Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development is one of the most popular theories of human development that we have. The theory is based on eight stages of psychosocial development. Each stage presents a conflict of between attaining a goal or failing to attain the goal which results in developing an emotional liability. Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development are as follows:

1) Trust vs. Mistrust: (Infancy - birth to 18 months of age)
a. Takes place between birth and one year of age and is the most fundamental stage in life.
b. Infants are totally dependent on their caregivers. Caregivers build trust by displaying dependability.
c. Children who develop trust = feeling safe and secure
d. Children who don’t develop trust = belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable

2) Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: (Toddler - Ages two and three)
a. Takes place during early childhood and is focused on children developing a greater sense of independence and
b. Toilet training is an important part of this stage. It boosts the feeling of independence in the toddler.
c. Children begin to desire more control over what they eat, which toys they play with, and what clothes they wear.
d. Children who have success in this stage acquire confidence, those who don’t have to deal with feelings of self-doubt
and inadequacy

3) Initiative vs. Guilt: (Kindergarten - Ages four and five)
a. In the preschool years, children build on their independence in how they play and interact with others.
b. Children who have success in this stage begin to feel capable and begin acquiring leadership skills, those who don’t
have success deal with guilt, self-doubt and they lack initiative.

4) Industry vs. Inferiority: (Age 6-Puberty)
a. Happens in the early school years from ages 5/6 to 11/12.
b. Social interactions are key as children start to build pride in what they do and what they can do.
c. Affirmation from parents and teachers help children believe in themselves and in what they can do.
d. When parents and teachers fail to affirm children, they feel as though they have no ability to do things.

5) Identity vs. Confusion: (Teenager - Ages 13 to 18)
a. Adolescence brings exploration of a child’s independence and developing a sense of self.
b. Children who come through this stage encouraged and reinforced will increase in independence and control
c. Children who are deprived of encouragement and reinforcement will emotionally wander in feelings of confusion and

6) Intimacy vs. Isolation: (Young Adult - Age 19)
a. Begins in early adulthood when people are exploring personal relationships.
b. Erikson believed it was vital that people develop close, committed relationships with other people. Those who are
successful at this step will develop relationships that are committed and secure.
c. Adults who are unsuccessful in relationships will struggle with feelings of aloneness and loneliness.

7) Generativity vs. Stagnation: (Mid-Life Crisis - Ages 40-65)
a. During adulthood, we continue to build our lives, focusing on our career and family.
b. Those who are successful during this phase will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home
and community. Those who fail to attain this skill will feel unproductive and uninvolved in the world.

8) Integrity vs. Despair: (Old Age - Ages 65-death)
a. Occurs during old age and serves as a theoretical “trip down memory lane” as adults begin to assess the value and
impact of their lives.
b. Those who are satisfied with their life will be filled with a sense of integrity.
c. Those who look back and are dissatisfied with their life will experience the torment of feeling that they have wasted their
life and they wallow in their regrets. This fills them with despair as they think about confronting death.


Cherry, Kendra. "Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development.", 2011. Web. 28 Jan. 2011.

Jones, V, & Jones, L (2010). Comprehensive Classroom Management. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill.