What Are Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development?

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Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, first published in the 1950s, include trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus doubt, initiative versus guilt, competence versus inferiority, identity versus role confusion, intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, and integrity versus despair. These stages begin at birth and continue until advanced age and death. Five stages occur before the age of 18.

The first stage, trust versus mistrust, occurs during infancy to age 1 as babies learn to trust people who provide their needs. The second stage, autonomy versus doubt, happens when young toddlers learn to crawl, walk and become more independent. This stage helps children develop confidence when parents encourage development.

During the third stage, initiative versus guilt, children learn to take the initiative or feel guilty, depending on positive and negative feedback provided by parents. This early childhood stage goes from ages 2 to 6. Stage four includes the elementary and middle school years from ages 6 to 12. The competence versus inferiority struggle teaches children to become adults by using intellect to foster productivity.

The teenage years from ages 12 to 18 are marked by the identity versus role confusion stage, during which adolescents determine who they become as adults. Young adulthood, from ages 18 to 40, denotes Erikson’s intimacy versus isolation stage. This stage revolves around close friendships and relationships.

Middle adulthood, or generativity versus stagnation, deals with the struggle to leave a lasting legacy. The final stage, or integrity versus despair, denotes a person’s reflection on his life as he moves towards the twilight years of retirement.