Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development


Understanding the key stages of an individual’s psychosocial development is vital for providing appropriate support in situations that involve dealing with psychological issues. Although locating specific characteristics of the said stages, especially in younger children, is a rather challenging task due to the presence of individual qualities that may obscure the assessment, one can still identify common patterns typical for each stage. In this paper, the stages of Inferiority (Competency) and Identity vs. Role Confusion (Fidelity), ages 5-12 and 12-18 respectively, were considered (Wong, Hall, Justice, & Hernandez, 2015). According to the unofficial observation conducted in a local mall, children at the Inferiority (Competency) stage tend to show signs of developing self-esteem. In turn, children that have approached the Role Confusion (Fidelity) stage are in search of their identity and the sense of self, which often manifests in them trying on different personalities, as the situation observed in a local mall has shown.

Case 1: Inferiority (Competency)

The notorious image of a child crying in a mall, partially for a toy, and partially to get their parents’, typically, their mother’s, attention, perhaps, hits very close to home for most people who can remember their childhood. A case in point, a child named Chris (name changed) aged about 6, was stomping his foot and demanding a toy, yet his mother was trying to distract him. The loud demands of the child and the desire to go against his mother’s will, also attracting the attention of numerous people in a public place, can be considered a very vivid example of the Inferiority stage detailed by Erikson in his framework (Goodcase & Love, 2017). Namely, the recognition of his limited agency and the need to expand the boundaries of the allowed behavior types could be seen in the described situation (Wong et al., 2015). Moreover, it appears that the specified behavior indicates Chris having internalized the wrongfulness of his behavior previously and testing the morality and ethics that his mother had established for him (Dunkel & Harbke, 2017). The outlined observation appeared to be true since, after his mother had restated the boundaries once again by stating quietly yet firmly that he would not get any toy if he continued shouting, which helped perfectly.

Case 2: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Fidelity)

Another peculiar situation observed at the said mall involved a group of girls evidently at the Identity vs. Role Confusion (Fidelity) stage of Erikson’s framework. While most of the girls were heavily criticizing the stereotypically feminine colors and makeover items that they saw in the aisle, one of the girls, Mary (name changed) appeared to be rather nervous, although having supported her peers several times. However, after the latter moved to another aisle, she returned to pick a pink nail polish. The observed behavior aligns with the conflict that a range of teenagers experiences when undergoing the Identity vs. Role Confusion (Fidelity) stage (Wong et al., 2015). Namely, the current societal expectations, while promoting positive role models for women, may lead to shaming those that are inclined to embrace a more traditionally feminine look (Upreti, 2017). Thus, with her identity only gradually taking its shape, Mary was trying to consider different options, including those that emphasized femininity as it is traditionally perceived, yet was afraid of her peers’ response.


By analyzing the changes that people undergo at different stages of their development, one will be able to encompass various sociocultural factors shaping their identity. As a result, as a social worker, one will be able to decipher the issues that may have occurred at the specified stages, as well as locate the events that may have caused the problem. Specifically, an observation performed at a local mall has indicated that children at the Inferiority (Competency) stage strive to embrace the situations that help them to build self-esteem, whereas teenagers at the Role Confusion (Fidelity) stage face the dilemma of either complying with the demands of their peers or challenge them and explore their individuality.


Dunkel, C. S., & Harbke, C. (2017). A review of measures of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development: Evidence for a general factor. Journal of Adult Development, 24(1), 58-76. Web.

Goodcase, E. T., & Love, H. A. (2017). From despair to integrity: Using narrative therapy for older individuals in Erikson’s last stage of identity development. Clinical Social Work Journal, 45(4), 354-363. Web.

Upreti, R. A. S. H. M. I. (2017). Identity construction: An important issue among adolescents. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 22(6), 54-57. Web.

Wong, D. W., Hall, K. R., Justice, C. A., & Hernandez, L. W. (2015). Counseling individuals through the lifespan. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023, October 27). Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2023, October 27). Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development.

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"Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development." PsychologyWriting, 27 Oct. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development'. 27 October.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development." October 27, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development." October 27, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development." October 27, 2023.