Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development

Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, as articulated by Erik Erikson, is a psychoanalytic theory which identifies eight stages through which a healthily developing human should pass from infancy to late adulthood. In each stage, the person confronts, and hopefully masters, new challenges. Each stage builds upon the successful completion of earlier stages. The challenges of stages not successfully completed may be expected to reappear as problems in the future.

However, mastery of a stage is not required to advance to the next stage. Erikson’s stage theory characterizes an individual advancing through the eight life stages as a function of negotiating his or her biological forces and sociocultural forces. Each stage is characterized by a psychosocial crisis of these two conflicting forces (as shown in the table below). If an individual does indeed successfully reconcile these forces (favoring the first mentioned attribute in the crisis), he or she emerges from the stage with the corresponding virtue. For example, if an infant enters into the toddler stage (autonomy vs. shame and doubt) with more trust than mistrust, he or she carries the virtue of hope into the remaining life stages.

Stages

Approximate Age Virtues Psychosocial crisis[2] Significant relationship[3] Existential question[4] Examples[3]
0-2 years Hope Basic trust vs. mistrust Mother Can I trust the world? Feeding, abandonment
2–4 years Will Autonomy vs. shame and doubt Parents Is it okay to be me? Toilet training, clothing themselves
4–5 years Purpose Initiative vs. guilt Family Is it okay for me to do, move, and act? Exploring, using tools or making art
5–12 years Competence Industry vs. inferiority Neighbors, school Can I make it in the world of people and things? School, sports
13–19 years Fidelity Identity vs. role confusion Peers, role model Who am I? Who can I be? Social relationships
20–39 years Love Intimacy vs. isolation Friends, partners Can I love? Romantic relationships
40–64 years Care Generativity vs. stagnation Household, workmates Can I make my life count? Work, parenthood
65-death Wisdom Ego integrity vs. despair Mankind, my kind Is it okay to have been me? Reflection on life
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