Erikson maintained that personality develops in a predetermined order through eight stages of psychosocial development, from infancy to adulthood. During each stage, the person experiences a psychosocial crisis which could have a positive or negative outcome for personality development.
1. Trust vs. Mistrust
Trust vs. mistrust is the first stage in Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage begins at birth continues to approximately 18 months of age. During this stage, the infant is uncertain about the world in which they live, and looks towards their primary caregiver for stability and consistency of care.
2. Autonomy vs shame and doubt
Autonomy versus shame and doubt is the second stage of Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. This stage occurs between the ages of 18 months to approximately 3 years. According to Erikson, children at this stage are focused on developing a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence.
3. Initiative vs guilt
Initiative versus guilt is the third stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. During the initiative versus guilt stage, children assert themselves more frequently.
4. Industry vs inferiority
Erikson’s fourth psychosocial crisis, involving industry (competence) vs. Inferiority occurs during childhood between the ages of five and twelve.
5. Identity vs role confusion
The fifth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is identity vs. role confusion, and it occurs during adolescence, from about 12-18 years. During this stage, adolescents search for a sense of self and personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs, and goals.
During adolescence, the transition from childhood to adulthood is most important. Children are becoming more independent, and begin to look at the future in terms of career, relationships, families, housing, etc. The individual wants to belong to a society and fit in.
This is a major stage of development where the child has to learn the roles he will occupy as an adult. It is during this stage that the adolescent will re-examine his identity and try to find out exactly who he or she is. Erikson suggests that two identities are involved: the sexual and the occupational.
According to Bee (1992), what should happen at the end of this stage is “a reintegrated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be, and of one’s appropriate sex role”. During this stage the body image of the adolescent changes.
Erikson claims that the adolescent may feel uncomfortable about their body for a while until they can adapt and “grow into” the changes. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of fidelity.
Fidelity involves being able to commit one’s self to others on the basis of accepting others, even when there may be ideological differences.
During this period, they explore possibilities and begin to form their own identity based upon the outcome of their explorations. Failure to establish a sense of identity within society (“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”) can lead to role confusion. Role confusion involves the individual not being sure about themselves or their place in society.
In response to role confusion or identity crisis, an adolescent may begin to experiment with different lifestyles (e.g., work, education or political activities). Also pressuring someone into an identity can result in rebellion in the form of establishing a negative identity, and in addition to this feeling of unhappiness.
6. Intimacy vs Isolation
Intimacy versus isolation is the sixth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during young adulthood between the ages of approximately 18 to 40 yrs. During this stage, the major conflict centers on forming intimate, loving relationships with other people.
7. Generativity vs Stagnation
Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh of eight stages of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during during middle adulthood (ages 40 to 65 yrs).
8. Ego integrity vs Despair
Ego integrity versus despair is the eighth and final stage of Erik Erikson’s stage theory of psychosocial development. This stage begins at approximately age 65 and ends at death. It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and can develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life.