Like Freud, Erik Erikson believed in the importance of early childhood. However, Erikson believed that personality development happens over the entire course of a person’s life. In the early 1960s, Erikson proposed a theory that describes eight distinct stages of development. According to Erikson, in each stage people face new challenges, and the stage’s outcome depends on how people handle these challenges. Erikson named the stages according to these possible outcomes: Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust
In the first year after birth, babies depend completely on adults for basic needs such as food, comfort, and warmth. If the caretakers meet these needs reliably, the babies become attached and develop a sense of security. Otherwise, they may develop a mistrustful, insecure attitude. Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
Between the ages of one and three, toddlers start to gain independence and learn skills such as toilet training, feeding themselves, and dressing themselves. Depending on how they face these challenges, toddlers can develop a sense of autonomy or a sense of doubt and shame about themselves. Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt
Between the ages of three and six, children must learn to control their impulses and act in a socially responsible way. If they can do this effectively, children become more self- confident. If not, they may develop a strong sense of guilt. Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority
Between the ages of six and twelve, children compete with peers in school and prepare to take on adult roles. They end this stage with either a sense of competence or a sense of inferiority. Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion
During adolescence, which is the period between puberty and adulthood, children try to determine their identity and their direction in life. Depending on their success, they either acquire a sense of identity or remain uncertain about their roles in life. Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation
In young adulthood, people face the challenge of developing intimate relationships with others. If they do not succeed, they may become isolated and lonely. Stage 7: Generativity vs. Self-Absorption
As people reach middle adulthood, they work to become productive members of society, either through parenting or through their jobs. If they fail, they become overly self-absorbed. Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair
In old age, people examine their lives. They may either have a sense of contentment or be disappointed about their lives and fearful of the future. Erikson’s theory is useful because it addresses both personality stability and personality change. To some degree, personality is stable, because childhood experiences influence people even as adults. However, personality also changes and develops over the life span as people face new challenges. The problem with Erikson’s theory, as with many stage theories of development, is that he describes only a typical pattern. The theory doesn’t acknowledge the many differences among individuals.
Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
Stage| Conflict Faced| Typical Age Range| Major Challenge(s)| 1| Trust vs. mistrust| First year of life| Having basic needs met, attaching to people| 2| Autonomy vs. shame and doubt| 1–3 years| Gaining independence| 3| Initiative vs. guilt| 3–6 years| Acting in a socially responsible way| 4| Industry vs. inferiority| 6–12 years| Competing with peers, preparing for adult roles| 5| Identity vs. role confusion| Adolescence| Determining one’s identity| 6| Intimacy vs. isolation| Early adulthood| Developing intimate relationships| 7| Generativity vs. self-absorption| Middle adulthood| Being productive| 8| Integrity vs. despair| Old age| Evaluating one’s life| Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
While conducting intelligence tests on children, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget began to investigate how children think. According to Piaget,...