3.2 Child Development: Do you know Erik-Eriksson’s Psychosocial Theory?

Chapter THREE


3.2 Outline Erik-Eriksson’s Psychosocial Theory

Erik-Eriksson’s Psychosocial Theory

Erik Eriksson proposed that personality evolves through systematic stages. Social and cultural influences are important in shaping personality. Eriksson believed that human beings face eight major psychosocial crises or conflicts during their    life. Whether or not the conflicts of one stage are successfully resolved, the individual is pushed by both biological maturation and social demands to the next stage. Thus unlike Freud the individual is not fixated.

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Erik Eriksson

The first stage in this theory is the Trust vs. mistrust stage (Birth to 1 year). This time the infant is fully dependent on others. For example they need someone to meet their needs such as feed them, relieve their discomfort etcetera. When the primary caretaker is responsive to the needs of an infant, the infant learns to trust her. This trust is extended to others. If a caregiver neglects or responds inconsistently to the infant’s needs, he or she will mistrust her thus extending this mistrust to others. There should be a healthy balance between the terms of the conflict. Trust should outweigh mistrust. However some little mistrust is healthy as the child should not become too trusting (over trusting). Positive resolution in this stage results in the ego virtue (personality strength) of hope.


Between 1 and 3 years the child is in the autonomy versus shame and doubt stage. Autonomy refers to a need to govern oneself. The child has a clearer sense of himself as an individual separate from the caregiver.  He or she can recognize the self in the mirror. The child wants to do things himself to demonstrate independence for example. The child may want to feed, dress or even clean him or herself. If children are denied opportunities to do things on their own for example. if they are humiliated or punished when they accidentally spill milk as they try to feed themselves, they doubt their competence or believe that they are fundamentally bad people. On the other hand if encouraged the child develops a sense of autonomy. The positive outcome of this stage is will. The society clearly influences the course of ones development through all stages.


The other stages in this theory include: initiative versus Guilt (3 – 6 years), Industry versus Inferiority (6– 12 years), Identity versus Role confusion (adolescence), Intimacy versus Isolation (young adulthood), Generativity versus Stagnation (mature adulthood) and Integrity versus Despair (old age).



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