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Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Theory and Practice written on a note.

Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development are divided into eight stages that address the entire lifespan. According to Erickson, human beings face new challenges at each developmental stage from birth to old age, which influences one’s development. He states that problems inherent in each stage must be resolved before entering the next stage. Each stage is referred to in two terms; for instance, trust-mistrust, intimacy-isolation, both terms have a successful and unsuccessful outcome.

The stages are characterized by specific tasks or crises that must be successfully resolved to proceed with development. If a stage is mastered, the individual will develop what is described as ego strength or ego quality. However, failure to overcome a crisis can lead to an inability to move to the next stage of growth. For instance, if an adolescent does not develop a sense of who they are, they can become confused about their identity.

Trust vs. Mistrust. Birth to one year. Trust: The primary relationship is the parent/caregiver. In order to establish a trusting relationship with the parent or caregiver, the infant’s basic needs must be met (feed, feelings of comfort, etc.). This will allow them to feel safe and confident that they can depend on others. Mistrust: If the caregiver is inconsistent or inattentive, the infant will develop mistrust and become withdrawn, anxious, and view the outside world as threatening and an untrustworthy place.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Ages one or two to three years. The major developmental task is to gain some independence within their environment. Autonomy: The child learns to be autonomous; try to feed themself, walk, using the toilet, etc. Shame & doubt is developed if autonomy is considered unacceptable, for instance, being told “no” or “you can’t do it”; conflict is not resolved if children who demonstrate independence or approval is rejected.

Initiative vs. Guilt. Ages three to five years. The major developmental task during this stage is to develop the ability to initiate and lead their own activities. Initiative: The child begins to take on responsibilities, and feel a sense of confidence in their ability to be creative, to interact with and lead others, engaging in imaginative and exploratory play.

Guilt: This occurs when the parent/caregiver does not recognize and support the child’s efforts. If behaviors are reprimanded, the child will develop guilt and suppress their curiosity. These individuals are considered passive and followers.

Industry vs. Inferiority. Ages 6 to 12 years. The major development task is to achieve a sense of self-confidence through learning, achievements, and receiving recognition from others. Industry – Children are motivated to learn, focused on accomplishments (mastery of physical, social, and academic skills). Inferiority: This occurs when children lack certain skills, are ridiculed by their peers or do not meet the expectation of their parents or themselves.

Identity vs. Role Confusion. Adolescents. The major developmental task during this stage is to develop a sense of self, emotional stability, and confidence. Identity: During this stage, the adolescent must resolve the crisis of basic ego identity. Adolescents tend to experiment with various identities in an attempt to discover who they really are. Role Confusion: Adolescence who fail to develop an identity, who experience an identity crisis, will be confused in their role. They may become withdrawn, seek negative identity (drugs/ crime), or have no future plans (family, employment, friends).

Intimacy vs. Isolation. Young adulthood. Intimacy: (Closeness and trust) The major developmental task is being able to develop a close intimate/ long-term relationship with others. Isolation: Failure to establish intimacy with others leads to isolation. They avoid social contacts, reject others, and prefers to be alone.

Generativity vs. Stagnation. Middle adulthood. Generativity: (Work and parenthood) This stage involves having children, contributing to the next generation (mentoring, teaching, etc.), engaging in meaningful activities. Stagnation: Failure leads to self-absorption, concerned only for self.

Ego integrity vs. Despair. Late adulthood. The major developmental task for this stage is to reflect on one’s past life experiences. Integrity develops if the individual is satisfied and believes their life has been meaningful. Despair: This occurs when it is too late to change, and failure results in regret, anger, and hopelessness.

The excerpt is taken from “Tackling the Social Work Clinical Study Guide and Workbook”

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