Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages

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Human developmental life stages explain the changes children undergo as they grow and mature. Various theories have been created to explain the different development aspects that include cognitive, emotional, and social growth. Developmental life stages in human is a varied and rich subject to study. Everyone has their personal experience in development, yet it is tough to understand why and how different people grow, act, and learn as they do. Developmental psychologists try to answer some of these questions and at the same time try to understand, predict and explain behaviors that take place throughout the human life span. Some of the different theories that have risen over the years trying to explain the various aspects of human development and growth include Freud’s psychosexual, Erikson’s psychosocial, behavioral child, Piaget’s cognitive, and Vygotsky’s sociocultural developmental theories. Some of these theories use a step approach, while others focus on limited aspects such as social or cognitive growth. This research paper focuses on the Erikson psychosocial development theory to explain the human developmental stages.

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This theory is different from many other theories since it covers development from birth until death, unlike others which only cover a specific aspect of human development. The theory has eight stages that an individual goes through, exhibiting conflicts at each location (Cohen & Waite-Stupiansky, 2017). Disputes act as a critical point in the development of a person. A psychosocial quality is developed for a specific stage of growth after a dispute is successfully resolved. This paper explains in detail all the eight steps in Erikson’s psychosocial developmental theory.

Trust versus Mistrust

This is the first stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development theory. It starts at birth and continues up to around eighteen months (Cohen & Waite-Stupiansky, 2017). Erikson portrays this stage as the crucial time in a child’s life since it is responsible for molding a child’s overall personality and worldview. This stage comprises various aspects such as psychosocial conflict, essential questions of who to trust, essential virtues such as hope, and important events like feeding.

Babies are majorly dependent on caregivers who, in most cases, happen to be their parents at this time (Cohen & Waite-Stupiansky, 2017). Thus, parents and their babies’ interaction at this tender age predominantly affects both the mental and physical health of the baby. Strong patterns of trust are crucial since they help children in emotional and social development. Children who develop confidence view the world as a secure and safe place. The perspective gained helps in molding their personality since they feel the world is sure.

Babies that tend to trust caregivers are most likely to create trusting relationships throughout their lives with other people. The best way a caregiver can ensure that babies trust them is to respond appropriately whenever they communicate with them (Robinson et al., 2016). Babies use nonverbal means to communicate with their caregivers about their feelings and thoughts (Cohen & Waite-Stupiansky, 2017). Crying is a primary means of communication in babies and shows that they need something. For example, cries can show affection such as unmet needs, comfort like bathing, and food. Thus, it is essential to understand the baby’s communication methods and respond appropriately for them to start trusting you (Robinson et al., 2016). Children brought up by unpredictable and unreliable parents eventually become lonely. Mistrust makes these children anxious, confused, and fearful and leads to poor relationships that cause loneliness, isolation, and weak social support.

Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt

This stage takes place between eighteen months to two or three years. During this period, children mainly focus on developing self-control. At this stage, psychosocial conflict becomes autonomy versus doubt and shame, major questions change to what they are capable of doing by themselves, essential virtues change to things like a strong will. Important events also change to something like toilet training (Dimitrova et al., 2019). Children at this stage show the need to control themselves and the things that surround them.

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When individuals complete this level successfully they feel confident and secure while those who do not manage to accomplish the level face self-doubt and inadequacy. Children who acquire confidence sub sequentially succeed in studies mastering social and other skills. Parents who have faith and offer reassurance in a child’s ability greatly help develop confidence and autonomy. In contrast, those who frequently punish their children for small mistakes create a feeling of self-doubt and shame in them.

Initiative versus Guilt

Individuals at this level start to assert their control and power over things around them through social interaction and play at this level (Robinson et al., 2016). Psychosocial conflict at this stage becomes initiative versus guilt while major questions towards determining if they are good or bad. In this stage, children explore things and their abilities independently increase and, in turn, develop direction and ambition. They start to accomplish tasks, plan activities and face different challenges (Dimitrova et al., 2019). This period is likely very frustrating to the caregivers since children start making decisions such as who to play with and the activities to engage in, which may not align with them. Parents must encourage their children to explore and help them make the best choices. Parents who are not supportive of their young ones at this stage encourage them to be over-dependent on others and these children always feel ashamed of themselves.

Industry versus Inferiority

This is the fourth stage of Erikson’s theory and occurs when the child is around six to seven years. During this period, the child questions how to be good and adopts good skills such as competence (Mann-Feder, 2019). At this age, real events in their life involve school and other social interactions, which play a crucial role in their lives. By entering school and creating new friendships, children become proud because of their abilities and accomplishment. Children here are capable of undertaking complex tasks, and they struggle to master new skills. The children commended and encouraged by their teachers and parents develop a sense of belief and competence in their abilities. Individuals appear from this stage with a feeling of inferiority and failure and are ready to face problems in later developments.

Identify versus Confusion

Erik Erikson in psychosocial development theory is referred to this scene as the ego level. The scene occurs during adolescence between 13 years and 20 years (Mann-Feder, 2019). During this level, teens survey different characters, identities, and behaviors. At this level, adolescents started to discern insecurity and confusion about themselves besides how they fit in the community. During establishing a sense of self, adolescents try out various behaviors, activities, and characters. This process is vital in acquiring a sense of direction and developing a solid identity in life.

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This stage is considered essential in the development of people. Imitating a strong identity plays a fundamental role in identifying future directions (Mann-Feder, 2019). Teens who get a strong sense of identity discern independence, security, and safety to interacting with real life. Moreover, teenagers who are still confused feel unconfident, lost, and do not fit in the community. The discussion is majoring in developing a solid personal identity (Mann-Feder, 2019). Successful termination of this stage prompts enthusiasm and the reason to live in the future.

Intimacy versus Isolation

This stage majorly deals with developing relationships with different types of people. According to Erikson’s psychosocial development theory, he believed that it is vital to be committed to a strong relationship with people (Killam & Degges, 2017). While humans are approaching adulthood, emotionally intimate relationships serve a significant character in someone’s emotional well-being (Sekowski, 2020). In some cases, isolation may occur due to various factors like abuse during childhood, fear of intimacy, past relationship, inability to be free, fear of commitment, and a loved one’s death.

According to many, intimacy is mainly associated with sex. Erikson mentioned intimate relationships as those created through love, honesty, and closeness (Sekowski, 2020). By successfully attaining loving relationships with different people, people may enjoy intimacy and experience love in society (Robinson et al., 2016). On the other hand, failure to obtain intimacy and long-lasting relations can lead to feeling lonely, isolated, and not approved by the community.

Generativity versus Stagnation

This stage mostly emphasizes the urge to take care of things that will help the individual survive. Assisting the society and supporting positive changes in the community to benefit the incoming generation are important deeds at this stage. Stagnation characteristics are a minimal concern to improve the self, self-centered nature, failing to interact with others, not being interested in productivity, or allowing self-concern above everything else (Killam & Degges, 2017). Those who fail to attain means contributing to society always feel useless, not worthy, and disconnected.

Integrity versus Despair

This is the last psychosocial stage. The age starts at around 65 years until death. At this stage, individuals review the past of their life (Killam & Degges, 2017). The most familiar question at this stage is, “Did I live a significant life?” Individuals who have lived a meaningful life always have a sense of intelligence, fulfillment, and peace despite encountering death. Moreover, those who look back and find a meaningless past have despair life with regret and bitterness.


Erikson’s theory uses an inclusive approach since it covers all the stages humans go through from birth to death. Unlike other theories that dwell on specific stages of growth, Erikson captures all the aspects in eight stages. These stages include trust versus mistrust, initiative versus guilt, autonomy versus shame and doubt, intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, identity versus confusion, and integrity versus despair.

It is crucial to memorize Erikson’s theory, which describes how development stages occur. Although the research has revealed different aspects of these stages like the essence of relationships, work, and society, it does not conclude that each element of the theory is actual. Nevertheless, human development stages might be an advantageous way to consider how individuals turn their life and some difficulties they encounter through life.


Cohen, L. E., & Waite-Stupiansky, S. (Eds.). (2017). Theories of early childhood education: Developmental, behaviorist, and critical. Taylor & Francis.

Dimitrova, R., Hatano, K., Sugimura, K., & Ferrer-Wreder, L. (2019). The Erikson Psychosocial Stage Inventory in adolescent samples: Factorial validity and equivalence of identity as measured from the United States and Japan. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 35(5), 680.

Killam, W. K., Degges-White, S., (Eds.). (2017). College student development: Applying theory to practice on the diverse campus. Springer

Mann-Feder, V. R. (2019). How can I be a real adult?: Developmental theory as a framework for practice, policy, and research on care leaving. Varda R. Mann-Feder and Martin Goyette (Eds.). In Leaving care and the transition to adulthood (pp. 9-30). Oxford University Press.

Robinson, O., Demetre, J., & Litman, J. (2016). Adult life stage and crisis as predictors of curiosity and authenticity. International Journal Of Behavioral Development, 41(3), 426-431. Web.

Sekowski, M. (2020). Attitude toward death from the perspective of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial ego development: An unused potential. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, July 28). Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages.

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"Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages." PsychologyWriting, 28 July 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages'. 28 July.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages." July 28, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages." July 28, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "Erikson Psychosocial Developmental Theory Stages." July 28, 2022.