Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development Term Paper

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Erik Erikson's Stages Of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development builds on the work of Sigmund Freud. Like Freud, Erikson basis his theory on the idea that internal, biological factors largely determine one's personality. However, Erikson also considers the importance of cultural and social factors in the development of one's personality. Furthermore, while Freud's theory stops at adolescence, Erikson's psychosocial stages continue into adulthood.

This first part of this paper looks at Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development and gives examples of each stage. The next part then evaluates the relevance of Erikson today. In the conclusion, this paper points out that despite new developments, Erikson's stages remain a useful starting point for psychologists who are conducting research into the development of personality.

Stages of psychosocial development

Erikson bases on psychosocial stages on the resolution of important conflicts. Each stage is characterized by a specific tension. To progress to the next stage of development, a person must be able to resolve that tension by overcoming the issues causing conflict.

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The first stage, according to Erikson, lasts from birth to approximately 12 months. In this stage, an infant is struggling with trust vs. mistrust issues. She must learn that the world is not a scary place. If exposed to a loving and nurturing environment, she will learn to trust other people, especially her loved ones. If she does not overcome the tendency towards mistrust, she will see the world as a potential source of pain, frustration and uncertainty.

A character such as Maggie from The Simpsons is a good illustration of a stage one personality. Maggie does not yet have her own distinct personality, she is completely dependent on her family in general and her mother in particular. At this stage, nurturing is important, so she could learn that the world is a caring place.

Term Paper on Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development Erik Assignment

The task of helping an infant develop her trust falls largely on her mother Marge.

Stage two covers early childhood, from age one through three years old. Children at this age are working through the tension between autonomy and shame/doubt. Children are learning to control themselves. This effort at control comes through mastering motor skills, such as walking. The development of control can also be seen in how a child asserts himself, by saying "No, no!" when challenged by his parents.

The character of the toddler Mikey in Look Who's Talking illustrates a person at this stage of development. Mikey is learning to walk and is undergoing potty training. He is also striving towards autonomy by continually challenging his mother. If he does not master his motor skills, Erikson believes that Mikey will be plagued with self-doubt. If his mother reacts with controlling and shaming, Mikey will develop shame. However, if he is able to master his motor skills in a nurturing environment, Mikey can then begin developing autonomy and move on to stage three.

Stage 3 lasts from ages 3 to 6 years old, and in this stage, a child must struggle between initiative and guilt. A child learns the former through initiating social activities with other people - whether adults or peers. Guilt results as an unintended or unexpected consequence of these actions. At this stage, children need to develop initiative in a loving environment, so they will not be discouraged by harsh consequences. Oliver Twist, the hero of the classic Charles Dickens novel, shows how a lack of support can result in guilt. After Oliver takes an initiative and asks for more gruel, he is severely punished as a result.

In the fourth stage, a child strives to develop industry and overcome inferiority. This long stage lasts from 6 yeas old through puberty. A child will begin to practice skills that will be used in the world outside one's family.

The resulting recognition or punishment from external factors will determine whether a child will develop feelings of competence or inferiority. Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons exemplifies a person who is struggling in this stage. Lisa strives for academic competence by studying and getting good grades. However, she also wants to be accepted by her peers, and worries that her academic successes do not translate to the friendship of her peers.

Erikson's fifth stage is the search for identity. It last from adolescence to about the age of 20. An adolescent strives to develop an identity distinct from that of his parents. It is crucial that he develops this sense of identity, or role confusion can result. The character of Clark Kent in the television show Smallville illustrates the crisis that an adolescent goes through in developing this identity. Clark struggles to be good at many roles, such as son, student, friend and budding superhero.

In the sixth stage of young adulthood, the challenge is to learn how to be intimate, versus living a life in isolation.

It is in this stage that a person must get over commitment issues. They learn to open themselves to another person, and to risk rejection and getting hurt. Those who do not learn how to be intimate will have to live a life isolated from others.

The character of Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice highlights a person who is in this stage of development. Lizzie is a proud girl, who hides behind her wit and intelligence. When she meets her match in Mr. Darcy, she struggles between her independent streak and trusting another person, outside her family, that is. When she does decide towards intimacy, she is fortunately rewarded with a happy marriage to a man who is her intellectual equal.

Stage seven is the adult stage, lasting from 30 to 65 years old. In this stage, the struggle is between generativity and stagnation. Adults find reasons or causes to devote themselves, whether it is their children, their work, a cause that contributes to "the common good." If they do not engage in generativity, the opposite result is stagnation, where a person can become inactive and stagnant.

In the movie Life is Beautiful, the characters of Guido and Dora Orefice illustrate this struggle. They both choose generativity, as seen in their struggle to keep their child Gisoue. Dora's decision to join the camp, even if she was not Jewish, illustrates her orientation to others - namely her family. Guido also illustrates this orientation as he struggles to keep Gisoue alive and later, in his desperate attempt to find Dora.

For Erikson, the last stage is maturity, lasting from age 65 through death. In this stage, a person looks back and wonders if he has lived a meaningful life. A person who feels that his life had purpose will be ready to accept impending death with dignity. However, a person who has doubts will despair due to goals that have not been accomplished.

Though he is only in his 40s, General Simon Bolivar in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's The General in His Labyrinth is a perfect example of a person in this last stage of life. Bolivar walks around in a haze, unable to escape his impending exile and death. Prematurely ages, the general relives his life in flashbacks, regretting his failure to create a unified Republic of South America.

Evaluations of Erikson

Just as Erikson built on the work of Freud, several other psychologists have also built upon Erikson's psychosocial stages. For example, Culp et al. (2000) generally agree regarding Erikson's stages. However, Culp et al. (2000) also pay special attention to how paternal involvement also helps children in stages two through four. Their findings show that a strong paternal presence helps children develop greater confidence. By extension, children with paternal support will also be able to develop strong autonomy, initiative and identity.

Asbury et al. (2003) looks at how Erikson's psychosocial stages hold up in twin studies. This study finds that "nonshared… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development.  (2006, July 31).  Retrieved November 25, 2020, from

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"Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development."  31 July 2006.  Web.  25 November 2020. <>.

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"Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development."  July 31, 2006.  Accessed November 25, 2020.