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Courtney Tiatia




Eriksons Developmental Theory

Eriksons developmental theory is based on psychosocial development. He believed that
we all have an ego identity which is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social
interaction. As we go through different experiences throughout life, our ego identity is
continually changing. Erikson thought that personality develops continually through life in a
series of stages. Through Eriksons stages, he believed that we go through conflicts where we
either develop the psychological quality or fail to develop the quality. When we are able to come
out of these stages with a stronger sense of identity, it means that we were able to develop the
psychological good qualities of that specific stage. If we were to fail to develop the
psychological good quality of the stage, we may not develop certain helpful skills for a strong
identity (Cherry, 2015).

Eriksons Stages of Psychosocial Development

The first stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Trust vs. Mistrust. This stage
happens between the age of birth and one year old. During this age you are highly dependent on
your caregiver, therefore trust vs. mistrust is highly dependent on how well your caregiver can
provide the trust through food, love, safety, and nurturing. If the caregiver can produce trust
through food, love, safety, and nurturing, in turnaround the child will successfully develop the
trait of trust and will feel safe and secure in their world. If the caregiver fails at producing trust
and produces mistrust through being emotionally unavailable and inconsistent, the child will
develop a trait of mistrust of their world, thinking that their world is unpredictable. Erikson
believed that you need a balance of both trust and mistrust in order for the child to have
successful development. This way when both trust and mistrust are balanced children can


accumulate hope, yet also know that danger could be present making them well rounded (Berger,
The second stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Autonomy vs. Shame and
Doubt. This development takes place during early childhood and is based on children
developing a sense of personal control. The most used example of this stage of development is
the example of toilet training. Erikson believed that when children of this age learn to take
charge of their bodily functions, they are better able to feel like they have control over their life.
Thus, if children in this stage successfully toilet train they will gain a better sense of autonomy
and start to feel a bit of independence; whereas, children who fail at toilet training in this stage of
development can feel inadequate and have self-doubt. Erikson believed if this stage has a
balance of both autonomy and shame and doubt they child can act with intention, within reason
and limits (Cherry, 2015).
The third stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Initiative vs. Guilt. This
development takes place during preschool aged children. During this stage children start to play
with the idea of power and control over the world. This is when children direct social interactions
during play. When children can successfully come of out this stage with initiative they learn to
feel capable to lead others; whereas those that fail this stage will come out of this part of
development with a sense of guilt resulting is self-doubt and a decreased initiative (Berger,
The fourth stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Industry vs. Inferiority. This
development takes place during age 5 to age 11. During this time of development, children start
to develop a sense of pride in them through accomplishments and personal abilities. Children
who come out of this stage successfully feel confident in their skills and being able to complete


tasks. Children who fail at the stage, usually because they received no encouragement from
parents, teachers, or peers will not feel confident in their skills and will feel doubt when trying to
complete tasks (Berger, 2014).
The fifth stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Identity vs. Role Confusion.
This stage happens during the age of adolescence through learning of their independence and
developing a greater sense of self. Adolescence who are able to come out of this stage
successfully will have a strong sense of self and feel confident and in control. Adolescence who
fail at this stage will feel unsure about them and will feel insecure and confused. Erikson
believed that if you successfully complete this stage, you will come out with an ability to live by
the worlds standards and expectations (Cherry, 2015).
The sixth stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Intimacy vs. Isolation. This
stage happens during the age of early adulthood through exploring personal relationships. During
this stage early adults find personal relationships and learn to be committed and feel secure.
When early adults are successful at this stage they learn what love is and are able to have lasting,
meaningful relationships with other people. When early adults do not succeed in this stage, they
are left feeling a sense of loneliness and are not able to have committed relationships resulting in
emotional isolation (Berger, 2014).
The seventh stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Generativity vs. Stagnation.
This stage happens during the age of adulthood through building lives by focusing on careers and
families. Through this stage adults will feel a sense of worth in the world and feel as though they
are great contributors. If adults can succeed during this stage they will feel overwhelmed with a
caring sensation. They will be proud of their own lives and accomplishments along with
watching their children grow and developing a greater relationship with their spouse and family.


If adults do not come out of this stage successful they will feel unproductive and uninvolved in
the world, even feeling like they dont contribute to the greater good (Cherry, 2015).
The eighth and final stage of Eriksons psychosocial development is Integrity vs. Despair.
This stage happens during old age through the reflection back on life. Adults in old age who
come out of this stage successfully will have a sense of integrity and be left feeling proud of their
life accomplishments. If adults in old age are not successful in this stage, they will feel bitter and
go into a stage of despair and feel like they didnt accomplish life and feel regret (Berger, 2014).

A Current Opinion on Eriksons Theory

According to Suchitra Ramkumar the author of the article, Erik Eriksons Theory of
Development: A Teachers Observations, Erikson didnt have a lot of knowledge of other
cultures and other societies other than his own so we must test his theory to apply it to other
cultures and societies to test its validity. She goes on to say that awareness of psychological
findings help teachers by widening their horizons. It can help teachers refer to stages and know
what the age group is going through and then know what the appropriate teaching method is for
the varying age groups and development. Suchitra then examines Erikson by reminding us that a
theory is yet just a theory. We all in our personal and professional lives can use a theory as
framework but we need to also use our own personal observations to know how to respond to
different situations in life. Since life can be vastly different from person to person having a
framework is a great idea but shouldnt be the soul idea. We as a people can grow from theories
but we should not reside with just one theory or one way of thinking when the world is
continuing to grow at rates we can hardly keep up with. We will continue to develop theories and
continue to learn about peoples personal identity growth through our personal observations.


A Time I Struggled in a Developmental Stage

The stage I struggled in was the fifth of Eriksons psychosocial development theory. This
stage is called the Identity vs. Role Confusion stage (Berger, 2014). During the latter part of this
stage at age 16 I started dating my (now husband) boyfriend. He is Polynesian and I am
Caucasian. I had no idea that Polynesian girls werent too keen on white girls dating their brown
men. I was severely bullied. From horrific voice mails, toilet papering my house, egging and
keying my car, f bombing me out of church ext. I was losing myself through being bullied. Soon
after is when I became fiercely ill. I had to quit all my sports teams, which was the only reason I
was still at school.

How the Conflict Affected Life

Between being bullied and being at a point where I was being tested for an extensive list
of diseases, I graduated High School early. As other people my age were wearing caps and
gowns and heading out to college, I was at home feeling depressed, confused about why my life
had taken such a bitter turn. I was stuck in role confusion from age 16 to 19. I was terrified of
girls and isolated myself from everyone except my family. I started to have debilitating social
anxiety, which was completely out of my character. Before being bullied and becoming sick, I
was very outgoing and had a great big group of friends and was completely social.

How I Overcame the Conflict

As I turned 19 I realized that every time I was around girls I would put my head down. I
felt that looking down, I would be safe from their criticism and harsh actions. Once I realized
this, I thought to myself, Who am I? This isnt me!. I went through some different types of


therapy, dealt with my bottled emotions, and came out with my identity. Why was I letting these
girls ruin my life by making me scared? I found myself (or my old self) as a very confident
woman that wouldnt let people rule my life by putting me down.

What are the Positive Outcomes?

I fought back for my life because I knew what I wanted in life. Through being sick all
these years (Im still going through treatments 7 years later) I knew I wanted to be a physician
but I knew I couldnt be one unless I could gain my confidence back. Would I go back if being
bullied and being sick could be taken away? No. I believe that when we go through our lowest of
lows we can either reach rock bottom or we can come back swinging and reach our highest of
highs. This was the experience I needed in life to help me come back swinging. I know what I
want in life and Im confident that it can be achieved.



Berger, K. (2014). Invitation to the lifespan (Second Ed.). S.l.: Worth Pub.

Cherry, K. (2015, October 22). Understanding Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial

Development. Retrieved December 6, 2015, from

RAMKUMAR, S. (n.d.). Erik Erikson's Theory of Development: A Teacher's

Observations. Retrieved December 7, 2015, from