Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s theory is an extension of the Freudian psychosexual theory of development, but it also shifts focus from the sexual nature of development to the importance of the social sphere. He considered development as being a lifelong process, not ending in adolescence. He identified eight separate phases, each with a psychosocial conflict and developmental task.

The first stage is in infancy, from birth to 18 months, where the basic conflict is concerned with trust. Optimally the child develops trust toward his caregivers, when they are reliable, caring and affectionate. The second stage is in early childhood, the age of 2-3 years, and the main conflict is autonomy versus shame and doubt. In this stage, the child develops control over her physical skills as well as a sense of independence. The third stage, preschool age (3-5 years) is determined by initiation versus guilt. The fourth stage (6-11 years) involves a conflict between industry versus inferiority. Adolescence (12-18 years) involves the developmental task of finding one’s identity or, in a negative scenario, becoming lost in role confusion. Young adulthood (19-40 years) is about the development of intimate, loving relationships with others, the main conflict being intimacy versus isolation. Middle adulthood (40-65 years) brings forth the question of generativity versus stagnation. The last stage, maturity (65 years to death) raises the question of integrity versus despair.