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Erikson and the Last Four Stages of the Theory of Psychosocial Development

Erikson and the Last Four Stages of the Theory of Psychosocial Development

Author: Erick Taggart

This lesson will identify and explain final four stages of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development and age at each stage.

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Introduction to Psychology

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Hello, class.

Today we're going to be looking at the last four stages in Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. If you remember, Erikson was an American psychologist who studied the different levels or stages of development in people. He looked at how social development can influence us cognitively. His theory of psychosocial development looks at the entire course of a person's life, and divides it up into eight distinct stages.

At each of these stages, a person experiences a conflict between their own internal thoughts and desires, and their social environment and the expectations of others. This is what's called a psychosocial dilemma. And this conflict leads to either the development, or the lack thereof, of some kind of psychological quality, which you'll see as we go through each of these stages.

The next stage we'll be looking at is the adolescent stage. This is the one that occurs during the teenage years, from 12 to 18 years old. This stage is identified with a conflict between identity and role confusion. This is a time of great physical, mental, and emotional changes within a person. It's at this time that a person needs to develop a certain sense of self in relation to their abilities, their values, their family, and their relationships, as well as the greater culture around them. So they're trying to navigate who they are in response to these sorts of things. They want to try to develop a unified sense of self. You'll see this a lot when you think about teenagers, who are trying to figure out who they are. They're experimenting with different sorts of things around them, to try to figure out their likes, their dislikes, and things like that.

The result of this, if the person is able to develop that sense of self, is that the person will develop a strong personal identity and ability to stay true to themselves. They have a very solid core, both cognitively and socially. On the other hand, if there's any kind of role confusion, or confusion about who the person is, then the person might develop an uncertainty of who they are, and what they're doing in life. There's a bit of confusion and wavering as a result of that.

The next stage is what's called the young adulthood stage. Which is to say, it's from the ages 19 to 40. This stage is characterized by intimacy versus isolation. The idea here is that, as a young adult, we're trying to explore personal relationships, and we're trying to develop a strong bond between different people in our lives. This is a bit different from the adolescent stage, which is very internally focused. This one's very externally focused. We need to develop certain close, committed relationships during this time. That doesn't necessarily mean that we need to be married. Marriage isn't what intimacy is necessarily talking about. This might also refer to close friendships that we might form, or meaningful love in other sorts of ways. It could also mean a reconnection with our families, and reestablishing those kinds of bonds.

In developing that kind of intimacy, the effect on a person psychologically is they have a strong sense of connection, as well as a sense of personal identity. So these relationships have an effect on our sense of self, and our self esteem, as well. It's not just externally focused. On the other hand, if we fail to develop these kinds of relationships, it could lead to a certain emotional isolation in a person, or a feeling of loneliness or depression as a result of not having people close to them.

The next one that we'll look at is the middle adulthood stage, which is the 40 to 65 years of age range. This is characterized by generativity versus stagnation, which is to say that a person during this stage is concerned with the contributions that they're making to work, to the community, or to the wider world. So they want to be engaged in productive and creative work. They're very focused on that effect that they're having. They're also very interested in guiding the next generation. Either the generation of their own-- which is to say their kids or their grandkids-- or in others around them. They might want to take on different teaching or coaching jobs within the community.

This outside focus, this focus on the effect that they're having on the external world, could have an opposite effect. Stagnation means that the person becomes more self-involved during this time. Concerned with their own needs and comforts, as opposed to the needs and concerns of those around them. So the effects can be that, if a person that's a sense of generativity, then they have feelings of productivity and accomplishment. They feel like they're contributing to the world around them. So these are all very positive feelings which, again, affect their self-image and their feelings of self worth.

Whereas, if they aren't focused on others, if they are more internally focused or selfish, they might feel unproductive or uninvolved, which can lead to feelings of being bitter, or dreary, or trapped in the world around them, because they're so focused on their own personal world surrounding them.

The final stage we'll talk about, which is the late adulthood or elderly stage, is 65 to when a person finally dies. This is characterized as the integrity versus despair category. It's during this time of life when a person starts to reflect on their entire life. To look back on everything. And they want to have a sense of fulfillment and acceptance of the things that they've done throughout their life, that they feel like they made the right choices and they've done the right things. Or, the other hand, they might have feelings of regret about things that they've done in the past, and feel like their life has been wasted up to that point. So this is a point where they're really looking reflectively on the entire span. The other seven stages that we're talking about.

So feelings of success in life can help a person to feel wise, or they could feel satisfaction and self-respect for the things that they've done. They feel like they're facing aging and death with dignity, in other words. Whereas, if despair is what a person is feeling, then they start to feel failure, or they have a fear of death. They might go into depression as a result of this, because of these feelings of unfulfillment and a feeling of a wasted life.

Notes for "Erikson and the Last Four Stages of the Theory of Psychosocial Development"


(0:00-0:58) Theory of Psychosocial Development

(0:58-7:03) Last 4 Stages of Psychosocial Development

  • Erickson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

    Individuals face psychosocial dilemmas faced throughout the lifetime as one manages internal and external demands.

  • Identity vs. Role Confusion (12 - 18 years)

    Teens develop sense of self and figures out his/her identity. Success is staying true to yourself, failure results in confusion.

  • Intimacy vs. Isolation (18 - 35 years)

    Success leads to healthy, secure, and loving relationships. Failure to develop intimacy can lead to promiscuity or exclusion.

  • Generativity vs. Stagnation (35 - 65 years)

    An adult must find a way to support his/her next generation by living productive lives as contributing members of society. If the adult does not feel a sense of worth or success in what they have done, they may feel unworthy or rejection.

  • Ego Integrity vs. Despair (65+)

    Adults need to look back on accomplishment and feel a sense of fulfillment and completeness. Success in this stage leads to fulfillment and failure leads to bitterness, missed opportunity and regret.