Saturday, August 13, 2011

Erikson & Stages of Psychosocial Development

Each stage of development is focused on overcoming a conflict.  Success or failure impacts overall functioning.  I find the names of the stages to be relatively self-explanatory, but this site: has a decent discussion of each stage.  Erikson theorized that successful completion of each stage would result in a healthy, normal individual.  Unsuccessful completion of a stage could result in either an unhealthy personality or the inability to complete later stages.  Fortunately for those people, Erikson also believed that one could return to a previously unsuccessfully negotiated challenge & have a “re-do” so to speak.  Research around Erikson’s theory has lent credence to the theory.  For an interesting & more lengthy discussion of the theory, including a little bit of bio about Erikson visit here:  I found the bio & how he developed the theory pretty interesting stuff, but I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that the clinical exam probably doesn’t ask where Erikson was born.

Stages are:
Life Stage
Psychosocial Challenge
Significant Others
Infancy (birth – age 1 or 1 ½)
Trust vs mistrust
Maternal caregiver
Early Childhood (age 1 ½ to 3)
Autonomy vs shame & doubt
Paternal caregiver
Play age (age 3 to 6)
Initiative vs guilt
School age (Age 6 to 12)
Industry vs inferiority
Adolescence (Age 12 to 18)
Identity vs identity diffusion
Young adult (Age 19 – 40)
Intimacy vs isolation
Adulthood (Age 40 – 65)
Generativity vs self-absorption
Mature age (Age 65 on)
Integrity vs disgust & despair
(credit to Walsh, 2006 for table, ages added from Wikipedia)

  • Critiques of the theory:
    • As with any linear model, one may question whether the stages must occur in the order in which they are presented.  Might there be recycling through stages?
    • The adolescent stage in which the psychosocial challenge is identity presents a question to some people.  Do we only search for identity in the adolescent years?
    • After the extensive criticism I found yesterday about Freud & his Psychosexual stages, the critiques on Erikson seem relatively slim.  Reviewing the material, I did find the age ranges to be somewhat restricting.  At the age of 29, I still see myself sorting out my identity at times & working in the next stage at other times, asking myself questions like, “What am I contributing to the world?”
    • I did not really see anyone else pointing this out, although I’m sure I’m not the first, but the stages seem culture-bound to me.  In a culture where people mate earlier or later, or where autonomy is not emphasized as it is in our culture, I would suspect things might be a tad bit different.

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