Erikson’s theory onPsychosocial Development


The Erikson’s theory asserts that psychosocial growth and psychosexual growth take place concurrently and that at every life stage human beings are required to generate a sense of balance between the social world, and themselves. The elementary premise of Erikson’s theory is balance. This means that an individual endeavors to find a sense of balance in every life stage between the opposite and respective characteristics (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009). Erikson’s theory assumes harmony which is deemed as experience of the two sides in the psychosocial continuum.


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Table of Contents

Abstract 2

Introduction. 4

Trust Versus Mistrust (Birth To Approximately 18 Months) 4

Autonomy Versus Shame And Doubt (18 Months To Approximately Three Years) 4

Initiative Versus Guilt (About Three Years To Approximately Five Years) 5

Industry Versus Inferiority (About Five Years To Approximately 13 Years) 5

Identity Versus Role Confusion (About 13 Years To About 21 Years) 6

Intimacy Versus Isolation (About 21 Years To About 40 Years) 6

Generativity Versus Stagnation (About 40 Years To Approximately 60 Years) 7

Integrity Versus Despair (About 60 Years To Death) 7

References. 8

Conclusion. 10

Psychosocial Development


Erikson proposed that the conception of human life follows a sequence of eight ages, beginning from infancy towards old age. Fundamentally, this theory states that every individual goes through eight psychosocial predicaments, which are internal conflicts associated with life’s major stages. These assist in defining a person’s growth as well as personality. Individuals go through these psychosocial predicament stages in a rigid cycle, although timings differ according to individuals and circumstances (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Trust versus Mistrust (Birth to Approximately 18 Months)

In this initial stage, the primary duty of the ego is to institute stable patterns for conflict resolution between fundamental trust and essential mistrust.       If the infant’s essential physical as well as emotional needs are offered for by the caregiver, but not over-protected or over-indulged, the infant nurtures a sense of trust.  On the contrary, neglect or abuse destroys trust and increases resistance to exploration and risk. Additionally, the infant develops a position of mistrust in regard to interpersonal relationships. The maladaption in this phase is sensory distortion and soon after sensory maladjustment which materializes as unrealistic, deluded cognitions. The malignancy in this phase is withdrawal which materializes as fearful, depressive, and neurotic cognitions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt (18 Months to Approximately Three Years)

This phase takes place in late infancy, when the infant’s increasing physical development permits them rising independence, and contact with the environment. The fundamental struggle in this phase is between the sense of self doubt and self-reliance. During this phase the balance amid detestable self-insistence and loving goodwill is paramount.      Subsequent to acquiring trust in the caregiver, infants start to realize that their conduct is their own. The qualities of willpower as well as self control are outcomes of successful resolution in this phase. Maladaptive tendency of this phase is impulsiveness, which is a brazen willfulness. The malignancy in this phase is compulsiveness (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Initiative versus Guilt (About Three Years to Approximately Five Years)

The fundamental task in this phase is to attain a sense of initiative and competence. Initiative in this context is the aptitude to confidently plan actions. Guilt in this background is the sentiment that it is improper to initiate one’s individual design of something. In this stage, nurturing a sense of accountability in the child increases their sense of initiative. The virtues of direction and purpose result from successful resolution in this stage. The maladaption in this phase is ruthlessness which materializes in dispassionate and exploitative cognitions. The malignancy in this phase is inhibition which materializes as unadventurous cognitions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Industry versus Inferiority (About Five Years to Approximately 13 Years)

This stage is described as the entry to life. This phase is characterized by a child’s need to grow a sense of industry through taking pride in its production. Children develop countless competencies and skills at home, in school, and the outside world. The sense of self is enhanced by realistic development of competencies. Comparisons with their peers are extremely important. Industry in this context refers to meaningful activity, the growth of skills and confidence. Maladaptive tendency in this phase is thin virtuosity and materializes as obsessive and workaholic specialist cognitions. Malignant tendency in this phase is inertia which materializes as apathetic, lazy, purposeless cognitions. This includes persons suffering from inferiority complexes (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Identity versus role confusion (about 13 years to about 21 years)

This is a transition phase between childhood and adulthood. This transition stage is as well a time for investigating limits, independence and instituting a new identity. The most significant conflicts in this phase concern self-identity, life’s meaning and life goals.  Maladaption of this phase is fanaticism typified by extremist and self-important cognitions. Malignancy of this phase is repudiation typified by cut-off and socially disconnected cognitions. Individuals may reject their necessity for identity and probably to bond with a group that is enthusiastic to offer the person identity, for instance, militaristic organizations and religious cults (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Intimacy versus isolation (about 21 years to about 40 years)

In this phase, individuals experience the developmental charge of shaping intimate relationships. The identity that was instituted in the previous phase is now shared with someone else. The virtues of affiliation and love are outcomes of successful resolution in this phase.  Maladaptive tendency in this phase is promiscuity. This is materializes in sexually needy as well as vulnerable cognitions. These individuals are inclined to being intimate easily, devoid of restraint and depth. Malignant tendency in this phase is exclusivity that materializes in self-contained, cold, and reclusive cognitions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Generativity versus Stagnation (About 40 Years to Approximately 60 Years)

In this phase, there is a strong necessity to go past family and self and be concerned with assisting the next generation. This is a time to work out the disparities between dreams and actual accomplishment.  The main concern is to help the younger generation in leading and developing useful lives. Bearing children is not a prerequisite for generativity, in a similar way that parenthood is not a warranty that generativity will materialize. The positive results of this phase outcomes of this predicament phase depend on contributing unconditionally and positively, resulting in the qualities of production and care. Maladaption of this phase is over-extension which materializes as meddling and busy-body cognitions. Malignancy of this phase is rejectivity.  This materializes as cynical and disinterested cognitions. Midlife crisis occurs at this phase (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).

Integrity versus Despair (About 60 Years to Death)

This phase may be regarded as a powerful lens by which to view an individual’s life, even prior to old. Characteristically, in this phase individuals reflect on their lives and critic themselves. Maladaption in this phase is presumption which is an attribute of conceited, arrogant, and pompous cognitions. Malignancy in this phase is disdain which materializes in miserable, blaming, and unfulfilled cognitions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2009).














Seligman, L. & Reichenberg, L. (2009). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Systems,        Strategies and Skills. NJ: Prentice Hall.

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