8 Stages of psychosocial development

8 Stages of psychosocial development

Erik Erikson, a German-American psychologist, and his collaborator and wife, Joan Erikson, conceptualized eight stages of psychosocial development that healthy individuals go through as they grow from infancy to adulthood. At each stage, the individual must overcome a challenge or resolve an existential quandary. Failure to resolve the fundamental challenge of that stage reinforces negative perceptions of the person or the world around them, and the person's personal development is unable to progress.

  1. The first stage, "Trust vs. Mistrust," occurs during childhood. The infant learning whom to trust and hoping for a supportive group of people to be there for him/her is the positive virtue for the first stage.
  2. The second stage is "Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt," with will as the positive virtue. This occurs in early childhood when the child learns to be more independent by discovering what they are capable of, whereas if the child is overly controlled, feelings of inadequacy are reinforced, leading to low self-esteem and doubt.
  3. "Initiative vs. Guilt" is the third stage. The benefit of being acquired is a sense of purpose. This is accomplished primarily through play. This is the stage when the child is most curious and interacts with other children. As their curiosity grows, they will have a lot of questions. If a child feels too much guilt, he or she may move more slowly and have a more difficult time interacting with their environment and other children.
  4. "Industry (competence) vs. Inferiority" is the fourth stage. The virtue for this stage is competency, which is the result of the child's early school experiences. This is the stage at which the child attempts to gain the approval of others and recognises the value of their accomplishments.
  5. "Identity vs. Role Confusion" is the fifth stage. The gained virtue is fidelity, and it occurs during adolescence. This is the stage at which the child should begin to identify their place in society, particularly in terms of their gender role.
  6. The sixth stage is "Intimacy vs. Isolation," which occurs in young adults and results in the virtue of love. This is the point at which a person begins to intimately and emotionally share his or her life with another person. Failure to do so can exacerbate feelings of isolation.
  7. "Generativity vs. Stagnation" is the seventh stage. This occurs in adulthood, and the virtue gained is a concern. When a person achieves stability, he or she begins to give back by raising a family and becoming involved in the community.
  8. "Ego Integrity vs. Despair" is the eighth stage. When one reaches old age, they reflect on their lives and consider their successes and failures. If they resolve this positively, they will gain the virtue of wisdom. This is also the stage at which one can come to terms with the death and accept it without regret or fear.


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