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What Are the 8 Stages of Life According to Erikson?

8 stages of life

Erik Erikson was a famous 20th-century German-American psychologist

Erik Erikson was a famous 20th-century German-American psychologist. He is famous for his works in developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. He popularized the concept of identity crisis and the theory of psychosocial development. According to his theory of psychosocial development, an individual typically passes through eight stages during their life. These eight stages are as follows:

  • Infancy: Trust vs Mistrust
  • Toddlerhood: Autonomy vs Shame and doubt
  • Preschool years: Initiative vs Guilt
  • Early school years: Industry vs Inferiority
  • Adolescence: Identity vs Role confusion
  • Young adulthood: Intimacy vs Isolation
  • Middle adulthood: Generativity vs Stagnation/Self-absorption
  • Late adulthood: Ego integrity vs Despair
  • These eight stages describe the effect of social interaction on the way individuals mature. This theory is a crucial part of developmental psychology because it elaborates the various challenges an individual faces during their development. Although there are eight stages of development, an individual does not necessarily complete one stage to go to the next. Erikson suggested that each stage of life has two conflicting concepts. Even when an individual does not overcome the challenges of their present stage, they will progress to the next stage. The inability to overcome a particular challenge, however, may continue to affect the individual in subsequent stages till they overcome them. Thus, a toddler living in shame and self-doubt will progress to preschool years to face new conflicting concepts (Initiative vs Guilt). They will, however, still be affected by challenges of shame and self-doubt till they overcome it.

  • Stage 1–Infancy: Trust vs Mistrust: This stage spans from when an individual is born till they are 18 months of age. Although individuals of any age may have trust issues, the challenge is the most powerful during infancy. If the needs of an infant are well taken care of, they develop trust in their caregivers. Infants who are neglected or not properly looked after may foster mistrust toward others. The virtue of this stage is hope. An infant who develops trust at this stage grows to become hopeful in difficult times that someone will help them overcome the crisis.
  • Stage 2–Toddlerhood: Autonomy vs Shame and doubt: This stage starts when a toddler is 18 months of age and lasts till they are 3 years of age. Toddlerhood is when a toddler is learning to do things on their own. If the caregivers encourage and praise the toddler to be independent, they develop self-belief and autonomy. Such toddlers become individuals with a will to do things. If the toddler is discouraged or laughed at by the caregivers, they inculcate a sense of shame and self-doubt.
  • Stage 3–Preschool years: Initiative vs Guilt: Preschool years start when a child is 3 years of age and ends when they are of 5 years. Children at this stage focus on doing things on their own and setting their aims and goals. If the caregivers encourage them, they grow to become individuals who take initiative and have a purpose in life. If they are criticized or demotivated by the caregivers, they develop guilt in them.
  • Stage 4–Early school years: Industry vs Inferiority: This stage starts when the child is 5 years of age and ends at 12 years of age. At this stage, the person becomes aware of themselves as an individual. Their accomplishments at studies or sports in school coupled with the praise and support of teachers and peers make them industrious or competent. If they fail to do well at studies or extra-curricular activities, they feel inferior. This may also happen when they are not praised by their teachers and peers.
  • Stage 5–Adolescence: Identity vs Role confusion: This stage starts when an individual is at 12 years of age and ends at 18 years of age. The term “identity crisis” comes from this developmental stage. During this stage, the individual tries to discover who they are and their goals and priorities. Based on these realizations, they set goals for their adult life. Adolescents who are ignored or overburdened by the expectations of peers, family, and teachers maybe not successful in establishing their identity and develop a sense of confusion about their needs and goals.
  • Stage 6–Young adulthood: Intimacy vs Isolation: Young adulthood is the period between 18 and 40 years of age. Individuals who successfully build relations during this stage experience intimacy, whereas those who fail to do so may fall into isolation and loneliness.
  • Stage 7–Middle adulthood: Generativity vs Stagnation/Self-absorption: Individuals between 40 and 65 years of age fall in this category. Generativity is when they inculcate a sense of care and responsibility in passing on their learnings to the next generation through parenting or mentoring. If the individual is bitter or unhappy, they may stay restless and isolated without making any positive contribution to society.
  • Stage 8–Late adulthood: Ego integrity vs Despair: This stage involves individuals who are of age 65 years and older. If these individuals feel satisfied and take pride in what they did in their lives, they flaunt their wisdom and accept age with grace. Those who believe they underachieved or have regrets fall into despair.
  • Medically Reviewed on 3/3/2021


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