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Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development: How To Support Your Child

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 13, 2022

Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development: How To Support Your Child

As children continue to grow, they also go through different stages in life as they transition to becoming an adult. Several theories share the importance of supporting children in the process of human development. Among them is Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. 

Who Is Erik Erikson?

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a German psychoanalyst who pioneered theories in the field of psychology. He modified and expanded Freudian theory by focusing more on society’s influence on personality development. 

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development covers eight stages across an individual’s life span. In this theory, he pointed out that a person’s ego identity is incrementally acquired by confronting different goals and challenges over the developmental period.

According to him, challenges should not be taken as catastrophic events, but rather turning points marked by increased vulnerability, as well as increased potential. The more successfully a person resolves crises, the healthier their development will be.

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development are as follows:

  • Basic Trust vs. Mistrust (in infancy)
  • Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt (in toddler)
  • Initiative vs. Guilt (in preschool age)
  • Industry vs. Inferiority (in school-age)
  • Identity vs. Identity Confusion (in adolescence)
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation (in young  adulthood)
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation (in middle age)
  • Integrity vs. Despair (in late adulthood)
  • Erik Erikson Stages of Psychosocial Development

    The stages are discussed in detail to give parents a better picture of how each one comes about. 

    Trust vs. Mistrust

    The first among the Erikson’s Stages takes into account how an infant can form a loving and trusting relationship with caregivers, particularly their parents. When unable to secure this kind of relationship, then mistrust develops. 

    As a parent, you should be able to provide your child with some sense of familiarity, consistency, and even continuity. This will also help in letting the child develop the same impression of the world around them. This trust in infancy establishes the foundation for a lifelong expectation that the world is a good and safe place to live in.

    Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt

    This second stage of development takes place during late infancy and the early toddler years (at about 1-3 years old). At this stage, children begin to realize that their behavior is their own after building trust in their caregivers. During this time, they assert their independence, and they are already aware of their own determination. However, those infants and toddlers who are overly restrained or punished are more likely to develop feelings of shame and doubt.

    Initiative vs. Guilt 

    It wouldn’t be long until your child enters the big world, starting off with being a preschooler. Getting your child in school may entail different kinds of behavior, such as being active, purposeful, and responsible. On the contrary, your child may also feel irresponsible and overly anxious about many different things. 

    Encourage them by giving them the opportunity to try out new ideas. You should accept the fantasy world your child creates while encouraging curiosity and imagination. Keep in mind that preschool years are more of fun times and expanding their world beyond the family; they are not strictly for formal learning. 

    Industry vs. Inferiority

    After the preschool years, your child will progress to elementary school. This stage mainly involves the child’s ability to bring their efforts and attention towards mastering basic knowledge and intellectual skills. If this stage doesn’t progress well, your child may also end up feeling inferior with a lack of competency and poor productivity. 

    Identity vs. Identity Confusion

    In the Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, the fifth stage is the most crucial point. It is at this stage when a child learns to discover who they are and what they want during their adolescent years. 

    Allowing the adolescent to explore roles and identities can lead to a positive and healthy way to navigate through life, thus generating a positive identity. But if development in this stage goes wrong, then identity confusion will prevail.

    Intimacy vs. Isolation

    Young adults find themselves facing the challenges of building and maintaining intimate relationships. This stage is about developing these kinds of relationships with friends, classmates, or mentors; otherwise, isolation will take place. 

    Generativity vs. Stagnation

    Erikson’s seventh developmental stage takes place in middle adulthood. He defines generativity as a primary concern for assisting the younger generation in developing and leading useful lives. Meanwhile, stagnation is the feeling of having done nothing to help the next generation.

    Integrity vs. Despair

    People in their late adulthood may experience the eighth and final Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. At this stage, a person begins to reflect on how things went in the previous years and stages. 

    If a person’s life review acknowledges a fulfilling life, then there is a sense of integrity from within. However, retrospection often produces doubt or gloom, which is what Erikson describes as despair. 

    Key Takeaways

    According to Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development, life challenges come in different stages. And with every stage, your child also learns valuable lessons that form who they are. For this reason, it is important that parents support them through each stage. As your child progresses, you will get to know them better to be able to guide them accordingly.

    Teach your child with patience and balance to overcome challenges in life, and by doing so, you will help them rise above each one. 

    Learn more about Parenting here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Jul 13, 2022

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