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Psychosocial Stages

The Eight Stages of Human Development

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The theory of psychosocial development created by Erik Erikson is perhaps one of the best known personality theories. The theory differs from many others in that it addresses development across the entire lifespan, from birth through death.

At each stage, the individual deals with a conflict that serves as a turning point in development. When the conflict is resolved successfully, the person is able to develop the psychosocial quality associated with that particular stage of development.

Learn more about each of the psychosocial stages, including the conflict confronted at each stage and the major events that occur during each point of development.

1. Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust

first psychosocial stage
Photo by Photo by Lev Dolgatshjov - iStockPhoto
Trust versus mistrust is the earliest psychosocial stage that occurs during the first year or so of a child's life. During this critical phase of development, an infant is utterly dependent upon his or her caregivers. When parents or caregivers respond a child's needs in a consistent and caring manner, the child then learns to trust the world and people around him. Learn more about the trust versus mistrust stage.

2. Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt

Second psychosocial stage
Photo by Julián Rovagnati - iStockPhoto
The second psychosocial stage involves the conflict between autonomy and shame or doubt. As the child enters the toddler years, gaining a greater sense of personal control becomes increasingly important. Tasks such as learning how to use the toilet, selecting foods and choosing toys are ways that children gain a greater sense of independence. Learn more about the autonomy versus shame and doubt stage.

3. Stage 3: Initiative Versus Guilt

Third psychosocial stage
Photo by Ekaterina Boym-Medler
The third psychosocial stage occurs between the ages of about three and five and is centered on developing a sense of self-initiative. Children who are allowed and encouraged to engage in self-directed play emerge with a sense of strong initiative, while those who are discouraged from these activities may begin to feel a sense of guilt over their self-initiated activities. Learn more about the initiative versus guilt stage.

4. Stage 4: Industry Versus Inferiority

Fourth psychosocial stage
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During middle childhood between the ages of about six and eleven, children enter the psychosocial stage known as industry versus inferiority. As children engage in social interaction with friends and academic activities at school, they begin to develop a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work and abilities. Children who are praised and encouraged develop a sense of competence, while those who are discouraged are left with a sense of inferiority. Learn more about the industry versus inferiority stage.

5. Stage 5: Identity Versus Confusion

Fifth psychosocial stage
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In the fifth psychosocial stage, the formation of a personal identity becomes critical. During adolescence, teens explore different behaviors, roles and identities. Erikson believed that this stage was particularly critical and that forging a strong identity serves as a basis for finding future direction in life. Those who find a sense of identity feel secure, independent and ready to face the future, while those who remain confused may feel lost, insecure and unsure of their place in the world. Learn more about the identity versus confusion stage.

6. Stage 6: Intimacy Versus Isolation

Sixth psychosocial stage
Photo by Taylor Hunt
The sixth psychosocial stage is centered on forming intimate, loving relationships with other people. Dating, marriage, family and friendships are important during the intimacy versus isolation stage, which lasts from approximately age 19 to 40. By successfully forming loving relationships with other people, individuals are able to experience love and enjoy intimacy. Those who fail to form lasting relationships may feel isolated and alone. Learn more about the intimacy versus isolation stage.

7. Stage 7: Generativity Versus Stagnation

Seventh psychosocial stage
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Once adults enter the stage that occurs during middle adulthood, the psychosocial conflict becomes centered on the need to create or nurture things that will outlast the individual. Raising a family, working and contributing to the community are all ways that people develop a sense of purpose. Those who fail to find ways to contribute may feel disconnected and useless. Learn more about the generativity versus stagnation stage.

8. Stage 8: Integrity Versus Despair

Eighth psychosocial stage
Photo by Sharon Dominick - iStockPhoto
The final psychosocial stage begins around the age of 65 and lasts until death. During this period of time, the individual look back on his or her life. The major question during this stage is, "Did I live a meaningful life?" Those who have will feel a sense of peace, wisdom and fulfillment, even when facing death. For those who look back on life with bitterness and regret, feelings of despair may result. Learn more about the integrity versus despair stage.

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