Erikson’s 8 Stages of Development – What Are They And How They Help

Last Update on January 29, 2024 : Published on January 29, 2024
Erikson's 8 Stages of Development

In alliance with Joan Erikson, Erikson presented Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development:” The theory points out a set of eight stages through which an ideal healthy human progresses from an infant to an adult. Psychoanalysis gives us a collection of therapeutic techniques and theories that are used for the treatment of mental disorders. It deals with the unconscious mind and helps to cure disorders.

Through this theory, Erikson explains that each stage’s outcome affects the next stages’ outcome. The outcome can be positive or negative. These stages cover the psychosocial and social aspects of an individual’s life development. These stages are namely :

  1. Trust vs. Mistrust.
  2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt.
  3. Initiative vs. Guilt.
  4. Industry vs. Inferiority.
  5. Identity vs. Confusion.
  6. Intimacy vs. Isolation.
  7. Generativity vs. Stagnation.
  8. Integrity vs. Despair.

Let us go through a summary of these stages.

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust

This stage spans from birth to 18 months (infancy). This is an elementary stage in life. At this stage of development, an individual completely depends on an adult caregiver. The child depends on the caregiver for basic survival, including safety, warmth, love, food, and nourishment.

Caregivers must be careful of this responsibility because this stage will be the deciding point of trust exhibited by an adult. If the caregiver is emotionally unavailable or inconsistent, the child will look at the world similarly. Failure to do this responsibility would instill a belief, or fear, in a child’s mind that they cannot depend on or trust an adult.

The child may develop a feeling of mistrust. On the positive side, if the caregiver is nurturing, affectionate, and available in all aspects, the child will feel secure and will look at the world positively. Upon completing this stage, the child will acquire a sense of hope. A hope that the child can trust the world.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt :

This stage spans from 2 to 3 years of age (early childhood). This stage focuses on the child’s developing control over themselves. At this stage, a child starts getting a little independence and control over their life. They start making basic decisions about their preferences, such as what food they like, what dress they want to wear, etc.

They are all set to perform simple actions on their own. Caregivers can instill a sense of autonomy in kids by allowing them to make these decisions independently and giving them a little control over their actions. Toilet training plays a crucial role in this stage as it gives the toddler a sense of physical control. This gives them a feeling of independence.

Children who fail in this stage and feel ashamed of their accidents develop a feeling of shame and doubt. Upon completing this stage, the child will acquire a sense of will. A willingness to explore the world as they get confident about their decisions and actions.

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt

This stage spans from 3 to 5 years of age (preschool). In this stage, the child interacts with the outer world more frequently than earlier. They get a chance to take initiative and socially interact with people other than their family. Parents should encourage this behavior of taking initiative, such as planning activities, leading a group of kids to play, learning from their mistakes, or executing simple tasks.

By this activity, children feel a sense of control over their surroundings. On the other hand, if caregivers neglect this behavior and discourage their initiatives, children feel guilty about their initiatives. Upon completing this stage, the child will acquire a sense of purpose—a purpose to look forward to taking up initiatives, taking a leadership role, and making decisions.

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority :

This stage spans from 6 to 11 years of age (school age). In this stage, a child is much more aware of his or her surroundings and individuality. They compare themselves with their peers to gauge their worth and capabilities. It marks the beginning of a healthy competition. They take delight in accomplishing their goals.

This stage involves industry or competence. When the child is supported and encouraged by their parents and teachers to make decisions using their skills and complete their tasks, they develop confidence. They get confident about the decision-making process and believe they can finish tasks using their skills.

On failure at this stage, when children do not receive enough support and encouragement about the decisions, they may develop inferiority. They might feel inadequate as compared to their peers.

Stage 5: Identity vs. Confusion :

This stage spans from 12 to 18 years of age (adolescence). The child enters their teenage years at this stage. They begin to look at the world differently. They form their own belief and value system. They form an identity of their own. This shapes their behavior in society. One’s belief might change with the knowledge they acquire, the people they interact with, and their identity.

Peer plays an important role in this stage. They affect a person in forming an identity. When a child is provided freedom to explore different options and form an identity, they develop fidelity. It helps them understand and accept others with different opinions, beliefs, values, and mindsets. When a child is being discouraged from exploring their identity, they end up in a state of confusion. This may lead to a lack of direction in life.

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation :

This stage spans from 19 to 40 (young adulthood). Individuals who have formed an identity and are confident tend to create relationships with others in this stage. This stage focuses on early adulthood and how an individual explores a loving and committed relationship with another person. Upon completing this stage, an individual forms an intimate and committed relationship.

They form a close bond and are comfortable sharing and sacrificing for the well-being of another person with whom they are in a relationship. When people are unsure about their identity and fail to form a relationship with anyone, they end up in isolation. This may lead to depression and loneliness.

Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation :

This stage spans from 40 to 65 (middle adulthood). This stage focuses on the societal contribution of an individual. A person builds their family and career and contributes to society. Individuals feel generativity when they raise children and bring about positive societal changes. They feel productive and experience fulfillment.

They can also contribute to society by being a mentor or a leader. They exhibit care towards society by contributing to society positively through family and work. If a person feels that they are not contributing anything to society and are unproductive, they experience a feeling of stagnation. They may feel less involved with society and not get along with others. They feel disconnected from society.

Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair :

This stage spans from 65 years of age until the person is alive (maturity). This stage focuses on looking back at life. They ponder over the decisions that they took over the course of their life. They take pride in their achievements. If one senses they have lived a fulfilling and successful life, they develop integrity.

They gain wisdom with all their experiences. They accept the fulfilling life that they have lived and experience closure. They are ready to face the end of their life with pride and peace. Those who feel that their life has not been fulfilling, achieved nothing, or still have unfinished business experience despair and bitterness. They regret that their life was not productive and they could not achieve what they wanted.

Takeaway :

According to Erikson, a person’s psychosocial development stages begin from infancy until the person is alive. To begin with, an infant learns about trust and mistrust, which helps see the world with a different outlook, and as the infant grows, learning about hope, desire, dreams, courage, comfort, and revenge comes into focus, which helps understand the world and one’s own emotions that are essential for developing relationships and being part of the society.

Through these stages, Erikson explains how an infant grows into an adult and lives a fulfilled life by enjoying all the stages.

About The Author

Ayush Yadav
Ayush Yadav

Aayush is a writer, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change and make people aware about the history. He holds a bachelor's in law, lives in the princely state Jaipur and is passionate about helping people in anyway possible. In his spare time, he is usually out with friends and enjoys exploring different facets of life.

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