Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development


The Erikson’s theory focuses on the possible impact of the external, parental, and societal factors that affects the development of a human being from childhood to adulthood (Crain, 2011). In this theory, Erikson stipulates that each and every individual needs to go through the eight interrelated stages during his entire life. In addition, he argues that the successful completion of each stage leads to healthy human development and the acquisition of the basic virtues. On the other hand, failure to pass through all the eight stages can result into reduced human ability and an unhealthy lifestyle.

The Stages

Trust vs Mistrust: This is the initial stage of the human developments that occurs from birth to 12 months of age (Cook & Jones, 2007).  During this stage, the infants learn to trust the older persons as the adults provide them with the basic needs. When the infants are born, they want to determine whether the world is a safe place to live.  By depending on the adults, they begin to see the world as a safe place by the experiences of their caregivers. During this stage, the infants expect their caregivers to be more stable and consistent in providing them with care. The infants will easily develop a sense of trust and security when they realize that their caregivers are responsible and predictable (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2004). When the infants are not treated properly at this stage, they develop the feelings of anxiety, fear, and mistrust and the belief that the world is unpredictable. For example, an infant that has not been properly handled through will find it hard to trust people.

Autonomy vs Shame: This is the next stage of psychosocial development that affects the growing children between the ages of 1-3 years old. At this stage, the toddlers quickly learn that they can control their actions and begin to show preferences for certain things available in their environment (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2004). They can easily move around and learn more from their environment. Their main objective at this stage is to try and establish their independence and may begin to doubt her abilities if denied opportunities. During this stage, the child begins to explore his or her abilities by playing with toys and clothes. The child success during such encounters will determine whether they develop a sense of autonomy or shame. For example, the parent should allow the child to do some of the things of his own, like allowing the child to dress up by himself. The parent should balance such that he/she should only help the child when he request for assistance or fails. In doing this, the parent should be encouraging the child to be independent (Vogel et al, 2009). However, this should be done with utmost care to protect the child from constant failure as that may lead to shame and doubt. When this is done, the child will be more confident and secure in handling the challenges of future life.

Identity vs Role Creation: This stage takes place between the ages of 12-18 years and it involves the development of a sense of self. During this stage, they adolescents explore different roles, ideas, and goals as they attempt to discover their potential. In addition, the children at this stage examine their future in terms of career, relationships, and their place in the society. Therefore, they begin to make initiatives that make them fit in the society. Essentially, this is a major state of child development as the child has to learn the various roles within his environment. According to Erikson, the adolescents will develop occupational identity and sexual identity (Osborne, 2009). Therefore, there adolescents will try to assume various sex roles in line with their gender. Success in sexual identity will make the child to develop a sense of fidelity and the ability to commit to others. For example, the success in this stage will make the child to develop intimacy and love towards others. Those who struggle to create their identity end up being confused in their future life.


The Erikson stages of psychosocial development highlights the experiences of a person from the childhood to adulthood. An individual can either go through these stages successfully or unsuccessfully. The successes at the previous stage contribute to the success of the current and the next stage. On the other hand, failure during the previous stage can lead to unsuccessful life that would end with regret and despair.




Cook, J. L., & Jones, R. M. (2007). Identity, intimacy, and father involvement. North American Journal of Psychology, 9(1), 153-162.

Osborne, J. W. (2009). Commentary on retirement, identity, and Erikson’s developmental stage model. Canadian Journal on Aging, 28(4), 295-301. doi:

Vogel-scibilia, S., Mcnulty, K. C., Baxter, B., Miller, S., Dine, M., & Frese, F. J. (2009). The recovery process utilizing Erikson’s stages of human development. Community Mental Health Journal, 45(6), 405-14. doi:

Crain, William (2011). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc

Kail, Robert V. & Cavanaugh, John C. (2004). Human development: A life-span view (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth