Eriksons Psychosocial Stages

Unlike classical psychoanalysis, which viewed personality as essentially complete by adolescence, Erik Erikson (1963) maintained that personality continues developing throughout an individual's lifetime. Also unlike Freudian theory, Erikson's stages are "psychosocial" rather than "psychosexual." Erikson emphasized the importance of social interactions in the resolution of the crisis or conflict at each stage. The first five stages in his model of development are temporally parallel to Freud's five psychosexual stages. However, Erikson extended the range of personality development to include three additional stages in adulthood. These stages are similar in certain respects to Robert Havighurst's (1953) description of the developmental tasks of early adulthood, middle age, and later maturity.

To Havighurst, mating, establishing a home, beginning an occupation, and rearing children are the major tasks of young adulthood. Helping younger people, developing leisure-time activities, fulfilling civic and social responsibilities, and adjusting to physiological changes are the major tasks of middle age. Adjusting to decreasing strength, retiring, adjusting to the death of a spouse, and affiliating with one's age group are the major tasks of later maturity.

Though similar, Erikson's developmental stages are more "psychological" and less "social" in their orientation than Havighurst's. As shown in Table 5-1,

Table 5-1 Erikson's Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Infancy. The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between trust and mistrust. The goal or resolution of this crisis is to acquire a basic sense of trust. Consistency, continuity, and sameness of experience lead to trust. Inadequate, inconsistent, or negative care may arouse mistrust.

Early Childhood. The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between autonomy and shame and doubt. The goal or resolution of this crisis is to attain a sense of autonomy. Opportunities to try out skills at one's own pace and in one's own way lead to autonomy. Overprotection or lack of support mag lead to doubt about one's ability to control oneself or the environment.

Play Age. The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between initiative and guilt. The goal or resolution of this crisis is to develop a sense of initiative. Freedom to engage in activities and parents' patient answering of questions lead to initiative. Restriction of activities and treating questions as a nuisance lead to guilt.

School Age, The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between industry and inferiority. The goal or resolution of this crisis is to become industrious and competent. Being permitted to make and do things and being praised for accomplishments lead to industry. Limitations on activities and criticism of what is done lead to inferiority.

Adolescence. The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between identity and role confusion. The goal or resolution of this crisis is to achieve a personal identity. Recognition of continuity and sameness in one's personality, even when in different situations and when reacted to by different individuals. leads to identity Inability to establish stability, particularly regarding sex roles and occupational choice, leads to role confusion

Young Adulthood. The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between intimacy and isolation The goal or resolution of this crisis is to become intimate with someone. Fusing one's identity with another leads to intimacy. Competitive and combative relations with others may lead to isolation.

Middle Age. The major crisis or conflict of this stage is hetween generativity and self-absorption, The goal or resolution of this crisis is to develop an interest in future generations. Establishing arid guiding the next generation produces a sense of generativity. Being concerned primarily with oneself leads to self-absorption.

Old Age. The major crisis or conflict in this stage is between integrity and despair. The goal or resolution of this crisis is to become an integrated and self-accepting person. Acceptance of one's life leads to a sense of integrity. Feeling that it is too late to make up for missed opportunities leads to despair.

Source: Adapted from Erikson (1963).

at each of Erikson's eight stages there is a different crisis or conflict to be solved. The manner in which that crisis is resolved produces certain feelings and behaviors on the part of the individual that may persist throughout life. Five of these stages, or crises, occur during childhood and adolescence, and three occur in adulthood.

Resolution of the major crisis of young adulthood, intimacy versus isolation, determines whether the individual develops a lasting intimate relationship with another person or remains isolated from a persisting, close relationship. Failure to resolve this crisis by achieving the virtue of love and the self-definition of "I am what I love" can retard emotional development and lead to persisting unhappiness.

The major crisis of the second adult stage (middle age) in Erikson's model is generativity versus stagnation. Generativity involves the development of a concern for the next generation and those who will follow. Failure to develop this concern leads to stagnation, boredom, emotional impoverishment, and a pessimistic feeling that this is where it all ends. Erikson maintained that middle age is the time when the virtue of care and the self-definition of "I am what I create" develops, as witnessed by parenting, teaching, supervising, and otherwise assisting the next generation.

The major crisis of the last stage (old age) in Erikson's model of personality development is integrity versus despair. The principal goal of this stage is to become an integrated and self-accepting person. The way in which the individual handles this crisis is affected by personality characteristics developed over the years, the individual's physical health and economic situation, and the meaningfulness of the roles to be played. Emerging from successful resolution of the crisis of integrity versus despair age are the virtue of wisdom and the self-definition of "I am what survives me." Wisdom consists of the ability to accept one's life and what has been accomplished. If the crises in all preceding stages have been resolved, old age becomes a time when one can live each day with hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom.

Erikson's theory has been quite popular with developmental psychologists, but like all stage theories, it has been difficult to evaluate empirically. The theory has also been criticized for being too optimistic about human nature, too moralistic in its tone, and too supportive of the status quo. The overemphasis on ego attributes and conscious impulses to the neglect of sexual, aggressive, and unconscious drives has also been perceived as a shortcoming by psychodynamic theorists. Still, Erikson's ideas did contribute to a shift in the emphasis of psychoanalysts from instinctive urges that are beyond conscious control toward social and cultural influences on personality development.

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