Development Theory: Freud v. Erickson

Zigmund Freud and Erik Erikson are widely known in the field of psychology, mainly for the creation of well-known developmental theories. Even though Freud’s psychosexual approach and the psychosocial methods of Erikson are severely distinctive from each other, the two models have much in common. The following paper is focused on comparing and contrasting two developmental theories of Freud and Erikson to gain a deeper understanding of their approaches.

Erikson adopted some of Freud’s ideas, however, in his unique way. Freud’s developmental theory contains five stages, ending in adolescence, whereas Erikson has eight, up until the person’s decease. The initial stage defines the first year of a child’s life, where both theories emphasize the importance of experience. While Erikson outlines the social aspect called trust versus mistrust, where a child starts to recognize what to feel towards certain people, Freud calls it the oral stage, an infant’s primary source of pleasure (Liberty University, n.d). Therefore, the two specialists see the first year of a person’s life in a distinctive light.

The second stage of development is measured between ages 1 to 3. While the two theories do not match on some approaches, they both focus on a child’s independence formation. Freud calls it the anal stage, where toilet training plays an instrument to gain independence for a child (Lantz & Ray, 2020). On the other hand, Erikson’s stage is called autonomy versus shame and doubt, where a toddler gradually becomes self-sufficient under controlled activities. In such a way, both theories have a similar central idea, but different views on them.

In the next stage, from ages 3 to 6, Freud wrapped around the idea of a raised libido and first sexual interests, calling it the phallic stage. Erikson defines this period as the initiative versus guilt stage; where a child begins to interact and develop their communicational skills among peers (Syed & McLean, 2017). The following ages of 7 to 11 are more transitional periods from childhood to adolescence. Freud called it the latent period, stating about suppressed libido and raised focus on social activities (Lantz & Ray, 2020). At the same time, Erikson points out on continuation of mastering skills and development of competence, calling it the industry versus inferiority stage.

The following period of adolescence plays a critical role in both developmental theories, as a part of identity formation. This is the last stage in Freud’s theory known as the genital stage, where teenagers begin to explore romantic relationships, which consequently may lead to a sense of balance in life. Erikson’s identity versus role confusion stage is characterized by forming a unique identity and sense of self through exploring social roles and communications (Lumen, 2019). At this point, Freud’s psychosexual theory ends, but the contradicting scholar has three more.

The sixth period in Erikson’s psychosocial theory, young adulthood called intimacy vs. isolation. He states that after developing a sense of self, a person is ready to share their life and develop lasting relationships with others. Mid 40’s open a generativity versus stagnation stage, where a person now contributes to the growth of others through parenting or mentoring (Syed & McLean, 2017). The period from the mid-60s until death Erikson named integrity versus despair, where people reminisce on their life either feeling satisfaction or discomfort of unaccomplished dreams.

Personally, I relate more to Erikson’s theory and think it is more favorable due to several reasons. Firstly, it focuses more on the social aspect of a person’s development, which is reflected in the formation of their personality that is more accurate than comparing social development with sexual growth. Secondly, Erikson’s theory is more comprehensive, explaining that a person never stops their development, continually altering their identity, whereas Freud only focuses on the childhood-adolescence. Therefore, Erikson’s psychosocial developmental theory is more feasible and realistic, emphasizing that social interactions affect one’s personality development.


Lantz, S. E., & Ray, S. (2020). Freud developmental theory. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing. Web.

Liberty University. (n.d.). Theories of psychosocial development. Liberty University – Course Apps. Web.

Lumen. (2019). Psychosexual and psychosocial theories of development | Introduction to psychology. Lumen Learning. Web.

Syed, M., & McLean, K. (2017). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. PsyArXiv. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Development Theory: Freud v. Erickson." September 7, 2023.