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Erik Erikson’s 8 Stages Of Psychosocial Development

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Erikson strongly believes that humans progress through eight developmental stages from childhood to adulthood. How well you adapt to and allow yourself to develop through these stages will determine how well your self-confidence and strong personality will grow. Each stage picks up where the previous one left off, and there is often conflict over whether to move on to the next developmental stage with negative results or battle the failure from the previous stage before moving on.

Erikson’s theory is based on the belief that a person’s psychosocial development significantly impacts their relationship with others. If a person’s previous stage yielded a positive result, there is a positive influence on the subsequent stage; however, if the previous stage yielded a negative result, that will also affect the subsequent stage.

These stages are characterized by negotiating and blending sociocultural and biological forces. Any positive trait developed will be carried throughout life, whereas negative stages will return as problems in your later years.

 

Psychosocial Development

There are conflicts at each stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development, and each conflict will result in either gaining a weakness or gaining psychosocial power. These psychosocial abilities aid each individual’s personality. The individual and other key players in the developmental stages are entirely responsible for the individual’s success or failure.

Erik Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development

1.Trust vs. Mistrust

In Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, the trust vs. mistrust stage begins when a child is born and lasts until the child is eighteen months old. During this stage, a child will learn whether or not to trust, and the outcome will influence how the child perceives the world in the future. This stage is critical in a child’s life because it determines their future personal development and worldview. Babies rely entirely on their caregivers and how they interact with them, which significantly impacts the baby’s mental and physical health.

Babies hands in the mothers hands demonstrating trust as the first stage of psychosocial development

When a child develops trust patterns at a young age, it helps to build a strong foundation of trust, which is essential for the child’s emotional and social development. When a child successfully develops trust, they will feel more secure and safer in the context of the wider world.

You can use your child’s reliance to help the child develop trust. To develop this trust, you should become familiar with the various ways your child communicates and respond appropriately.

Children communicate nonverbally by crying, murmuring, moving their bodies, and throwing tantrums, which can indicate a desire for food, affection, or comfort. As a caregiver, you should study and master every sign your baby uses to communicate and build a bond and strong trust foundation with appropriate responses. Your child will begin to rely on you for their well-being as a result of your care, which will develop trust.

As a caregiver, you should make the most of this opportunity to help your child develop trust perception. When caregivers are unavailable, unpredictable, and untrustworthy, the child develops a sense of mistrust and finds it difficult to trust the outside world. A child with trust issues will become confused, anxious, and fearful, making it difficult to form healthy relationships with other people as they grow, potentially leading to isolation, loneliness, and a lack of social support.

2.Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

This is the stage at which your child will begin to develop a strong sense of self-control. It lasts from eighteen months to three years. This second stage builds on the first by contrasting trust and mistrust. In contrast to the first stage, where your child was completely dependent, your child will begin to attempt to do things independently.

Children should be allowed and encouraged to develop this sense of self-sufficiency. Food selection, clothing selection, toy selection, and toilet training are all the things that help children learn how to control their bodies and increase their self-control and independence. When your child is in the second stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, they will show signs of wanting to do things independently, even if the task is difficult. Encourage your child to develop this sense of independence because it is essential for the rest of their life.

Allowing a child to make a few mistakes before getting it right can be frustrating for a parent, but this is the only way the child can develop this important trait. When this stage is successfully completed, your child will feel confident and secure enough to try new things, but failure to complete this stage will create a sense of self-doubt and inadequacy in the child.

Children who believe in their abilities are more likely to succeed in academics, socialization, and whatever else life throws at them. To encourage completion of this stage, parents and caregivers should provide opportunities for their children to choose what to eat, wear, and play with. Create a safe playing environment for them and be available to guide them as needed.

3.Initiative and Guilt

This stage follows the autonomy vs. shame and doubt stage, and if a child successfully completes the preceding stage, they will most likely develop well in this third stage. The initiative and guilt stage lasts between 3 and 5 years; children develop their creativity during this time.

Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development defines initiative as “a truly unrestricted sense of enterprise that is reflected at the societal level in the organization of a society’s economy and its activities.” This means that at this age, children have a strong desire to try new tasks, join or plan new activities with friends, or learn new playing skills. This is when the child realizes they have some power that can affect the world and others.

Two kids using their own iniatives in a ball pit as part of Erik Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development

Children who develop initiative are open to new experiences and activities without being afraid of failure. They will understand what is under their control and what is not. Making a mistake is not a sign of failure or weakness to them, but rather an opportunity to try again. When they are able to try things on their own, they will gain direction and ambition.

Children develop this initiative through play and imagination. It allows them to exercise some control over what they do. Guilt is a feeling of shame that occurs when a child is unable to complete a task or when the child detects angry irritability from an adult nearby.

Children with this sense of guilt will interpret mistakes as personal failure or weakness—that they aren’t good enough. When a child has more guilt than initiative at this stage, they will avoid trying new things out of fear of failure. There should be a healthy balance of guilt and initiative. Children with initiative develop leadership skills and a sense of purpose in life because they are not afraid to try new things and are not threatened by failure.

4.Industry vs. Inferiority

This is Erikson’s fourth stage, which occurs between the ages of 6 and 11. At this stage, children make more friends and participate in social activities, which aids in their socioemotional development. As they accomplish new things and gain new abilities, they develop a sense of pride and competence in what they can do through creative play and learning, which will aid in developing a strong self-concept.

Those who perform well in school will have increased self-confidence, while those who perform poorly will be encouraged to improve by their educator. At this age, children have the ability to perform complex tasks, which motivates them to learn new skills. Children who struggle to develop this sense of competence might experience feelings of inferiority, failure, and difficulties in later stages.

Children who lack confidence in their ability to succeed are less likely to try new things, might believe their efforts are inadequate, and will not stand up to scrutiny.

Educators and parents should encourage and support children at this stage of development, particularly those struggling with feelings of inferiority. Over-praise for children who perform well at this stage of psychosocial development breeds arrogance and may cause them to lose focus. When rewarding or praising their performance, strike a balance. Encouragement for good work can help a child improve in areas where they struggle. Parents, educators, and other adults must encourage and assist children as they progress through this stage of their lives.

5.Identity vs. Role Confusion

This is Erik Erikson’s fifth stage of psychosocial development, which occurs between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Adolescence begins here, and as children grow from infancy to adulthood, they might become unsure of who they are and how they fit into society. Teens on a self-discovery journey might experiment with various activities, roles, and behaviors.

This experimental stage is critical in developing a strong identity and a sense of direction and purpose in life. When teenagers engage in social interactions, their ego identity develops. Identity, according to Erikson, is a “fundamental organizing principle that constantly develops throughout the lifespan.” Identity encompasses the relationships, experiences, values, memories, and beliefs that contribute to a person’s subjective sense of self. This contributes to the development of a consistent self-image that remains nearly constant even as new aspects of who you are emerge and strengthen over time. When this stage is successfully completed, a strong sense of personality is formed that will last a lifetime.

Children who are not encouraged to explore different identities will become confused about their roles. Not knowing your identity and where you fit in, transitioning from one relationship or job to another, difficulty staying committed, poor well-being, low self-confidence, and uncertainty about your life’s purpose are all consequences of role confusion. People who have built a strong identity are committed to the things they do in life, have a strong sense of self-confidence and independence, and can be relied on.

A young group of friends laughing at college developing psychosocial skills

Many factors, including societal trends, family, pop culture, friends, schoolmates, and social groups, can influence the success of this stage of development. To strengthen your identity, consider your core values and what makes you unique; this will guide and motivate your decision-making.

6.Intimacy vs. Isolation

This is the sixth stage of the psychosocial theory of development and occurs between the ages of nineteen and forty. People who successfully pass this stage will have a desire to be in loving and intimate relationships with others, but failure at this stage can result in isolation and loneliness.

Erikson believes that one of the most important aspects of psychosocial development is the development of a sense of intimacy, which aids in forming committed relationships. Intimate relationships are essential for emotional well-being, and intimacy is a feeling of honesty, closeness, and love that extends beyond sex. People who successfully manage the conflicts that arise during this stage will have romantic relationships, endurance when relating to others, meaningful and deep connections, great relationships with friends and family, and strong long-term relationships.

Intimacy entails listening to and assisting others and allowing people into your life to share your time, energy, and resources while reciprocating the same values.

Isolation occurs when there is a history of childhood abuse or neglect, the death or divorce of one’s partner, fear of commitment, intimacy, past relationships, difficulty disclosing oneself, and inability to be transparent with others.

You can overcome these causes of isolation by developing a skill, refraining from negative self-talk, understanding your preferences, examining your situation, and practicing how to disclose things to yourself. You should encourage yourself to put your safety in the hands of others, and even if they fail you, don’t accept it as the norm.

7.Generativity vs. Stagnation

According to Erikson’s theory, this is the seventh stage of psychosocial development and occurs between the ages of forty and sixty-five. Adults at this stage are more likely to do things that benefit others and society as a whole rather than themselves. Work, marriage, and raising children all contribute to the formation of this stage of life.

Generativity entails leaving a mark in the world by caring for others and creating things that can improve the world for human existence. Being committed to others, having good family relationships, mentoring others, and creating something that will benefit the next generation are all signs of generativity.

Stagnation occurs when adults fail to find ways to be relevant and contribute to the lives of others. Characteristics associated with stagnation include:

  • Refusal to associate with others.
  • Self-centeredness.
  • A lack of productivity.
  • A lack of self-development.

Break free from a rut, find a new hobby and source of inspiration, learn something new, and explore new opportunities.

8.Integrity vs. Despair

This is Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development’s eighth and final stage, which begins at age 65 and continues until death. When you look back on your life, you should feel a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Integrity is defined by the absence of regret, a sense of wholeness, peace of mind, acceptance, and wisdom. Looking back on your life, you might feel shame, regret, or disappointment. Regret, bitterness, the feeling that you wasted your life, feeling unproductive, depression, and hopelessness are all symptoms of despair.

 

Final Thoughts

Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development provides a detailed view of the various developmental stages that each individual goes through during their lives. This theory explains how failure at one stage can lead to a much larger problem in a person’s life later on and how success at a previous stage can rub off on the succeeding stage and help achieve a better result.

Parents, caregivers, and educators play an important role in a child’s success in the early stages of development before adulthood. Even if the problem can be traced to its source and effective methods of correction are used, the consequences of a failed developmental stage will negatively impact the next stage’s success.

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