In 1950, Erik Erikson proposed a theory of psychosocial development that described eight stages by which a person progresses throughout their life. Each stage is characterized by a different conflict that must be resolved in order to progress to the next stage.
1. Infancy: Trust vs. Mistrust
The first stage, infancy, is marked by the conflict between trust and mistrust. Infants must learn to trust that their needs will be met by their caregivers. If they do not, they will develop a sense of mistrust.
2. Toddlerhood: Autonomy vs. Shame
The second stage, toddlerhood, is characterized by the conflict between autonomy and shame. Toddlers must learn to do things for themselves and feel confident in their abilities. If they do not, they may feel ashamed.
3. Childhood: Initiative vs. Guilt
The third stage, childhood, is marked by the conflict between initiative and guilt. Children must learn to take initiative and be assertive. If they do not, they may feel guilty.
4. School Age: Industry Vs. Inferiority
The fourth stage, school age, is characterized by the conflict between industry and inferiority. Children must learn to feel competent and productive. If they do not, they may feel inferior.
5. Adolescence: Identity vs. Role Confusion
The fifth stage, adolescence, is characterized by the conflict between identity and role confusion. Adolescents must develop a sense of self and find out who they are. If they do not, they may feel confused about their role in life.
6. Young Adulthood: Intimacy vs. Isolation
The sixth stage, young adulthood, is marked by the conflict between intimacy and isolation. Young adults must learn to form close relationships with others. If they are not, they may feel isolated.
7. Middle Adulthood: Generativity vs. Stagnation
The seventh stage, middle adulthood, is marked by the conflict between Generativity and Stagnation. Middle-aged adults must learn to care for others and contribute to society. If they are not, they may feel stagnant.
8. Late Adulthood: Ego Integrity vs. Despair
The eighth stage, late adulthood, is marked by the conflict between ego integrity and despair. Older adults must come to terms with their lives and accept death. If they are not, they may feel despair.
Erikson’s theory is a useful tool for understanding human development. It can help us to understand our own lives and the lives of others. It can also help us to understand the challenges that people face at different stages of life. Some people have good luck with dream work to identify conflict stages that they have yet to integrate properly.