Erickson’s Theory of Development

Erik Erickson (1902-994) was a German psychoanalyst who expounded on developmental stages in relation to the role of specific stage. He believed that children develop in a predestined sequence where their socialization affects them and their self-perception. For instance, when infant’s emotional and physical wants are neglected, they attain their role through developing capacity to have or lack confidence on them. All the same the unaccomplished roles haunt a person in the stages that follow.

Erickson was convinced that childhood is exceptionally crucial for personality development. Convinced by a number of Freud’s theories he however rejected his notion of expounding personality singly on the ground of sexuality. Erickson asserted that personality continuously enveloped even past five years (Sigelman & Rider, 2009).

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According to Erickson, psychosexual developmental stages are absolutely there during birth. However, they are manifest continuously with respect to inborn system as well as family upbringing, essential for inflicting cultural principles on a child. Every stage is dependent on the former one and also makes preparations for the succeeding stages. Every stage is particularly marked by psychological crisis as a result of psychological development.

This psychological crisis should be determined through the ego with respect to the stage in question for proper development to take place. The product of a particular stage is temporary and is subject to alterations of afterward encounters. All individuals possess a combination of characters, achieved from every stage, although personality development is said to be thriving when person’s good character outdo the bad ones (Moreno, 2009).

Stage 1: Infancy– Basic Trust vs. Mistrust

This is also recognized as oral sensory stage for infants who are from birth to one year. The psychological crisis they experience is trust vs. mistrust while the virtue attained is hope and faith. This stage revolves around an infant’s needs, which have to be fulfilled consistently by parents through their nurturing.

It begins immediately after birth where infants have sensory maladjustments (Lerner, 2002). Infants are dependent fully on their parents’ particularity the mother for provisions such as, comfort and nourishment. Infant’s perception of the society is derived from parents as they socialize with the child. When parents offer the infant with affection and comfort, he or she perceives the world with trust.

Conversely, the infant may perceive the world with mistrust when he or she lacks fulfillment of his requirements or when he is exposed to insecure surroundings. Erickson maintains that the crucial role at infancy is learning if parents often meet their basic requirements.

If they provide comfort, and meet the infant’s needs such as nourishment and need for affection, the infant perceives others as being trustworthy as well. However, on neglecting these needs or exposure to violence and abuse the infant regards others as untrustworthy. He or she acquires mistrust thus, the perception that the world is unreliable and a hostile place, characterized by sensory distortion or withdrawal (Greene & Kropf, 2009).

Stage 2: Toddler–Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt

The psychological crisis in this developmental stage is autonomy vs. shame while the virtue attained is will & determination. In this stage, the toddler is two to four years of age or in anal-muscular stage.

The toddler has been acquired motor potential and eliminative performance and therefore, is able to investigate their physical environment. Parents reinforce the security where the child is able to explore to affirm their will and develop self esteem and confidence (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2002). When a parent is able to encourage the toddler patiently, he or she becomes autonomous.

However, the Parents who foster strict rules, overly controlling or respond with criticism, at this stage inflicts the toddler with a sense of uncertainty and disinclination to try new tasks. The toddler acquires muscular coordination hence can meet some of the requirements. At this stage, they can feed alone, go to the toilet alone and even clothe themselves.

When parents encourage them to explore, they acquire independency and autonomy to perform by themselves. Otherwise, restrictive parents who discourage self sufficiency make the toddler to acquire shame as well as doubt of their potential to accomplish certain roles (Greene & Kropf, 2009).

Stage 3: Preschooler–Initiative vs. Guilt

The psychological crisis as this stage is initiative vs. guilt while the virtue attained is purpose. The preschool stage encompasses four to six years of age or the genital-locomotor stage (Lerner, 2002). Initiative complements autonomy where a child is able to actively begin a task after planning to forge ahead.

At this stage, the preschooler learns to comprehend his environment, is able to learn basic aspects and improves their language. Here, the preschooler requires start and accomplish certain talks. However, guilt marks their psychological crisis even on tasks that should not trigger such an emotion and when they fail to accomplish their desired outcome.

They acquire bravery and independency though they are constantly faced with a crisis on initiative and guilt. In the process, he is able to plan and judge, initiate a task and plan for leadership and attaining goals. They also have risk talking roles as they become self-limiting and may thus learn negative traits especially when frustrated or when the preschooler does not accomplish a task. These traits may be marked by aggression and cruel e.g. yelling, tossing items and beating others (Lerner, 2002).

Preschoolers can attain desired tasks solely and even begin new ones. They become independent and have to decide which activity to undertake some of which they are able to attain and others they fail to, since they overwhelm their potential. It is the role of parents to encourage their practices, guiding them to come up with a proper decision to enhance their initiative.

When the children are discouraged of being independent at this stage through dismissal, they acquire a sense of guilt and lack self initiative since they fear being a nuisance to others (Greene & Kropf, 2009).

Stage 4: School-Age Child–Industry vs. Inferiority

The psychological crisis that characterizes this stage is Industry vs. Inferiority while the virtue attained is competence. School-age children are within seven and thirteen years of age or the latency stage (Lerner, 2002). The child aims at being productive especially through being industrious and applying technology to pursue self worthiness by skills refinement.

They quest for self-awareness, tries to become responsible by right conduct, being reasonable and cooperative. They may however become rebellious and defiant to manifest their independency. Erickson maintains that this period is critical for learning self confidence. This is because they can now be acknowledged by teachers, their parents or age mates through the tasks they accomplish.

When they are facilitated to undertake tasks through motivation and praise, as a result, they become industrious through diligence, perseverance and being responsible. However, when children are reprimanded for their hard work they put in, or being discouraged by failure to meet the parents and teachers prospects, they acquire inferiority of their potentials (Greene & Kropf, 2009).

Stage 5: Adolescent– dentity vs. role confusion

The psychological crisis at this stage is Identity vs. Identity Diffusion while the child achieves fidelity as a quality. Adolescents range from fourteen to twenty four years and their primary concern is others perception of them, conscious of their self image.

In early stages, a child recognizes his or her super-ego identity being attentive at school or in a career but later he or she identifies the sexual identity. On changing from childhood to maturity they think of their role in the society regarding their social roles and may adjust their behaviors and engagements to suit with their aspirations (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2002).

According to Erickson, adolescents acquire self identity and their present and future role in the society through career, family, and social interactions. They are confronted with identity crisis specifically because they are transiting from childhood, which is marked by various identifications to maturity.

It is a turning point where there has to be a balance between the individual that has resulted in childhood and the societal expectations of him or her. At this stage, there is a need to create boundaries where the society allows them to discover themselves. The individual makes decisions on personal ideologies characterized by disagreement from adults due to their political or religious standpoints. In addition, they have to make career choices often conflicting with those of their parents (Greene & Kropf, 2009).

Stage 6: Young Adult–Intimacy vs. Isolation

Young adults are those aged twenty five to forty years. They are faced with a crisis of intimacy vs. isolation especially at thirty years. Identity vs. role confusion of the previous stage establishes this stage. Young adults pursue identifying themselves with peers and want to fit with them.

According to Erickson, people may isolate an individual due to intimacy since they fear rejection which hurts. After individuals have created their identity, they pursue long-lasting commitments, structuring intimate relationship such as marriage, or life partners and closer relations with parents. Individuals compromise their values and self-sacrifice for the sake of the relationship with a spouse. Failure to form such relationships results to isolation (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2002).

Stage 7: Middle-aged Adult–Generativity vs. Self-absorption

This stage is marked by the psychological crisis of generativity vs. stagnation as individuals attain care as a virtue. The stage encompasses forty five to sixty five years. Generatively is the want of creating and directing one’s children thorough discipline and participating in social work.

At this stage, an individual desires to play part in the society e.g. through family upbringing, social work, career and civil matters. This results to feeling of attainment or being productive. Conversely, self centered individuals who have not given back to the society acquires a feeling of stagnation, being dissatisfied by their unproductively (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2002).

Stage 8: Older Adult (Wisdom) – Integrity vs. Despair

This stage is marked by Integrity vs. Despair as a psychological crisis while wisdom may be attained as a virtue. The seniors range from sixty five years and above. The senior citizens are less productive and contemplate on life achievements thus, a sense of integrity ensures on living a good life.

However on perceiving the life as unproductive of failure to attain one’s goals, dissatisfaction arises and a sense of despair in attained. In this stage, there is retrospection of one’s life and one is either contented or desperate, depending on their productivity as they await death (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2002).


Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development is marked by 8 distinctive stages. When a child completes every stage successfully, he or she acquires a healthy personality and better socialization. This award an individual with ego identity, which through competence, ego strength is achieved. Conversely, skipping any aspect of a given stage leads to a declined ability to successfully complete the sequential stages thus, deteriorating one’s personality and self perception. However, the crisis can be resolved later in life.

According to Erickson, external factors greatly influence personality development since infancy to adulthood, which includes caretakers to a child’s well as the society at large. The stages are interrelated and every individual has to interact with each stage in the course of life (Moreno, 2009). Erickson theory of development is essential to reveal self-awareness and develop it.

He acknowledges that human continuously develop from infancy to death and that personality is not only formed in infancy. This is not only realistic but also encourage individuals to face future with optimism, knowing that it will offer grounds for further development to better oneself even when one has unsuccessfully went through a certain stage. The theory therefore fits to be taught in school to children, their parents as well as teachers for each one to know their role, for successful completion of each stage stage.


Greene, R. R. and Kropf, N. (2009). Human Behavior Theory: A Diversity Framework. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers,

Kail, R.V and Cavanaugh, J. C. (2002). Human Development: A Lifespan View. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Lerner, R. M. (2002). Concepts and Theories of Human Development. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Moreno, R. (2009). Educational Psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Sigelman, C. K. and Rider, E. A (2009). Life-Span Human Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


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