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Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the ideas behind and characteristics of Erikson's eight stages of development.

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Source: Quote of Friedrich Nietzsche via Psychology Today Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on Erikson's eight stages of development. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure get the most out of this tutorial.


You've probably heard of the idea before that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Erik Erikson is a researcher who really saw human development as a series of personal conflicts. He found eight different stages, eight different conflicts that humans go through in life that make them who they are.

So the first stage that we go through is stage one. And that's trust versus mistrust. So here, babies-- this is from newborns until 18 months-- years old are trying to figure out, can they trust the world? The world is scary. Everything is new.

And everything that's new is a little bit scary. And they're just trying to see can I trust this world? Can I be a part of it?

After that, individuals move on to stage two. And in this stage, the conflict is autonomy versus doubt and shame. So here, at about 19 months to three-year-olds are trying to figure out how to interact with the world. And is it OK to be me?

This is when you'll see toddlers really trying to do everything for themselves. They're trying to build up confidence. And if they're struggling with that, then they're really having doubt and shame.

Next, comes stage three, which is initiative versus guilt. Now, in this stage, four and five-year-olds really have to learn to deal with other people outside of their immediate surroundings. This can include actually understanding how to deal with family or with neighbors. And they're trying to figure out how to interact with the rest of the world. And so the quote up there, is it OK for me to do, move, act? So is it OK for me to be a part of this world and to do things?

Stage four, industriousness versus inferiority. So this stage here is from six to 12. And a lot of this stage happens in school. And here, they're trying to figure out how to be productive. Can they measure up to other people? Can I make it in the world of people and things is really a way to think about the conflict that they're facing in stage four.

Stage five, we have adolescence. And in here is the teenage years. And here, people are trying to figure out their identity. And the other side of that coin is confusion. So it's identity versus confusion. Who am I, what can I be is really what teenagers are trying to figure out.

Next, comes stage six. Can I love? And here, young adults, Erikson labels this as between 20 and 24 years old. They're really trying to find intimacy. They're really trying to find close friends and partners. And the other side of that is isolation. So there's a real battle there between those two during young adulthood in stage six.

Stage seven is for middle adulthood. And that's from 25 to 64 years old. And here, adults are trying to figure out how to make a difference in the world. What are they doing in their lives that are beyond just themselves? As the quote up at the top up here says can I make my life count is really what people are trying to figure out during stage seven.

Lastly, comes stage eight. And here's old age. And it's from 65 years old and older. And here the question is integrity versus despair. Is it OK to have been me?

I mean, here people are processing what their life has been. They're trying to say was my life good? Should I regret stuff or not?

So today's takeaway message, Erikson believed that life is a series of challenges. And there's eight different challenges we face. First is finding trust, then autonomy, then initiative, then industry, then identity, then intimacy, then generatively, then integrity.

That's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Erik Erikson, a psychologist, developed an extended life-course theory of development that had eight stages, each with its own central challenge: 1) Infancy; 2) Toddlerhood; 3) Preschool; 4) Preadolescence; 5) Adolescence; 6) Young Adulthood; 7) Middle Adulthood; 8) Old Age.