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Erickson & Psychosocial Stages

Erik Erikson, a German psychoanalyst, developed eight psychosocial stages of development that he identified in his book “Childhood and Society,” published in 1950. Each stage offers a challenge and an opportunity for personal growth.

Meeting each challenge successfully results in a confident, productive member of society.


Infancy: Trust vs. Mistrust

An infant has basic physical needs: feeding, changing and contact. If these needs are consistently met, the infant develops a sense of hope and a basic trust of the people around him. If these needs are consistently ignored, the infant develops mistrust.


Early Childhood: Autonomy vs. Shame

The toddler learns to perform tasks for himself. If his attempts at independence are greeted with praise and his tantrums dealt with firmly, he develops a sense of pride. A child given unreasonable demands, or handled too harshly during this time, is likely to develop shame and doubt in his abilities.


Preschool: Initiative vs. Guilt

A preschooler begins to imitate actions of adults, and eventually begins to initiate the activities in creative play. Initiative leads to purpose. Punishments for initiative behavior can lead to guilt and inhibition.


Psychosocial Stages


School Age: Industry vs. Inferiority

The school-age child is challenged to develop a sense of competence in the new skills he is learning. If encouraged, he is confident; if discouraged, he feels inferior.


Adolescent: Identity vs. Role Confusion

The adolescent must identify his many roles, and integrate these roles into a single personal identity. He is a friend, son, student, employee, and is viewed differently in each of these situations.

He must decide who he is in the face of the social pressures that seek to identify him. An unwavering identity can lead to fanaticism when he refuses to compromise, while having no personal identity can leave him lost.


Young Adult: Intimacy vs. Isolation

Intimacy is the ability to love and be loved in relationships. Successfully developing intimacy can lead to fulfilling relationships, but underdeveloped intimacy often leads to isolation.


Middle-aged Adult: Generativity vs. Stagnation

Successful individuals often feel generativity, a concern for future generations. This person has made contributions to society, and is now concerned with how the next generation will receive his contributions. Stagnation occurs when an individual is dissatisfied with his achievements.


Late Adult: Integrity vs. Despair

Late adulthood is a time of reflection. Integrity is the feeling of contentment and acceptance of aging that results from a meaningful life. Those adults dissatisfied with their accomplishments experience feelings of despair and dread as the end of life nears.


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