Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development


Psychologists like Erik  Erikson believed that the personality of an individual is shaped by the social environment in which it grows. As a result Psychosocial theory of personality was propounded and supported by psychologists who disagreed with the psychoanalytical school of thought.

Erikson propounded the psychosocial stages of development to explain the personality formation at different phases of life. Each development phase has a particular task to complete which sets an individual fit to go to the next stage. If the development task of a particular stage is not completed then it may result in a crisis situation. These stages span through the birth till death of an individual.

Erikson has given 8 stages of psychosocial development which are discussed below:

Trust vs Mistrust

This age starts from birth and lasts till 1 to 1& ½ years. During this stage the individual is dependent on the caregiver and develops a sense of trust and hope  if he receives the nurturing and develops a sense of mistrust and anxiety if it does not receive consistent care. As the child grows it develops a sense of Hope and can move on to make healthy and trustworthy relationships. On the other hand if the child develops mistrust then in the later phases of life it will not be able to trust people and will not develop healthy relationships. 

Autonomy  vs Shame & Doubt

This stage starts from 18 months and lasts till 3 years. This is the age when the child starts to develop motor ability and wants to gain control over its physical movement. If the child is able to gain muscular strength and is encouraged to perform motor activities it develops a sense of autonomy and in later life is independent, secure and has the confidence to survive in the world independently. On the other hand if the child does not develop control and independence for its physical activities due to either overprotection or negligence of the caregiver then the child develops a sense of shame and doubt and grows up to be less confident and doubtful of its abilities. 

Initiative vs Guilt

This stage is from 3 to 5 years. The child starts to interact with other children and indulge in playful activities. The child starts its schooling and performs the scholastic  tasks. It develops a sense of curiosity and creativity. If their curiosity is answered by parents  then it develops a sense of initiative as it feels that their queries are valued. On the other hand if the children are discouraged to exhibit their creativity and their queries are unanswered then it leads to a sense of guilt which in later life can manifest in the form of feeling of unworthiness.

Industry vs Inferiority

This stage is between 5-11 years of age. In this stage the child tries to learn new skills and gain competence. The peer group of the child is very significant and it develops a sense of self esteem if able to acquire skills and achievements. The child develops a sense of industry if they are  successful in their endeavours. On the other hand if the child is not able to perform according to the social expectations or fails to gain skills, then develops a sense of inferiority. The virtue which a child gains during this phase is competence.  

stages of development wherein children participate in sports
Image source : Unsplash

Identity vs Role confusion

This stage is the adolescent age. This is the age of transformation from a child to an adult. There are physical changes leading to psychological changes. The expectation of society also starts changing. Gender roles become dominant. The individual tries to perform the expected role of the society. If the individual is able to identify the expected role and is able to perform it then a person develops a sense of identity and in later stages is able to establish relationships based on others expectations. If the person is not able to cope with the changing roles, it leads to the sense of role confusion which in later life may lead to a sense of confusion about their role in the society.

Intimacy vs Isolation

This stage starts with adulthood. In this stage an individual develops romantic relationship with the person of opposite sex. If the person is able to establish an intimate relationship it leads to the sense of intimacy. The person also develops other close relationships which are long lasting. Vice versa a sense of isolation develops if the person is unable to establish a close and fulfilling relationship with their partner or any long term close relationship. The virtue associated with this stage is love. 

Generativity vs Stagnation

This stage is after 40 years. In this stage the person takes initiative for giving back to the society by contributing in community and organizations, raising children, being productive at work etc. If the person successfully contributes to the social needs, the person  feels useful to others and  accomplished in  life leading to a sense of generativity. On the other hand if the person is not able to successfully contribute to the community, a sense of Stagnation develops. The virtue associated with this stage is care. 

Ego Integrity vs Despair

This stage is the last stage which is old age. During this phase the individual looks back at his accomplishments and achievements. If the person feels successful in being productive then he develops a sense of ego Integrity. If the person feels unsuccessful and unproductive and feels that he could not achieve his life’s goal, he feels dissatisfied and distressed leading to a sense of despair. Success in this age leads to the virtue of wisdom.


As per the psychosocial school of thought more emphasis is laid on the social environment of an individual in shaping the personality. Though internal processing of the stimulus is also acknowledged as same situation may have a different effect on two individuals. Hence, personality of an individual tends to be unique. Erikson’s stages of development provides a holistic perspective to understand personality.

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