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Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development Term Paper


Erikson advanced his theory of psychosocial development that claims child’s development to proceed in a strictly predetermined order. This development includes eight separate stages. His basic idea was that a child has to pass all eight steps in an orderly manner to complete successful development. If any of the stages is not passed successfully, the result can be a different personality or other psychological problems.

The eight stages include:

  • Trust Versus Mistrust. This stage occurs between the child’s birth and the end of the first year when “children begin to learn the ability to trust others based upon the consistency of their caregiver” (AllPsych, 2004). The successful completion of this stage permits children to develop trust in the surrounding world. Failure to do so will leave them with a feeling of fear and distrust in their environment, which can cause anxieties.
  • Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Occurring between 1 and 3 years of age, this stage demonstrates the drive toward independence when children begin to make personal choices. It is important to allow the child to develop enough independence instead of applying excessive control that will depress self-esteem and self-dependence.
  • Initiative vs. Guilt. In the period between three and six, children start to display initiative in playing games, proposing activities with others. Caregivers should allow the initiative to develop, for “if this tendency is squelched, either through criticism or control, children develop a sense of guilt” and remain passive followers rather than leaders (AllPsych, 2004).
  • Industry vs. Inferiority. This stage lasts from the age of six to puberty, the time during which adolescents “initiate projects, see them through to completion, and feel good about what they have achieved” (AllPsych, 2004).  This sense of accomplishment motivates children to be industrious and put effort into what they are doing; otherwise, children will mistrust their abilities and feel inferior to others.
  • Identity vs. Role Confusion. In the period of adolescence, children develop a clear outlook of what they want to accomplish in life, developing a set of views on their future, establishing career goals and setting expectations about family life. They have to develop a clear picture to avoid confusion about their future role in life.
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation. At the time of young adulthood, people have to develop the ability to form lasting intimate relationships with those outside of their families. Depression is the frequent outcome of failure to develop intimacy and resulting social isolation.
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation. In middle adulthood, individuals face the need to give back to society through creative work and family involvement. If these goals are not reached, the result is stagnation, bringing a feeling of low productivity and depression.
  • Ego Integrity vs. Despair. In the old age, seniors need to maintain ego integrity by maintaining a feeling of pride for their productive lives. Despair is the opposite feeling generated by a sense of guilt about their unsuccessful past lives.

The result of each stage is the product of both family environment and innate schemes. The two opposites in each stage conflict with each other, and “the crisis in each stage should be resolved by the ego in that stage, for development to proceed correctly” (Davis, Clifton, 1995). The satisfactory resolution lays the ground for subsequent healthy development.

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