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Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Psychosocial Development in Young Adulthood, Middle Age, and Old Age

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Psychosocial Stage 6 - Intimacy vs. Isolation

  • This stage covers the period of early adulthood when people are exploring personal relationships.

  • Erikson believed it was vital that people develop close, committed relationships with other people. Those who are successful at this step will form relationships that are committed and secure.

  • Remember that each step builds on skills learned in previous steps. Erikson believed that a strong sense of personal identity was important for developing intimate relationships. Studies have demonstrated that those with a poor sense of self tend to have less committed relationships and are more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression.

  • Successful resolution of this stage results in the virtue known as love. It is marked by the ability to form lasting, meaningful relationships with other people.

Psychosocial Stage 7 - Generativity vs. Stagnation

  • During adulthood, we continue to build our lives, focusing on our career and family.

  • Those who are successful during this phase will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home and community. Those who fail to attain this skill will feel unproductive and uninvolved in the world.

  • Care is the virtue achieved when this stage is handled successfully. Being proud of your accomplishments, watching your children grow into adults, and developing a sense of unity with your life partner are important accomplishments of this stage.

Psychosocial Stage 8 - Integrity vs. Despair

  • This phase occurs during old age and is focused on reflecting back on life.

  • Those who are unsuccessful during this stage will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair.

  • Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.

More About Erikson and Psychosocial Stages

The Strengths of Erikson's Theory

One of the strengths of psychosocial theory is that it provides a broad framework from which to view development throughout the entire lifespan. It also allows us to emphasize the social nature of human beings and the important influence that social relationships have on development. Researchers have found evidence supporting Erikson's ideas about identity and have further identified different sub-stages of identity formation. Some research also suggests that people who form strong personal identities during adolescence are better capable of forming intimate relationships during early adulthood.

Limitations of Psychosocial Theory

What kinds of experiences are necessary to successfully complete each stage? How does a person move from one stage to the next? One major weakness of psychosocial theory is that the exact mechanisms for resolving conflicts and moving from one stage to the next are not well described or developed. The theory fails to detail exactly what type of experiences are necessary at each stage in order to successfully resolve the conflicts and move to the next stage.

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References:

1 Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

2 Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.

3 Carver, C.S. & Scheir, M.F. (2000). Perspectives on Personality. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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