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Erikson's Stages Of Development

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Erikson's Stages Of Development

Freud believed that we go through five stages of psychosexual development, and each stage is crucial in the successful development of the self. Failure to progress through certain stages leads to issues later in life. Erik Erikson developed the initial idea presented by Freud with the eight stages of identity development, focusing more so on how identity is developed through crises and our social situations.

So, how do you think our personalities develop? At what ages do we start to develop them? We'll be looking at Erik Erikson's (1959) Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development as one potential theory about personality and the self.

  • First, we will provide an Erikson's stages of development summary, discussing Erikson stages of development ages.
  • Then, we'll discuss Erikson's stages of development importance, providing stages of development examples and charts.
  • To conclude, we will delve into an evaluation of Erikson's eight stages of identity development.

Erikson's stages of development: summary

According to Erikson, personality is developed through an eight-stage order of psychosocial development. These ages range from the time we are infants until we are adults. Erikson believed that social experiences, interactions and relationships played an important role in an individual's personality and growth development.

During each stage, the individual goes through a crisis - this crisis is between the individual's own needs and society's needs. Each stage is important, as the individual develops a healthier personality afterwards (if it is successfully completed).

Erikson's Stages Of Development, wooden blocks as steps, StudySmarterErikson believed our personality is developed in stages. Unsplash.com

If successful, after each stage, the individual gains a basic virtue. This virtue can help individuals approach and address crises throughout their lives.

Let's now briefly consider the stages of development.

Erikson's stages of development: chart

Here are the stages of development in a chart.

Stage Ages(s)CrisisBasic virtue gained
1. New-born - 18 monthsTrust vs. mistrustHope
2.1.5 - 3 yearsAutonomy vs. shameWill
3.3 - 5 yearsInitiative vs. guiltPurpose
4.5 - 12 yearsIndustry vs. inferiority Competency
5.12 - 18 yearsIdentity vs. role confusionFidelity
6.18 - 40 yearsIntimacy vs. isolationLove
7.40 - 65 yearsGenerativity vs. stagnation Care
8.65 +Ego integrity vs. despairWisdom

We will now go through each stage and consider its importance for personality development and what could happen if the stage succeeds or fails.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 1

Stage 1 is the stage of trust vs. mistrust. This stage lasts from birth to 18 months old. At this stage, the primary needs of the infant are to receive stable, consistent and reliable care from their primary caregiver.

Success in stage 1

If the primary caregiver reliably meets the infant's needs, the infant will develop trust, which will present itself in future relationships. They will develop a sense of security and the basic virtue of hope. The trust developed will help the infant maintain hope that they will be suitably supported during a crisis.

Failure in stage 1

If the infant's needs are not met, or if they are inconsistently or unpredictably met, the infant will develop mistrust and anxiety as they will not have hope that they will have support during a crisis. They will not gain the virtue of hope and instead will develop fear, which will present itself as mistrust, anxiety and suspicion in future relationships.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 2

Stage 2 is the stage of autonomy vs. shame and doubt. This stage lasts from 1.5 years to 3 years. At this stage, the child is focused on developing control over their independence and skills, such as putting on shoes and playing with their toys. They develop autonomy and independence.

Success in stage 2

If the child is supported in their pursuit of autonomy and independence, they will develop the basic virtue of will. This means that they start to make their own decisions (such as what they want to wear or eat); if they are supported, they will have increased confidence over their ability to survive and do things independently.

Failure in stage 2

If the child is criticised, controlled or generally discouraged from making their own decisions or speaking up, they will feel as though they cannot survive by themselves. This can lead to them being overly dependent on others, having low self-esteem or doubting their abilities.

During this stage, parents are advised to encourage children to perform tasks independently but still providing support if necessary. In this way, the child's independence is valued but they are not left to fail without support.

According to Erikson, the parents should balance between not doing everything for the child and criticising the child for failing at something.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 3

Stage 3 is the stage of initiative vs. guilt. This stage lasts from 3 - 5 years. At this stage, playing is important for the child as they learn how to interact with others and develop their interpersonal skills, most likely at nursery/preschool or school.

As children play and take part in activities with other children, they develop their initiative and their sense of confidence in leading others and making decisions.

Success in stage 3

If this initiative is supported by the parents, the child will be able to assert themselves through play and social interactions, and they will develop the basic virtue of purpose. The child may also assert themselves verbally by asking questions due to curiosity and learning.

Erikson's Stages Of Development, children playing with colourful parachuted in a field, StudySmarterAccording to Erikson, developing interpersonal skills is important at this stage. Unsplash.com

Failure in stage 3

If parents criticise or control the child's quest for initiative too much, the child may start to feel guilty for trying to direct play or social interaction. In addition, the child may feel as though they are a nuisance for asking questions or wanting to assert themselves.

This may lead to a lack of creativity and interpersonal interactions due to guilt. Erikson states there needs to be a balance between initiative and guilt, however, as too little guilt can lead to a lack of conscience and self control.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 4

Stage 4 is the stage of industry vs. inferiority. This stage lasts from 5 - 12 years. At this stage, it is important to the child to fit into wider society and with their peer groups. They will learn many new skills in school and be encouraged to do things independently.

Success in stage 4

Children should be encouraged for taking initiative; if so, they feel competent and secure in their ability to achieve something. They will develop the basic virtue of competence.

Failure in stage 4

If parents or teachers restrict or discourage initiative, the child is unlikely to be secure in their abilities and may not believe they are competent. In addition, if they feel they cannot live up to society's expectations of their skills, this can lead to a feeling of inferiority.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 5

Stage 5 is the stage of identity vs. role confusion. This stage lasts from 12 - 18 years. At this stage, children become adolescents and developing a personal sense of self and identity is very important.

Success in stage 5

Adolescents begins to think about their place in society as well as their future, dreams and goals. They will explore their identity to try and cement exactly who they are. Once they grow into themselves and adapt to bodily changes, the basic virtue of fidelity is developed.

This means that the adolescent will accept others even where there are significant differences, such as in ideology.

Failure in stage 5

If the adolescent does not form their own sense of identity or does not explore their identity, they may be confused about themselves (identity crisis) or their place in society (role confusion). To respond to these, the adolescent may try to experiment with different things, e.g. different friend groups or engaging in political activities.

Pressuring an adolescent into a particular identity can also lead to failure in this stage; this can cause the adolescent to rebel and develop unhappiness.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 6

Stage 6 is the stage of intimacy vs. isolation. This stage lasts from 18 - 40 years. At this stage, adults are faced with crises in the formation of intimate relationships with other people.

Success in stage 6

Adults will begin to commit to others, such as family members, friends and romantic partners. They will learn how to maintain relationships and develop feelings of safety and care within them. This will lead to the basic virtue of love.

Failure in stage 6

If adults avoid intimacy or commitment in relationships, they may develop psychological issues such as depression, and the subsequent lack of intimacy can result in isolation.

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 7

Stage 7 is the stage of generativity vs. stagnation. This stage lasts from 40 - 65 years. At this stage, adults contribute to society in many ways; through their work, involvement in communities or organisations and through raising children.

Success in stage 7

If successful, adults feel as though they have left their mark in the world and nurtured something that will outlive them. They feel useful and accomplished, which develops the basic virtue of care.

Failure in stage 7

If adults do not contribute to or participate in society, they may feel unproductive and disconnected from their community and wider society.

Erikson's Stages Of Development, couple sitting on bridge looking over mountains and river, StudySmarterLove and care are important basic virtues to develop throughout a lifespan. Unsplash.com

Erikson's stages of development: importance of stage 8

The final stage is the stage of ego integrity vs. despair and lasts from 65 years of age onwards. At this stage, adults reflect on their lives and either experience acceptance or regret towards their life choices.

Success in stage 8

Adults who reflect on their life and feel completeness and satisfaction will develop integrity if they believe they have led a successful life. They will develop the basic virtue of wisdom, allowing them to accept death.

Failure in stage 8

If adults do not feel as though they have been productive, or if they regret their life choices, they will develop despair. This can lead to a depressing and dissatisfied final stage of life.

Erikson states that even if wisdom is developed, the adult should experience both ego integrity and despair in a healthy balance.

Evaluation of Erikson's stages of development

Let's consider the strengths and weaknesses of Erikson's stages of development as a theory about personality and the self.

Strengths

  • The stages acknowledge the importance of later periods of an individual's life as well as childhood
  • The stages are relatable; many have said that the stages have related to their own life experiences
  • The theory links different stages of psychosocial development across a lifespan
  • There is support to back up Erikson's theory
  • Goodcase and Love (2016) highlighted how the stage concerning integrity and despair can be navigated and understood using narrative therapy; self-examination is a valuable tool even in old age

Weaknesses

  • Some argue that the stages are too descriptive - Erikson offers little explanation as to why such development occurs
  • The theory does not offer explanations as to which kinds of experiences individuals should have to move from one stage to another
  • Some have argued that this theory is based on male development, as Erikson believed that development differs by gender. It has been criticised for using male development as the 'default' for a human development theory (Gilligan, 1982)
  • Erikson's theory fails to account for cultural impacts on stages, and how one stage may be approached at a sooner age in one culture than another

Erikson himself stated that his theory was:

…a tool to think with rather than a factual analysis."

This suggests that the stages should be seen as a starting point for personality development.

Erikson's Stages Of Development - Key takeaways

  • According to Erikson, personality is developed through an eight-stage order of psychosocial development. Erikson believed that social experiences, interactions and relationships played an important role in an individual's personality and growth development.
  • If successful, after each stage, the individual gains a basic virtue. This virtue can help individuals approach and address crises throughout their lives.
  • Each stage passes through different periods of an individual's life, from birth to old age. It is important that each stage is passed successfully.
  • A strength of the theory is that it considers adulthood and later life and childhood.

  • A weakness of the theory is that it is descriptive rather than analytical.

Frequently Asked Questions about Erikson's Stages Of Development

The 8 stages of Erikson's theory are:

1. Trust vs. mistrust

2. Autonomy vs. shame

3. Initiative vs. guilt

4. Industry vs. inferiority

5. Identity vs. role confusion

6. Intimacy vs. isolation

7. Generativity vs. stagnation

8. Ego integrity vs. despair

The weaknesses of the theory include: 

  • Some argue that the stages are too descriptive - Erikson offers little explanation as to why such development occurs
  • The theory does not offer explanations as to which kinds of experiences individuals should have to move from one stage to another 
  • Some have argued that this theory is based on male development, as Erikson believed that development differs by gender. It has been criticised for using male development as the 'default' for a human development theory

The stages and ages are as follows:

1. Trust vs. mistrust (birth - 1.5 years)

2. Autonomy vs. shame (1.5 - 3 years)

3. Initiative vs. guilt (3 - 5 years)

4. Industry vs. inferiority (5 - 12 years)

5. Identity vs. role confusion (12 - 18 years)

6. Intimacy vs. isolation (18 - 40 years)

7. Generativity vs. stagnation (40 - 65 years)

8. Ego integrity vs. despair (65+ years)

The main ideas of the theory are that personality is developed through an eight-stage order of psychosocial development. Erikson believed that social experiences, interactions and relationships played an important role in an individual's personality and growth development. Identity is developed through crises and social situations.

Erikson emphasised the importance of each life stage in the development of personality.

Final Erikson's Stages Of Development Quiz

Question

What did Erikson believe played an important role in an individual's personality and growth development?

Show answer

Answer

Social experiences, interactions and relationships

Show question

Question

During each stage, an individual goes through _____. Fill in the blank.

Show answer

Answer

Crisis

Show question

Question

If successful, after each stage, the individual gains a _____ ______. Fill in the blank. 


Show answer

Answer

Basic virtue

Show question

Question

What is the crisis faced in Stage 1?

Show answer

Answer

Trust vs. mistrust

Show question

Question

What is the crisis faced in Stage 2?

Show answer

Answer

Autonomy vs. shame

Show question

Question

What is the basic virtue gained in Stage 3?

Show answer

Answer

Purpose

Show question

Question

What is the age that individuals experience Stage 4?

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Answer

5 - 12 years

Show question

Question

Name the crisis in Stage 5.

Show answer

Answer

Identity vs. role confusion

Show question

Question

What is the basic virtue gained in Stage 6?

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Answer

Love

Show question

Question

State the age, crisis and basic virtue gained in Stage 7.

Show answer

Answer

Stage 7 lasts from 40 - 65 years. Individuals go through the crisis of generativity vs. stagnation and gain the basic virtue of care.

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Question

What is the basic virtue gained in Stage 8?

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Answer

Wisdom

Show question

Question

In Stage 4, what could happen if parents or teachers restrict or discourage initiative? 

Show answer

Answer

The child is unlikely to be secure in their abilities and may not believe they are competent. In addition, if they feel they cannot live up to society's expectations of their skills, this can lead to a feeling of inferiority.

Show question

Question

Describe the consequences of failure in Stage 7.

Show answer

Answer

If adults do not contribute to or participate in society, they may feel unproductive and disconnected from their community and wider society. 


Show question

Question

What are the strengths of Erikson's stages of development?

Show answer

Answer

  • The stages acknowledge the importance of later periods of an individual's life as well as childhood
  • The stages are relatable; many have said that the stages have related to their own life experiences
  • The theory links different stages of psychosocial development across a lifespan
  • There is support to back up Erikson's theory (Goodcase & Love, 2016)

Show question

Question

What are the weaknesses of Erikson's stages of development?

Show answer

Answer

  • Some argue that the stages are too descriptive - Erikson offers little explanation as to why such development occurs
  • The theory does not offer explanations as to which kinds of experiences individuals should have to move from one stage to another 
  • Some have argued that this theory is based on male development, as Erikson believed that development differs by gender. It has been criticised for using male development as the 'default' for a human development theory

Show question

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