© 2021 Walden University, LLC
Psychosocial Development Theory
Erikson’s psychosocial development theory expands on Freud’s five stages to include
eight. This theory focuses on social interaction and the associated crisis that arises at
each stage of development.
Stage 1: Trust v. Mistrust (Birth to 18 Months)
The central crisis at this stage is whether the child can trust the people around them
(e.g., caregivers and family members). If a child consistently receives food, warmth, and
affection, they develop a sense of trust not only in caregivers but in the larger world.
Stage 2: Autonomy v. Shame and Doubt (18 Months to 3 Years)
During this stage, the child learns to use the toilet, feed themselves, and choose the
clothes they wear. In so doing, they build their self-confidence and sense of autonomy.
If caregivers do not allow the child to do these activities independently or ridicule or
punish them during the process of learning, the child’s confidence can diminish and they
may experience shame and doubt.
Stage 3: Initiative v. Guilt (3 to 6 Years)
At this stage, the child is curious about the world and takes initiative to explore and
learn. This includes planning and engaging in activities, making choices, and initiating
imaginative play. If the child is not allowed to be assertive in this manner, then they may
experience guilt or embarrassment because of their desires.
Stage 4: Industry v. Inferiority (6 to 12 Years)
The crisis at this stage involves the ability of the child to be productive and to
successfully accomplish tasks. They develop confidence in their abilities as they enter
school and take on academic challenges. With formal schooling comes more
socialization with peers as well; they may compare themselves to others, leading to
feelings of superiority or inferiority.
Stage 5: Identity v. Role Confusion (Adolescence)
At this stage, adolescents seek a personal identity. They explore the various roles they
play in social interactions and peer relationships, as well as their race/ethnicity, religion,
culture, and gender affiliations. They then integrate those disparate roles into a clear
sense of who they are. Those who do not have this clear sense of self are said to
experience “role confusion,” which may contribute to feelings of aimlessness or lack of
purpose in life.
Stage 6: Intimacy v. Isolation (Young Adulthood)
Now that the individual has a personal identity, at this stage they seek intimacy in the
form of a loving and committed relationship. Those who are unsuccessful at attaining
intimacy feel loneliness and a sense of isolation.
© 2021 Walden University, LLC
Stage 7: Generativity v. Stagnation (Mature Adulthood)
At this stage, people face a crisis of generativity. They are concerned with contributing
something meaningful to the following generations and making their mark. This may
take the form of raising their own children, strengthening relationships, and collaborating
with others on a common goal or project. If someone cannot make positive
contributions, they fall into stagnation and may feel unproductive or disconnected from
Stage 8: Ego Integrity v. Despair (Old Age)
Individuals at this stage evaluate their lives and consider whether they feel fulfilled and
proud of what they have accomplished. This sense of peace at life’s events is referred
to as “ego integrity.” On the other hand, those who have many regrets may fall into
despair at not having achieved the life they wanted to.
Read more on pages 321–323 of the course text, Understanding Human Behavior and
the Social Environment.
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