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Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development: Intro

Many people are aware of physical developmental milestones to be met throughout a person’s life – holding up our heads, sitting up, crawling, walking, running, puberty, and beyond. However, did you know that there are psychological milestones? Ever since psychology has become its own distinctive field, many theorists have come up with various explanations for the general stages that all humans go through in order to grow into a mature and fully functioning adult.

One such theorist was Erik Erikson, who came up with an eight stage theory of psychosocial development (1959). Within his theory, there is a “crisis” in each stage – meaning that there is some new psychological challenge to be met and processed, and there are two outcomes (positive and negative). If the outcome is positive, then that person is capable of progressing into the next stage. Otherwise, that person becomes “stuck” in that stage. What does that mean? Within this theory, that means that there are 30 year olds out in the world who may still be acting like 8 year olds because they have not successfully worked through that psychosocial stage.

Now you’re probably curious what the stages are:

Stage 1: birth – 18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust

Stage 2: 18 moths – 3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Stage 3: 3-5 years: Initiative vs. Guilt

Stage 4: 5-12 years: Industry vs. Inferiority

Stage 5: 12-18 years: Identity vs. Role Confusion

Stage 6: 18-40 years: Intimacy vs. Isolation

Stage 7: 40-65: Generativity vs. Stagnation

Stage 8: 65+: Ego Integrity vs. Despair

That may sound like a lot of words and it may be difficult to understand what it all means! That’s why we’re going to run a series of blog posts during the next few weeks explaining each stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development with applications of what it looks like to be “stuck” in each one. Feel free to make comments on posts if you have any questions. We hope that this series will be educational and helpful to you!

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