Erik Erickson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

8 Stages of Life to Overcome Understand.




Time Frame


Trust versus Mistrust

Is my world predictable and supportive?

First Year of Life


Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt.

Can I do things myself or must I always rely on others?

Second and third years.


Initiative versus Guilt

Am I good or am I bad?

Fourth through sixth years.


Industry versus Inferiority

Am I competent or am I worthless?

Age 6 through puberty.


Identity versus Role Confusion

Who am I and where am I going?



Intimacy versus Isolation

Shall I share my life with another or live along?

Early Adulthood


Generatively versus self-absorption

Will I produce something of real value?

Middle Adulthood


Integrity versus Despair

Have I lived a full life?

Late Adulthood


Erik Homburger Erikson, b. June 15, 1902, is a German-American psychoanalyst who has had a major influence on the behavioral and social sciences. He studied at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute, where he was psychoanalyzed by Anna Freud in 1927. In 1933, Erikson came to the United States, where he was associated with Harvard University (1934-35, 1960-70), Yale University (1936-39), and the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco (1939-51). In his classic study, Childhood and Society (1950; 2d ed., 1963), Erikson introduced his theories on identity, identity crisis (which term he popularized), and psychosexual development. Erikson holds that people grow through experiencing a series of crises. They must achieve trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, their own identity, generativity (or productivity), integrity, and acceptance.

Erikson's main contribution has been to bridge the gap between the theories of PSYCHOANALYSIS on the problems of human development, which emphasize private emotions, and the broader social influences that bear upon the individual. He has been a strong proponent of the part played by environment in the development of personality. Going beyond the study of a child's early life, Erikson has concentrated on broader issues of peer culture, school environment, and cultural values and ideals. This led him to study the period of adolescence, in which he documents the interaction of a person's inner feelings and impulses with the world that surrounds the person.

Erikson was among the first psychoanalysts to study the way a healthy person functions. In later years he turned his attention to history, writing some of the groundbreaking works of PSYCHOHISTORY. In Young Man Luther (1958) he analyzes Martin Luther's coming to terms with his own identity crisis. In Gandhi's Truth (1970), Erikson discusses Mahatma Gandhi's personal development and speculates about its relation to Gandhi's leadership of the Indian nonviolent movement.

Bibliography: Coles, Robert, Erik Erikson (1987); Evans, Richard I., Dialogue With Erik Erikson (1967); Maier, Henry W., Three Theories of Child Development, 2d ed. (1965); Roazen, Paul, Erik H. Erikson: The Power and Limits of a Vision (1976); Stevens, R., Erik Erikson (1985); Wright, E., Jr., Erikson (1982)

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