ERIKSON’S THEORY OF
One of the lasting contributions of Freud’s
psychoanalytic theory is its ability to
capture the essence of personality
development during each stage of life.
The leading neo-Freudian perspective is
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory.
Emotions play a powerful role in
organizing the developments that
Erikson regarded as so important to
relationships with caregivers,
exploration of the environment, and
discovery of self.
Life Span Development
► Erikson proposed that the life span could be
subdivided into eight “ages” (infancy, toddlerhood,
etc. through old age)
► At each age, a developmental task, or conflict,
► Healthy development depends on the successful
and positive resolution of each conflict.
► Unresolved conflicts, or negatively resolved ones,
carry over to succeeding ages, and cause
The eight ages of development
► Infancy ► Trust vs. Mistrust
► Toddlerhood ► Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt
► Pre-school years ► Initiative vs. Guilt
► School years ► Industry vs. Inferiority
► Adolescence ► Identify vs. Role Confusion
► Young adulthood ► Intimacy vs. Isolation
► Middle age ► Generativity vs. Stagnation
► Old age ► Ego Integrity vs. Despair
1. Basic Trust versus Mistrust
► Freud called the first year the oral stage, in
which infants’ need for food and oral
stimulation is vital.
► Erikson believed that a healthy outcome in
infancy depended on the quality of the
mother’s behavior during feeding, and not the
amount of food or oral stimulation offered.
► Basic trust versus mistrust is the conflict
during infancy in Erikson’s psychosocial
theory. The dilemma is resolved positively if
the balance of care is sympathetic and loving.
2. Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt
► Freud’s second stage is the anal stage, during which
instinctual energies shift to the anal region.
► In Erikson’s theory, autonomy versus shame and
doubt is the conflict of toddlerhood. It is resolved
positively if parents provide suitable guidance and
► If children emerge from the first few years without
sufficient trust in caregivers and without a healthy
sense of individuality, the seeds are sown for
3. INITIATIVE VERSUS GUILT
In Erikson’s theory, initiative versus guilt is
the psychological conflict of early childhood.
It is resolved positively through play
experiences that foster a healthy sense of initiative
and through development of a conscience that is
not overly strict.
4. INDUSTRY VERSUS
According to Erikson, the personality changes
of the school years build on Freud’s latency
In Erikson’s theory, industry versus
inferiority is the psychological conflict of
middle childhood, which is resolved positively
when experiences lead children to develop a
sense of competence at useful skills and
The danger at this stage is inferiority,
reflected in the sad pessimism of
children who have little confidence in
their ability to do things well.
5. IDENTITY VERSUS
Identity involves the definition of who you
are, what you value, and the directions you
choose to pursue in life.
Identity versus identity confusion is
the stage in Erikson’s theory which is
resolved positively when adolescents attain
an identity after a period of exploration and
►Adolescents with a weak sense of trust have
trouble finding ideals in which to have faith.
►Adolescents with little autonomy or initiative
do not engage in the active exploration required
to choose among alternatives.
►Those who lack a sense of industry fail to select
a vocation that matches their interests and skills.
The negative outcome of Erikson’s
identity stage is identity confusion,
in which some adolescents appear
shallow and directionless.
6. INTIMACY VERSUS ISOLATION
Erikson’s young adult stage centers on the
development of intimacy. It is difficult to
become involved in intimate relationships if
individuals do not have a firm sense of self.
Intimacy versus isolation is the stage in
Erikson’s theory where young adults seek to
establish psychological intimacy with another.
The negative outcome, isolation, in which
social relationships can be stereotyped, cold,
7. GENERATIVITY VERSUS
Generativity involves the mature adult
establishing and guiding the next generation
and in establishing a productive and
The alternative, stagnation, refers to a sense
of personal impoverishment, or the view that
one is not accomplishing much of worth.
8. EGO INTEGRITY VERSUS
In this last stage of late adulthood, a
person looks back on what he/she has built
over a lifetime.
Ego Integration involves the acceptance of
the limitations of life, a sense of being part of
a chain of generations, and a synthesis of all
prior stages. The negative, despair, consists
of regret with what one has, or has not, done
with his/her life.
Erikson was one of the first theorists
to extend developmental theory
beyond childhood. Throughout his
life, he sought a deeper
understanding of middle and old age,
and he believed that people late in
life can achieve wisdom, based on
the positive resolution of earlier