Personality Development Guide – Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development


Erik Erikson presented his own theory of stages of personality development, which was known theory of psychosocial development. This eight stage theory of psychosocial development is probably the best known theory in the stages of personality development. It describes the growth, development, changes and conflicts that arise in the life of individuals as they pass through different stage of development. This theory emphasizes on social interaction and the resultant conflicts that affect the life of an individual.

The stages include:

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust


Focus: Dependent for feeding and basic needs

Children develop trust and security when caregivers provide affection and dependability. Inconsistent, rejecting or emotionally unstable care giving can result in fear and insecurity in the child.


Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Early Childhood

Focus: Toilet Training and personal control

Children need to learn to control their body functions and develop a sense of independence. This leads to a feeling of control and confidence whereas failure results in feelings of shame and self-doubt.


Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt

Preschool age

Focus: Exploration

During this stage, children begin to affirm their control and authority over their surroundings. This helps to develop capability and leadership. Failure can result in disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt or lack of initiative.

 Little girl with Curly hair

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority

School Age

Focus: School

Children learnt social interactions and develop a sense of satisfaction with their undertakings. When children are encouraged positively it leads to a sense of competence and they learn to believe in themselves, whereas failure can result in feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.


Stage 5: Identity vs. Confusion

Adolescent years

Focus: Social Relationships

Adolescents develop a sense of personal identity and explore their independence. Successful encouragement leads to strong sense of self control, while failure can lead to confusion and sense of insecurity.

Father teaching Daughter to ride bicycle

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation

Early Adulthood

Focus: Relationships

Young adults explore personal relations and success leads to strong, intimate and secure relationships with other people. Failure can result in emotional seclusion, isolation and depression.


Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation

Middle Adulthood

Focus: Work and Parenthood

Adults foster their career, life and children and remain busy and productive in their world. Success leads to feeling of purpose and accomplishment, whereas failure can result in feeling of futility and their world may remain stagnated.


Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs. Despair


Beautiful woman


Focus: Reflection on Life

Older adults, on looking back into their lives need to have a sense of fulfillment. Success leads to feelings of self-worth and satisfaction with fewer regrets. Failure can result in regret, resentment, and despair.


Summary and Comparison of the two theories of Development


Ages Freud’s theory of Psychosexual Development Erikson’s theory of Psychosocial Development
Birth to 1 year Oral stage – Child seeks pleasure through sucking, licking, eating Trust vs. Mistrust – Child learns to trust or distrust the caregivers  
1-3 years Anal Stage – Child gains self confidence by mastering bowel and bladder control Autonomy vs. Doubt – Child develops self-sufficiency by controlling basic personal functions or develops self-doubt
3-6 years Phallic Stage – Child recognizes same sex parent Initiative vs. Guilt – Child develops control over the surroundings or develops a sense of guilt
7-11 years Latent period – Child focuses on interests, friends and school activities Industry vs. Inferiority – Child develops confidence and masters new skills or begins to feel inferior 
Adolescence Genital Stage – Child begins to explore love relationships and bonding Identity vs. Confusion – Child develops a sense of personal identity or develops confusion and insecurity
Adulthood Person maintains balance in life and becomes a better individual Intimacy vs. Isolation – Young grown-ups seek love and relationships or feel isolated and depressed Generativity vs. Stagnation – Middle aged adults focus on career, work and family or remain stagnated


Ego Integrity vs. Despair – Old aged adults look back at their lives with fulfillment and self-worth or bitterness and despair.




Recent Articles:

Scroll to Top