Erikson’s Psycho-Social Theory of Development

Erikson’s Psycho-Social Theory of Development
Erikson’s Psycho-Social Theory of Development

Psychological development is a highly complex process influenced by biology, environmental factors, and socio-cultural factors.

Psychologist Erik H. Erikson believed that there are six phases of personal development from birth to death: Trust vs. Mistrust; Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt; Initiative vs. Guilt; Industry vs. Inferiority; Identity vs. Role Confusion; and Integrity vs. Despair (Erikson 1959).


These phases are meant to represent the progression of psychological life in an individual throughout the course of their lifetime, which culturally varies depending on location and social norms but typically lasts approximately 20 years (Argyle 1988).


These stages of development are related to the psychological processes of trust, guilt, shame, identity formation, and integrity versus despair. Erikson believed that during each of these stages a person must be able to manage their superego (Samuel 2002).


Erikson’s theory is rooted in psychoanalysis and psychology; however, it has been largely ignored in contemporary psychology. Erikson’s theory seems to have remained out of favor because it is too complex; however, recent research has shown that his theory can explain many aspects of human behavior.


Erikson’s Theory was inspired by psychoanalysis and the psychoanalytic concept of the superego. Erikson was also an analytic psychologist and a psychiatrist, so he was especially interested in understanding the inner workings of the mind.


He believed that people go through stages in their lives, and that each stage of development requires a certain social situation for successful completion. Erikson’s theory started with his work on psychoanalysis and the concepts of the inner self and its relation to outer reality. This was then followed by his work in developmental psychology.


Erikson’s psycho-social stages are not meant to be viewed as discrete but rather as overlapping developmental tasks (Bryant & Snygg 1995). These tasks are very similar to Freud’s childhood experiences or Adler’s sexual development.


However, Erikson was able to further elaborate on the stages of development, each with their own tasks required for completion.  It is important to note that Erikson’s theory is an interdisciplinary theory that was influenced by psychoanalysis, anthropology, sociology and psychology.


His theory of psychosocial development based on psychoanalytic concepts represents a major contribution in the field of personality development.


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