Erickson’s Psychosocial Development and Its Stages

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1133
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


Erickson came up with a theory that modified the views of Freud to suit social definition. In theory, each developmental stage has a specific name, which is referred to as a task. Each developmental stage of human personality centers on emotional polarity, which he referred to as conflict. This refers to a form of conflict that an individual encounters during development. Emotional polarity is represented by two terms, which in turn explain the expected achievement of a particular stage.

Stages of Development

The first stage is infancy, whose optimal time is between zero years to twelve months. Emotional polarity is oral sensory whereby a child develops either trust or mistrust. If the child is protected too much, he or she might develop a maladaptive sensory referred to as sensory malfunction. Such individuals tend to develop trust even in mature commitments. In fact, such people are easily convinced since they believe no one would harm them. In case an individual develops mistrust, he or she would develop a malignant tendency referred to as withdrawal. In adult life, such individuals develop depression, psychosis, and paranoia. If balance were achieved at the infancy stage, a child would develop a psychosocial strength referred to as hope. Hope represents a persistent conviction that one’s wishes would be satisfied despite the fact that an individual would face disappointments and failures. Hope is the basis of faith in mature commitments.

The anal muscular stage is another developmental stage whose optimal time ranges from one to eighteen months. The duty at this period is to build up a degree of autonomy whereas reducing indignity and doubt. The stage is concerned about what the child should be socialized to achieve. The stage is characterized by toilet training whereby the child must learn to take control of him or herself. In some communities, a child must learn to run, sit properly, and master some words. In this stage, the child can develop independence or could perhaps develop shame and doubt. Those developing independence could be in a position to do the right things at the right time. A child must strive to strike a balance between shame and independence. The maladaptive tendency at this stage results in impulsiveness whereby an individual would have a tendency to jump into things without conducting the proper analysis. The malignant tendency at the stage is known as compulsiveness, which means an individual feels everything must be done in a perfect way. If an individual strikes balance, a psychosocial strength referred to as determination is achieved. This means an individual would be empowered to exercise freedom of choice, restraint, and consistency in terms of following the law (Murphy, & Dillon, 2011).

The third stage is the genital locomotive stage, whose optimal time is three to six years. The responsibility that would face every child at this stage pertains to learning new things with no supervision. At this stage, a child would be required to learn things in order to be exposed to the realities of the world. This would involve facing challenges, finding out the existence of new skills, and being rational. Children at the stage would be busy mastering the surrounding environment. The dominant social modality is intrusive in nature, meaning the bodies intrude into social spaces and to the other people’s spaces. At this stage, a child strives to find out why things are the way they are. In particular, they would want to find out why genitals differ. Erickson observed that the family influences the behavior of the child greatly at this stage. Children who tend to learn more develop a maladaptive tendency referred to as ruthlessness. This refers to individuals who do things without considering the consequences of their behavior. Children who fear to learn new things would develop a malignant tendency referred to as inhibition. An inhibited individual is the one who fears engaging in new things because he or she fears failure. If an individual strives to strike a balance at this stage, a psychosocial strength referred to as purpose would be achieved.

The fourth phase is referred to as latency stage. The optimal time ranges from six to twelve years. The main responsibility is to build up the sense of industry while keeping away from extreme sense of inadequacy. Children at this age receive specific instructions that would help them deal with challenges in mature commitments. Children are made to understand that they are no longer babies. Maladaptive trend at the period results to industry, which leads to narrow talent. This is a scenario where a child focuses on one area of study. Malignant tendency would lead to development of inertial behavior, which refers to inferiority complex. If an individual strives to strike a balance between the two, a psychosocial strength referred to as competency would be achieved.

A fifth developmental stage is adolescence stage. The optimal time is twelve to twenty years. The main assignment is to realize ego identity and keep away from ego perplexity. Ego identify implies a teenager knows who she or he is. If an individual identifies his or her position in society, he or she would develop a sense of coherent individuality, which would enable him or her resolve conflicts. If an adolescent develops a negative ego, a maladaptive tendency referred to as fanatic. Such individuals are known for idealism since they believe their ways are always perfect. This would lead to the development of cult behavior such as drug abuse gangs. Malignant tendency leads to repudiation whereby youths protest against their behavior. Youths acquire a virtue of fidelity if balance is achieved (Seligman, & Reichenberg, 2009).

The sixth phase is middle age stage. The optimal time varies from eighteen to thirty years. The main task is intimacy and keeping off from isolation. Intimacy refers to the ability to develop relationships with members of the opposite sex. Young members of society practice love. Isolation refers to self-absorption and inability to develop deep-committed relationships. Maladaptive trend at the stage is referred to as promiscuity. Promiscuity is a condition leading an individual to be intimate too freely. Malignant tendency is referred to as exclusion, which is isolation from the rest of society. If balance is negotiated, people develop a psychosocial strength referred to as love.

Middle adulthood is another stage whose optimal time ranges from twenty to fifty-five years. The main assignment facing an individual at this stage is enlightening the next generation. The stage is characterized by generosity. Maladaptive tendency results to overextending oneself while malignancy leads to rejection. A well-negotiated balance leads to care.

The final phase, which is exemplified by ego veracity, is late adulthood (old age stage). Optimal time is above fifty-five years. Maladaptive tendency is referred to as presumption while malignancy leads to disparagement. A good balance would result to wisdom.


Murphy, B. C., & Dillon, C. (2011). Interviewing in action in a multicultural world (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Seligman, L. W., & Reichenberg, L. W. (2009). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: Systems, strategies, and skills (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.