Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development


  • the Theory of psychosocial development from Erikson
  • The gap between Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud
  • Characteristics from Erikson’s theory
  • The 8th psychosocial stages in psychosocial development theory

In evolutionary psychology, also called developmental psychology, the Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development it is one of the most widespread and accepted theories. Below, we’ll describe some of the foundations of Erik Erikson’s theory, along with the stages and their conflicts.

1. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development

The theory of psychosocial development was conceived by Erik Erikson of the reinterpretation of the psychosexual phases developed by Sigmund Freud in which he emphasizes the social aspects of each of them under four main facets:

  1. He focused on understanding the “I” as an intense force, as an organizing capacity of the person, capable of reconciling syntonic and dystonic forces, as well as of resolving crises derived from the genetic, cultural and historical context of each person.
  2. He highlighted the stages of Freud’s psychosexual development, Integrate the social dimension and psychosocial development.
  3. He proposed the concept of personality development from childhood to old age.
  4. He studied the impact of culture, society and history in the development of the personality.

2. The gap between Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud

Erikson does not agree with Freud on the relevance that Freud gave to the sexual development to explain the evolutionary development of the individual.

Erikson understands that the individual, going through the various stages, he develops his consciousness through social interaction.

3. Characteristics of Erikson’s theory

Erikson also offers a theory of competition. Each of vital steps for the cake the development of a series of skills.

If, at each of the new stages of life, the person has achieved the competence corresponding to this vital moment, he will experience a sense of mastery which Erikson conceptualizes as ego strength. Having acquired the skill makes it possible to solve the objectives which will be presented in the next vital step.

Another key feature of Erikson’s theory is that each of the stages is determined by a conflict which allows individual development. When the person manages to resolve each conflict, he grows psychologically.

By resolving these conflicts, the person finds one great growth potentialBut on the other hand, we can also find great potential for failure if we fail to overcome the conflict of this vital stage.

4. The 8 psychosocial stages

Let’s summarize each of the eight psychosocial stages described by Erik Erikson.

1. Trust vs mistrust

This step passes from birth to eighteen months, And depends on the relationship or bond that was created with the mother.

The relationship with the mother will determine the future bonds that will be established with people throughout their lives. It is the feeling of trust, vulnerability, frustration, satisfaction, security … that can determine the quality of relationships.

2. Autonomy against shame and doubt

This step begins from 18 months to 3 years of the child’s life.

During this stage, the child begins his cognitive and muscle development, when he begins to control and exercise the muscles related to bodily excretions. This learning process can lead to moments of doubt and shame. Likewise, successes at this stage trigger a sense of empowerment and to feel like an independent body.

3. Initiative vs guilt

This stadium is traveling from 3 to 5 years.

The child begins to develop very quickly, both physically and intellectually. His interest in relationships with other children grows, testing his skills and abilities. Children are curious and it is good to motivate them to develop creatively.

In the event that parents react negatively to children’s questions or to their initiative, this may generate a feeling of guilt in them.

4. Work vs. inferiority

This step occurs between 6-7 years and 12 years.

Children show a real interest in the way things work and try to do many activities on their own, with their own efforts and using their knowledge and skills. This is why the positive stimulation that school can offer you, at home or for the peer group, is so important. The latter begins to acquire for them a transcendental relevance.

In the event that this is not well received or their failures motivate comparisons with others, the child may develop a certain feeling of inferiority which will make him insecure in front of others.

5. Identity exploration vs identity dissemination

This step takes place during teenagehood. At this point, a question is asked emphatically: who am I?

Adolescents are starting to become more independent and distance themselves from their parents. They prefer to spend more time with their friends and start thinking about the future and deciding what they want to study, where to work, where to live, etc.

Exploration of their own possibilities takes place at this stage. They begin to consolidate their own identity on the basis of their lived experiences. This research has led them to often feel confused about their own identity.

6. Intimacy in the face of isolation

This step includes from 20 to 40 years old, About.

The way we relate to others changes, the individual begins to prioritize more intimate relationships that offer and require reciprocal commitment, an intimacy that generates a sense of security, enterprise, trust.

If this type of intimacy is avoided, one can be on the verge of loneliness or isolation, a situation which can lead to depression.

7. Generativity vs. Stagnation

This step passes between 40 and 60 years old.

It is a period of time in which the person devotes his time to his family. Priority is given to finding a balance between productivity and stagnation; a productivity which is linked to the future, to the future of their own and of future generations, is the search to feel needed by others, to be and to feel useful.

Stagnation is this question that the individual asks himself: what should I do here if there is no point ?; he feels stagnant and fails to channel his efforts to be able to offer something to himself or to the world.

8. Self-integrity in the face of despair

This step occurs from the age of 60 until death.

This is a time when the individual stops being productive, or at least not producing as much as he was previously able to. A stage where life and lifestyle are completely changed, friends and family die, one has to face the duels caused by old age, both in his own body and in that of others.

Bibliographical references:

  • Erikson, Erik. (2000). The completed life cycle. Barcelona: Edicions Paidós Ibérica.
  • Erikson, Erik. (1972). Society and adolescence. Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidós.
  • Erikson, Erik. (1968, 1974). Identity, youth and crisis. Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidós.

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