers who are responsive and sensitive to their infant’s needs help their baby to develop a sense of trust; their baby will see the world as a safe, predictable place.

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    Unresponsive caregivers who do not meet their baby’s needs can engender feelings of anxiety, fear, and mistrust; their baby may see the world as unpredictable. If infants are treated cruelly or their needs are not met appropriately, they will likely grow up with a sense of mistrust for people in the world.

  3. Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt
  4. As toddlers (ages 1–3 years) begin to explore their world, they learn that they can control their actions and act on their environment to get results.

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    They begin to show clear preferences for certain elements of the environment, such as food, toys, and clothing. A toddler’s main task is to resolve the issue of autonomy vs. shame and doubt by working to establish independence. This is the “me do it” stage. For example, we might observe a budding sense of autonomy in a 2-year-old child who wants to choose her clothes and dress herself. Although her outfits might not be appropriate for the situation, her input in such basic decisions has an effect on her sense of independence. If denied the opportunity to act on her environment, she may begin to doubt her abilities, which could lead to low self-esteem and feelings of shame.

  5. Initiative vs. Guilt
  6. Once children reach the preschool stage (ages 3–6 years), they are capable of initiating activities and asserting control over their world through social interactions and play. According to Erikson, preschool children must resolve the task of initiative vs. guilt. By learning to plan and achieve goals while interacting with others, preschool children can master this task. Initiative, a sense of ambition and responsibility, occurs when parents allow a child to explore within limits and then support the child’s choice. These children will develop self-confidence and feel a sense of purpose. Those who are unsuccessful at this stage—with their initiative misfiring or stifled by over-controlling parents—may develop feelings of guilt.

  7. Industry vs. Inferiority
  8. Age 6-12 years; this is the stage at what the child starts school. Industry meaning doing something or completing something that you have started. “The more it is obvious that the ego can only remain strong in interaction with cultural institutions and also can only remain strong where the child’s inborn capacity are developed his potentials are developed.”- Erikson 1964. The child needs to develop his skills so as not to feel inferior to his classmates. The child also becomes more curious in his environment and asking lots of questions. How what where and develops a love to want to learn. The child will also seek for approval from others. They develop pride. If the child was set up for failure a lot or not encourage he might not have confidence in himself in completing something and inferiority will be the outcome and the child will feel incompetent. They want to feel responsible for things.

    The virtue/strength that develops from this stage is competence. Now is the time you encourage interests that the child has or does well. The child wants recognition for what s/he is doing. Erikson said that these years “are critical for self-confidence.”

  9. Identity vs. Role confusion
  10. This is adolescence 13-20 years. The individual is more rebellious. Now the person wants to know where he fits in society. The freer the society the greater the identity problem. Now is also the time that the body goes under much transformation as puberty is reached. They experiment with their bodies and other interests and usually lead’s to roll confusion. Finding out what they want to be in life. Who am I? What values matter? How do I want others to see me? Needing to find their own identity.

    The virtue/strength that develops is fidelity “I only speak of a capacity to perceive and to abide by values and the values can change from one culture to another so that by fidelity I don’t mean a particular phase”.

    The positive outcome will be you finding meaning in yourself. Knowing what you are going to do or become.

  11. Intimacy vs. Isolation (Relationships with others)
  12. This is during young adulthood 21-39 years. Erikson puts it so nicely when he says that intimacy is really the ability to fuse your identity with somebody else’s without fear that you are going to lose something yourself. Before all this can happen one must “have a very firm identity”. You must know your individuality and be able to keep who you are despite the person you share your life with and accept your own partner’s individuality and make it work in harmony. This is the stage at which most people marry and most of those marriages fail if your identity hasn’t been developed fully.

    The virtue/strength that develops from a positive outcome is Love. The individual can form close long-term relationships with their spouse, siblings, friends, parents, work colleagues and so on. Becoming more involved with society. And if it is a negative outcome the individual might become isolated and lonely.

  13. Generativity vs. Stagnation.
  14. This is during middle age 40-65 years. Usually the age at which most people already started a family. Generativity as in creating/producing something and taking the responsibility for what you have generated. This is one of the stages that Erikson failed due to his rejection of his own son Neil and then lying to their children about it (failing in his intimate relationship with them). Erikson said that “mature ethics is only quite possible now”. - 1964. Wanting to leave something of value for future generations give back by contributing knowledge and such. To make the world a better place. Erikson said “Woman in particular that cannot produce children … are frustrated in something essential… generativity can also be useful in ones work with other people’s children.”-1964. It might even mean your own grandchildren. If the individual does not generate or produce anything for society he might feel stagnation or unproductive even depression. “A sense of connectedness of one generation with another is implied in the concept, and generativity is, in the broadest sense, a symbolic link to immortality through acts and works that will survive the individual.”- James S. Fleming Ph.D. Philanthropy is also a form of generativity any way to leave a trace of yourself.

  15. Ego Integration vs. Despair.
  16. Retirement sets in and the individual reflects back at his life. Was I successful; did I contribute anything useful what did I accomplish? Was my life productive? Self-forgiveness for choices made to the best of your ability. Looking back at all the other stages thinking what I would’ve done different. Looking back and knowing you lived your life to the fullest without any regret you develop integrity. Or despair for a life wasted. Life is a lesson in itself and you will not know until you’ve lived it. When we looked at the life cycle in our 40’s, we looked at other 80 year olds to see who got wise and who not. Lots of old people don’t get wise, but you don’t get wise unless you age.

    In an interview with Erik and Joan Erikson they said that they are re thinking the last stage and that there should be a ninth stage for very old age. After all they finished this theory while in their 40’s published in the book “Childhood and Society”. Both lived till in their 90’s. They published an extended version with the ninth stage in “The Life Cycle Complete”. Joan was 93 when she wrote this stage.

  17. Gerotranscendence
  18. Another stage was needed because of all the new challenges very old aged people experience they also experience a spiritual view of their lives and the anticipation of their upcoming death. Gerotranscendence is a shift from a materialistic view to a more spiritual and transcendent one.

    During the ninth stage you revisit the eight stages all at once with the negative crises versus the positive in an effort to resolve any unfinished challenges so as to move on to the challenge of gerotranscendence. Before the positive was the virtue of strength now the strength comes from overcoming the negative.

Works cited

  1. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and Society. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  2. Erikson, E. H. (1959). Identity and the life cycle. Psychological Issues, 1(1), 50-100. doi: 10.1080/00797308.1959.11823098
  3. McLeod, S. A. (2018). Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from
  4. Waterman, A. S. (2013). Identity, the identity statuses, and identity status development: A contemporary statement. Developmental Review, 33(2), 128-141. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2013.03.001
  5. Bemak, F., & Epp, L. (1990). Erikson's stages of psychosocial development: A framework for understanding student development. NASPA Journal, 27(4), 251-257. doi: 10.2202/0027-6014.27.4.251
  6. Josselson, R. (1992). The theory of identity development and the question of intervention. In J. Marcia, A. Waterman, D. Matteson, S. Archer, & J. Orlofsky (Eds.), Ego identity: A handbook for psychosocial research (pp. 525-549). New York: Springer-Verlag.
  7. Newman, B. M., Newman, P. R., & Newman, B. M. (2012). Development through life: A psychosocial approach. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  8. Santrock, J. W. (2019). Life-Span Development. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
  9. Schwartz, S. J., Luyckx, K., & Vignoles, V. L. (2011). Handbook of identity theory and research. New York: Springer.
  10. Wolfradt, U. (2001). The relationship between identity development and adjustment outcomes in adolescents: Theory, research, and applications. European Psychologist, 6(2), 87-100. doi: 10.1027//1016-9040.6.2.87
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Erickson's 8 Stages Of Psychosocial Development. (2024, Feb 04). Retrieved from

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