The 8 Stages Of Life According to Erikson


life according to erikson

One of the most influential and popular theories of development was put forward by Erikson. He was an ego psychologist from the 20th century and is famous for his contributions in the fields of psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. He developed a theory to explain how individuals tend to mature in life.

Erikson’s Theory

Erikson’s theory was influenced by the works of another great psychologist known as Sigmund Freud. He based his work on Freud’s psychosexual theory and modified it. This gave rise to the eight stages of his Psychosocial theory that we now know today. He believed that our ego plays an important factor in our development. He believed that our ego contributed to our development in a positive way by mastering skills, ideas, and attitudes at each stage of our development in life. This mastery and retention of skills help children develop into mature and successful members who contribute to our society. He had a particular interest in how relationships and social interaction play an important role in the growth and development of us humans.

He believed that there was a presence of conflict during each stage. If an individual managed to successfully deal with it, he/she would develop psychological skills/strengths which would serve them well for the rest of their lives. If they failed to do so, they would not develop essential life skills. Erikson also believed that at each stage, a person would need to master those qualities which he often referred to as “ego-strength” or “ego-quality.” Thus, if an individual managed to master abilities at each stage, they would feel a “sense of accomplishment” and if they failed, they would emerge with a “sense of inadequacy.”

The 8 Stages Of Life According To Erikson

life stages erikson

Erikson developed his theory based on Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory. He developed his own eight stages of a person’s development from infancy to mature adulthood. The stages are built on the effect social interaction has on people and the way they mature. His theory is considered to be an important part of the psychology of development. It elaborates on the various challenges a person faces during his/her development. Each stage has conflicts that the person needs to overcome. Also, an individual does not necessarily need to complete one stage to progress to the next. They will automatically progress to the next stage. However, if they do not overcome the conflicts, then the challenges will continue to affect their lives throughout all the stages until they finally resolve them.

1. Stage 1: Infancy (Birth – 12 to 18 months)

Factors: Trust vs Mistrust

The first stage of his theory begins when a person is born and continues till that person is 12 to 18 months old. This is one of the most fundamental stages in one’s life. In this stage, infants learn to trust adults. This happens when an adult fulfills an infant’s requirements for survival, like providing for food, care and shelter.

Trust: When a caregiver or an adult promptly responds to the infant’s cries, the infant can start trusting people around them. They can develop a sense of security and trust. This affects them in later stages when they learn to trust people.

Mistrust: When the adult tends to neglect the infant’s needs for survival or provides sporadic care, the infant will start growing insecure. They might start learning not to trust people or adults around them. They can carry this trait forward when as teenagers or adults, they tend to doubt people.

2. Stage 2: Toddlerhood (18 months – 3 years)

Factors: Autonomy vs Doubt

During this stage, infants grow up into young children. They start exploring their surroundings and learn more about the world they are in. They also start to develop basic life skills in this stage such as toilet training and speaking with clarity.

Autonomy: If in this stage, the caregiver or the parent makes them feel safe about their surroundings and allows them to explore, children will develop skills in risk-taking. They will feel confident about exploring new ideas, skills, locations, etc.

Doubt: If the caregiver fails to make the child feel protected and safe and also discourages them from taking risks, the child will grow up to be insecure. They will start doubting their abilities and will depend too much on the parent.

3. Stage 3: Preschool (3 – 6 years)

Factors: Initiative vs Guilt

This stage allows young children to become independent and set goals for themselves. Erikson believes that at this stage children should learn to set their own goals and achieve them, while at the same time interacting with different people and also children their age.

Initiative: When parents and caregivers support children in being independent, learning to set goals, and accomplishing them, they grow into adults who are able to make decisions and abide by them in a mature way.

Guilt: When these same children get criticized for taking independent decisions and being assertive of situations, they might feel guilty for their actions or their desires. When a parent becomes controlling of their child’s decisions, the child may learn to follow someone else’s decisions or ideas, rather than being confident in their own.

4. Stage 4: Early years in school (5-12 years)

Factors: Industry vs Inferiority

In this stage, children have an increased sense of perception and consciousness. They start comparing themselves to other people. They engage in social interactions and try to establish their own individuality.

Industry: Children who are more accomplished than others can begin to take a sense of pride for their achievements. They become self-confident and when parents praise them, it can boost their self-esteem also.

Inferiority: Children who have not yet achieved anything significant here can start doubting their self-worth. When they are criticized by their parents for this, they can start feeling inferior to others.

5. Stage 5 : Adolescence (12-18 years)

Factors: Identity vs Confusion

This is the point where children start to question their existence. They may try to find answers to the question “Who am I?”, and try developing different personalities to see which suits them the best.

Identity: in order to be successful in this stage, students need to be aware of their abilities and develop a sense of self-awareness. They will try to determine what their priorities in life are, like academics, family, hobbies, etc., and try to set goals for themselves, in order to accomplish those priorities.

Confusion: Some children may have not yet developed their sense of self-awareness. They might struggle with becoming the person their parents or their society expects them to be. They may start to get confused about who they are and what they want to do in life without a consistent self-identity.

6. Stage 6: Young Adulthood (18-40 years)

Factors : Intimacy vs isolation

Erikson was of the opinion that at this stage, young adults tend to dwell into relationships and get married. They are ready to share their lives with other people and explore a lot of relationships to find the one which suits them the most.

Intimacy: If young adults are able to find a meaningful relationship, they will be able to sense intimacy and affection. They benefit from an emotional perspective by having a lifelong commitment or bond.

Isolation: If these people are not able to find suitable relationships, they might start experiencing loneliness. They may withdraw from social activities and lead a life of isolation.

7. Stage 7: Middle Adulthood (40-65 years)

Factors: Generativity vs Stagnation

The main purpose of this stage is to be self-independent and established in life. People at this age contribute to society, have well-built careers, and also raise children.

Generativity: Here people try to guide and mentor their children and other young adults. They can leave behind legacies for others to follow. They may also contribute to society in a significant way.

Stagnation: Some people in this stage might feel that they have no contribution towards society. If their coworkers or counterparts do not appreciate their work or efforts, they might find themselves getting frustrated and restless. Some people might feel that they have reached a ‘peak’ in their lives and things are only going to get worse from there.

Read The 3 Stages in the Midlife Search for Meaning

8. Stage 8 : Late Adulthood (65 years and above)

Factors: Integrity vs Despair

During this stage, which is the final according to Erikson, people tend to reflect on their lives a lot. People here grow old and the pace of their life slows down. They look back on their past and try to assess their achievements. People who take pride in their past achievements tend to feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment here.

Integrity: People who feel that their lives have been fulfilling, wholesome and rewarding can face their old age and even death with integrity or pride. They feel like they have accomplished something in life and all those years were worth living for.

Despair: However, people who have been unsuccessful in their previous stages may experience feelings of despair or loss. If they feel that their lives have been unproductive, they might get depressed.

Limitations Of Erikson’s Theory

Although his theory received much recognition and popularity, it also received its fair share of criticism from other people from the psychological community. These limitations are :

1. Critics tend to say that Erikson gave a lot of stress on early childhood development and neglected any kind of development which can also occur in adulthood. He himself had admitted at some point in his life that a person’s personality could change when they grow into adults. However, he did not offer any explanation for the same.

2. Erikson had also been criticized for his stress on male personality and development, leaving out the female counterparts. He had agreed that personalities are subject to change based on genders, however, he did not do anything to rectify his previous theories.

3. Some critics say that Erikson’s theory was based on more speculations rather than having accurate data for the same. He based his theories on psychological case studies available at the time. Modern psychologists are of the opinion that many of Erikson’s theories do not apply to everyone and are not a rule of thumb.

Erikson’s Theory Of Psychosexual Development – A Summary

Erikson’s theory provides us with a unique perspective on the development of individuals. His theory can be useful in understanding the challenges and conflicts people face while growing up and how they can affect them in later parts of their life. However there are other personality theories that exist and thus, his theory should be taken at face value.

life according to erikson pinop
life according to erikson pin
life according to erikson pinoop

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Up Next

4 Psychology Concepts Most People Get Wrong

Psychology Concepts Most People Get Wrong

These days, there are many psychology concepts and terms that are used very loosely and casually due to growing awareness about psychology and mental disorders in general. However, it’s important to know more about these psychology concepts in order to reduce the risk of misinformation and misunderstandings.


Casually using “toxic,” “narcissist,” “gaslighting,” and “triggered” can be damaging and cause confusion.

Using these terms more accurately, as described here, can reduce harmful misunderstandings.

If you use TikTok, Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter, you’ve probably run across a good deal of psychological vocabulary. Much of

Up Next

Are You Scared Of Ghosts? What Is Phasmophobia And How To Conquer Your Ghostly Fears

What Is Phasmophobia and How to Overcome Ghostly Terrors

Are you afraid of being alone in the darkness? Do unexplained noises or eerie surroundings send shivers down your spine? Are you scared of ghosts? If so, you may be experiencing phasmophobia. What is phasmophobia, you ask? Let’s find out.

Emily woke up in the middle of the night and looked directly at the dark corner of her room. As a battle raged on between curiosity and fear, Emily kept staring into the darkness. 

When the floorboard creaked menacingly, she jumped out of her bed and ran out of the bedroom. Little did she know that the culprit wasn’t hiding within the darkness, but in the darkest recess of her own mind. Her own fear of ghosts – phasmophobia. 

Today, we will delve into the depths of phasmophobia, an intense and irrational fear of ghosts, exp

Up Next

What Does Reverse Psychology Mean And How To Use It To Get What You Want

What Does Reverse Psychology Mean and How to Use It

Sometimes things go exactly the way you want them to. Other times, not so much. Especially when you are dealing with people. So how can you turn things in your favor without being manipulative? Two words: reverse psychology. But what does reverse psychology mean?

Sometimes, the conventional methods of persuasion fail, leaving us perplexed and frustrated. Reverse psychology is a fascinating technique that can turn the tables and unlock hidden paths to influence and persuasion. Its positive strategy for positive results.

Let’s dive deep into exploring its meaning, and understanding how does reverse psychology work and even explore how to use reverse psychology on a narcissist. So, buckle up and get ready to uncover the captivating world of reverse psychology.

Up Next

The Psychology Behind Changing Hair Color: 7 Mood Boosting Benefits

Psychology Behind Changing Hair Color: Clear Benefits

Feeling a little blue lately? Why not dye your hair, and see if you feel better? There’s a psychology behind changing hair color, and it might be the mood boost you need.

Different colors evoke different emotions according to studies, they even impact our mental and physical well-being.

In an attempt to make ourselves happy again in this world full of constant change, altering our hair color can offer that fresh start feeling.

Imagine looking up at the sky after a bad day, the sunshine is yellow and so are happy colors such as orange, pink, red, etc. They all give off positive vibes that we all love. Even softer tones such as peach or lilac can uplift your spir

Up Next

How To Stay Psychologically Healthy At Any Age: The Evergreen Mind

How To Stay Psychologically Healthy At Any Age: Mind Matters

Just like your physical health is important, psychological well-being and psychological wellness are equally vital to for living a happy, and healthy life. This article is going to talk about how to stay psychologically healthy, irrespective of age.


The health of the American population overall is declining as demographic shifts occur.

Staying psychologically healthy has positive effects on physiological health.

Maintaining social connections and building resilience as you age are equally important for mental well-being.

For the past several decades, the Am

Up Next

16 Must-Read Psychoanalysis Books: Excavate The Mysteries Of Human Consciousness

Best Psychoanalysis Books Of All Time

Dive into the depths of the human psyche together with some of the brilliant scholars, practitioners, and fans who have penned the best psychoanalysis books and archived such discourses for over a century.

From Freud’s foundational works to modern interpretations and critiques, the landscape of psychoanalytic literature is vast and diverse.

In this exploration, we unveil sixteen essential best books about psychoanalysis that have left an indelible mark on the discipline, offering insights into the complexities of human behavior, psyche, and culture.

16 Best Psychoanalysis Books Of All Time

Up Next

Embodied Cognition: How Your Body Shapes Your Mind And Emotional Experiences

Embodied Cognition and Its Impact on Your Mind and Emotions

Have you ever wondered how your body and mind are interconnected? How the physical sensations you experience can shape your thoughts and emotions? It turns out that our bodies play a crucial role in shaping our cognitive processes and emotional experiences. This fascinating phenomenon is known as embodied cognition. 

Today, we will explore the concept of embodied cognition, the profound mind and body connection, and how the body affects the mind and emotions. 

So, let’s dive into the captivating world of embodied cognition and uncover the secrets of how your body shapes your mind and emotional experiences.

Embodied Cognition: Understanding the Concept