This post is the sixth in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here. To see the fifth post on stage 5, go here.
Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation
This stage refers to the ages between 18 and 35/40 and presuming the individual has successfully established an identity based on the first 5 stages, the young adult is now able to form close and meaningful relationships with another person outside of their family of origin. These intimate relationships are not exclusive to romantic relationships, as in this stage the young adult also develops in his/her ability to engage in finding satisfying work.
In this stage the young adult grows in the virtue of love in the sense that s/he is able to take the love received as a child and begin to love and care for others. The challenges in this stage involve finding a balance between maintaining autonomy while also being attached to others. When the young adult fails to achieve intimacy this can result in alienation, isolation, loneliness, and depression. This failure may be due to a fear of commitment and avoiding intimacy (that can be due to unsuccessful completions of earlier stages). Isolation involves self-absorption that can inhibit the ability to develop deep relationships.
In therapy, the counselor may work with the young adult to identify their own set of values versus those of their parents as a means of developing a sense of self. This may involve repairing insecure attachment styles. After this, the counselor would then work on teaching the young adult how to relate to others emotionally, intellectually, physically and/or spiritually.