Eric Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development


Psychologist Eric Erikson has plotted the psychosocial development of individuals. He suggests that there are eight stages in the development of identity and only if the conflicts that arise at each stage are successfully resolved will the individual achieve a sense of secure identity.

Stage 1 is trust versus mistrust: only if a mother meets the child’s needs for attention, affection and sustenance will the child learn to trust other people.

Stage 2 is autonomy versus shame and doubt: by the age of three, he is already exploring the world, as he knows it, and starting to act independently. If he receives encouragement from his parents, he learns to trust himself and his actions. If not, he learns to doubt himself and his abilities instead.

At about age four, the child enters Stage 3, initiative versus guilt : he is now asking questions, coming up with his own ideas, making up his own games. If his parents encourage him, he develops confidence in himself. If they display impatience, he feels guilty and learns to be wary of initiating activity for himself.He may grow up to be dependent.

Stage 4 Erikson calls industry versus authority: the child, now at school, will double his efforts to learn and achieve if he is encouraged and praised by his teacher. But if he is always incurring disapproval, he may feel he fails to meet others’ standards and learn to feel inferior instead.

At twelve, he enters Stage5, identity versus role confusion: now, at puberty, he finds himself changing. If his identity has been positively reinforced up till then, he can weather the traumas of adolescence but if he has been thwarted and made distrustful of himself and his potential, it is a frightening period of identity crisis and uncertainty. Only if he is secure in himself can he, later,allow himself to be vulnerable to other people and to form intimate relationships. If not, intimacy is threatening and must be protected against (Stage 6, intimacy versus isolation).

The two remaining stages occur in middle and old age,when again changing circumstances may provoke identity crises.

Source: “The Influencing Effects of Feelings,” from The Manipulated Mind, By Denise Winn

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