Erickson’s Theory of Psycho-Social Development

Erik Erickson (1902 – 1994): Theory of Psycho-Social Development 

  • Born – June 15,1902 Frankfurt, Germany
  • Died – May 12, 1994 Massachusetts, USA
  • Nationality – American/ German
  • Fields – Developmental Psychology
  • Influences – Sigmund Freud/ Anna Freud
  • Coined the term – Lifespan Development
  • Known as – The Father of Psycho-social Development
  • He was an artist and a teacher in the late 1920s when he met Anna Freud, an Austrian psychoanalyst. With Anna’s encouragement, he began to study child psychoanalysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute.
  • He immigrated to the US in 1933 and taught at Yale and Harvard University.
  • It was at this point in his life that he became interested in the influence of society and culture on child development. To satisfy his curiosity, he studied groups of American Indian Children to help formulate his theories. Studying these children enabled him to correlate personality growth with parental and societal values.
  • He studied groups of Aboriginal children to learn about the influence of society and culture on child development. From this, he developed a number of theories, the most famous being his psycho-social development.
  • He believed that humans have to resolve different conflicts as they progress through each stage of development in the life cycle.
  • Erickson’s theory consists of eight stages of development. Each stage is characterized by a different conflict that must be resolved by the individual. If a person is unable to resolve a conflict at a particular stage, they will be confront and struggle with it later in life.

Psycho-social Development

  • According to Erikson – Each part of the personality has a particular time in the life span when it must develop, if it is going to develop at all. If it failed to developed on schedule, the rest of the development is unfavorably altered. The individual is then hindered from dealing effectively with reality.

Stage 1: Infancy -Trust vs. Mistrust

  • Age- Birth to 18 months
  • Conflict – Trust vs. Mistrust
  • Relationship – Mother
  • Strength – Hope
  • Question- Can I trust the world?
  • Key Event- Feeding
  • Children are completely dependent on others
  • Trust: Established when babies given adequate warmth, touching, love, and physical care-Dependable & Reliable.
  • Mistrust: Caused by inadequate or unpredictable care and by cold, indifferent, and rejecting parents-Undependable, Unpredictable & Dangerous. 

Stage 2- Early Childhood – Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt

  • Age- 18 month to 3 years
  • Conflict- Autonomy vs. Shame
  • Relationship- Parents
  • Strength- Will
  • Question- Is it ok to be me?
  • Key Event- Toilet Training
  • Autonomy: Doing things for themselves such as body control & making choices.  – Secure and confident self.
  • Shame: Overprotective or ridiculing parents may cause children to doubt abilities and feel shameful about their actions- Inadequacy & self doubt. 

Stage 3- Preschool – Initiative vs. Guilt

  • Age- 3 years to 6 years
  • Conflict- Initiative vs. Guilt
  • Relationship- Family
  • Strength- Purpose
  • Question- Is it okay for me to do, move & act?
  • Key Event- Independence
  • Initiative: Parents reinforce via giving children freedom to play, use imagination, and ask questions- Creative, Constructive.
  • Guilt: May occur if parents criticize, prevent play, or discourage a child’s questions- Always being wrong, Failed to explore world.
  • Initiative and Guilt should be balanced in order to have moral judgment. 

Stage 4- School Age – Industry vs. Inferiority

  • Age- 6 years to 12 years
  • Conflict- Industry vs. Inferiority
  • Relationship- Neighbors, School
  • Strength- Competence
  • Question- Can I make it in the world of people and things?
  • Key Event- School
  • Children’s have to cope with new social and academic demands
  • Industry: Occurs when child is praised for productive activities, such as painting and building- Sense of competence
  • Inferiority: Occurs if child’s efforts are regarded as messy or inadequate- Weak sense of self, Incapable to take responsibility 

Stage 5- Adolescence: Identity vs. Role Confusion

  • Age- 12 years to 18 years
  • Conflict- Identity vs. Role Confusion
  • Relationship- Peers, Role Model
  • Strength- Fidelity
  • Question- Who am I? What can I be?
  • Key Event- Peer relationships
  • Children learn a number of different roles.
  • Identity: One’s organization of individual drives, abilities, beliefs, and experience into consistent image of self. Who we are.
  • Role Confusion: Failure to establish an individual identity separate from the family and having no peer relationships and plans for an occupation- Ego diffusion 

Stage 6- Young Adulthood: Intimacy vs. Isolation

  • Age- 19 years to 40 years
  • Conflict- Intimacy vs. Isolation
  • Relationship- Friends, Partners
  • Strength- Love
  • Question- Can I love?
  • Key Event- Love relationships
  • Start of families
  • Intimacy: Ability to care about others and to share experiences with them- Strong relationship
  • Isolation: Feeling alone and uncared for in life- Loneliness

Stage 7- Middle Adulthood: Generativity vs. Stagnation

  • Age- 40 years to 65 years
  • Conflict- Generativity vs. Stagnation
  • Relationship- Household, Workmates
  • Strength- Care
  • Question- Can I make my life count?
  • Key Event- Parenting
  • Primary developmental task is one of contributing to society and helping to guide future generation.
  • Generativity: Interest in guiding the next generation- Social involvement, Parenting
  • Stagnation: When one is only concerned with one’s own needs and comforts- Material possession, Physical well being, Non productive 

Stage 8- Maturity: Integrity vs. Despair

  • Age- 65 years to Death
  • Conflict- Integrity vs. Despair
  • Relationship- Mankind, My kind
  • Strength- Wisdom
  • Question- Is it ok to have been me?
  • Key Event-Reflecting on and acceptance of one’s life
  • In the last stages of life individuals look back over their lives and judge them.
  • Integrity: Self-respect; developed when people have lived richly and responsibly- Feeling of wisdom and meaning
  • Despair: Occurs when previous life events are viewed with regret; experiences heartache and remorse- Regret, Bitterness 

Erickson’s Contribution

  • He made major contributions in the area of child development by studying groups of Native American children and developed the concept of identity crisis.
  • He was concerned with the relationship between society/culture and child development, which he termed “psychosocial development”.
  • This interest led him to develop the Eight Stages of Development.
  • In each stage, the individual encounters a developmental crisis.
  • In order to move on to the next stage, the individual must resolve the crisis. 

Criticism of Erickson

  • Ambiguous terms and concepts
  • Lack of precision
  • Some terms are not easily measured empirically
  • Experiences in stage may only apply to males
  • Identity crisis may only apply to those affluent enough to explore identities

About John Parankimalil

Educationist, Story-Teller, Motivator
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2 Responses to Erickson’s Theory of Psycho-Social Development

  1. Rupal Thakkar says:

    Thank you..your notes are very useful to me for studying for my B’ed…

  2. Lalhmingmawia says:

    Thanks a lot, I get more knowledge from this site

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