ehowton (ehowton) wrote,

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Ran across a fascinating analysis of the stages of life. While attempting to better understand myself, I found, from an understudy of Freud, a list suggesting that those best equipped to resolve the crisis of early adulthood are those who have most successfully resolved the crisis of adolescence, that being basic conflicts with well defined (albeit rather black & white) outcomes to be reconciled. I will admit to many of the below contrasts being unfamiliar to me. The author also mentions that these aren't necessarily met sequentially nor always occur at pre-defined ages. I like to think of them as stages of maturity when overcome.

Oh how I remember some of the struggles in my youth and early adulthood! Yet some of those seem to pale in comparison to worrying about being a good father and husband - marriage and bringing children into this world. I think for the first time I understand a parent's desire for their children to be better off than they were. For most of my life I had assumed that meant financially (in the way it had always been stated to me), but today I understand it to mean successful at life! I talk to my children often about the challenges of doing their best and respecting themselves as individuals and not necessarily as compared to their friends. I want my babies to grow strong and self-assured. I want them to enjoy the freedoms of childhood and to work diligently at things they love to do, and translate it into a living which produces true, intrinsic happiness.


The child's relative understanding of world and society come from the parents and their interaction with the child. If the parents expose the child to warmth, regularity, and dependable affection, the infant's view of the world will be one of trust. Should the parents fail to provide a secure environment and to meet the child's basic needs a sense of mistrust will result. Development of mistrust can lead to feelings of frustration, suspicion, withdrawal, and a lack of confidence. If caregivers are consistent sources of food, comfort, and affection, an infant learns trust- that others are dependable and reliable. If they are neglectful, or perhaps even abusive, the infant instead learns mistrust- that the world is in an undependable, unpredictable, and possibly a dangerous place.

Autonomy/Shame & Doubt

If caregivers encourage self-sufficient behavior, toddlers develop a sense of autonomy—a sense of being able to handle many problems on their own. But if caregivers demand too much too soon, refuse to let children perform tasks of which they are capable, or ridicule early attempts at self-sufficiency, children may instead develop shame and doubt about their ability to handle problems.


At this stage, the child wants to begin and complete their own actions for a purpose. Guilt is a confusing new emotion. They may feel guilty over things that logically should not cause guilt. Within instances requiring initiative, the child may also develop negative behaviors. These behaviors are a result of the child developing a sense of frustration for not being able to achieve a goal as planned and may engage in behaviors that seem aggressive, ruthless, and overly assertive to parents. If parents and preschool teachers encourage and support children's efforts, while also helping them make realistic and appropriate choices, children develop initiative- independence in planning and undertaking activities. But if, instead, adults discourage the pursuit of independent activities or dismiss them as silly and bothersome, children develop guilt about their needs and desires.


The aim to bring a productive situation to completion gradually supersedes the whims and wishes of play. Children grasp the concepts of space and time in more logical, practical ways. They gain a better understanding of cause and effect. If children are encouraged to make and do things and are then praised for their accomplishments, they begin to demonstrate industry by being diligent, persevering at tasks until completed, and putting work before pleasure. If children are instead ridiculed or punished for their efforts or if they find they are incapable of meeting their teachers' and parents' expectations, they develop feelings of inferiority about their capabilities.

Identity/Role Confusion

No matter how one has been raised, one’s personal ideologies are now chosen for oneself. Oftentimes, this leads to conflict with adults over religious and political orientations. Another area where teenagers are deciding for themselves is their career choice, and oftentimes parents want to have a decisive say in that role. If society is too insistent, the teenager will acquiesce to external wishes, effectively forcing him or her to ‘foreclose’ on experimentation and, therefore, true self-discovery. Once someone settles on a worldview and vocation, will he or she be able to integrate this aspect of self-definition into a diverse society? Erikson does note that the time of Identity crisis for persons of genius is frequently prolonged. He further notes that in our industrial society, identity formation tends to be long, because it takes us so long to gain the skills needed for adulthood’s tasks in our technological world. So… we do not have an exact time span in which to find ourselves. It doesn't happen automatically at eighteen or at twenty-one.


Once people have established their identities, they are ready to make long-term commitments to others. They become capable of forming intimate, reciprocal relationships and willingly make the sacrifices and compromises that such relationships require. If people cannot form these intimate relationships – perhaps because of their own needs – a sense of isolation may result.


Generativity is the concern of guiding the next generation. Socially-valued work and disciplines are expressions of generativity. Simply having or wanting children does not in and of itself achieve generativity. When a person makes a contribution during this period, perhaps by raising a family or working toward the betterment of society, a sense of generativity- a sense of productivity and accomplishment- results. In contrast, a person who is self-centered and unable or unwilling to help society move forward develops a feeling of stagnation- a dissatisfaction with the relative lack of productivity.

Ego Integrity/Despair

As we grow older and become senior citizens we tend to slow down our productivity and explore life as a retired person. It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and are able to develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life. If we see our life as unproductive, or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness.

How many of you know neighbors or co-workers or friends who still struggle with self-identity or self-centeredness or guilt or inferiority? I've had the whole "what's wrong with wanting to belong in a role?" conversation and I assumed, "unhappiness" but didn't understand why until now. BECAUSE ITS NOT YOUR TRUE SELF! You don't know *who* you are! I believe there cannot be true happiness until all of these things are overcome. Contentedness, maybe, but that seems awfully short-sighted given these many stages - some I have not yet reached myself - and others I'm losing the battle on (I seek forming intimate, reciprocal relationships and willingly make the sacrifices and compromises that such relationships require, for example). Yet I do not despair because I have far exceeded some of the others, despite how late in life they may have occurred. I am also thrilled with the development so far of my children - I do not doubt that they too will succeed in life, and perhaps in time, teach me a thing or two!

I am encouraged because many of the negative forces (the SECOND in each example) they attribute to poor parenting (which we learned can lead to personality disorders) - something I constantly strive to not be. How can I be so sure? Constant reevaluation without provocation. Any other way and you're playing Russian Roulette with yourself, and your future. Why leave something like that to chance? Know thyself.
Tags: kids, psychology

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