Online College Courses for Credit

3 Tutorials that teach Erikson's Eight Stages of Development
Take your pick:
Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Author: Zach Lamb

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

See More

Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hello. Welcome to Sociological Studies. In this lesson, we're going to look at Erik Erikson, who was a psychologist. And he gave us eight stages of development in the life course. Each stage, what's interesting about Erikson is he theorized that in terms of each of these eight stages in the life course has its own little conflict, has its own little problem that we have to solve that we can either succeed at or fail at. Presumably they can have cascading effects. If you fail at one little challenge, you might not be set up very well to pass the next little life course challenge.

Now, if you've been watching these more psychology-based tutorials, you might seem like we're beating your over the head with stages and making stages for the sake of stages. Well, I get it. I understand. But recall the social world and social life is very fuzzy. And in order for sociologists to really understand and actually work, we need to break down the social world into manageable little bites that we can analyze and study scientifically. So that is why stages are valuable.

So bear with me. We're going to go through eight stages of human development. And again, they're interesting because each of these stages has its own conflict, this little problem we have to solve.

We're going to take Erikson's eight stages four by four. The first stage is infancy. And in this stage, we're heavily reliant on our parents and paternal investment.

Our parents, through adequate care and nurturing and love, can instill a foundation of trust in our lives that will last for the lifetime. Or they can neglect us and abuse us and make us perceive then, as a very infant, to be scared and hostile, the environment is hostile, not to trust people. The central challenge then of the infancy stage is to establish trust or to fail at this and establish mistrust.

After that we have toddlerhood. Toddlerhood lasts until about age three. And in this stage, children begin to come into their own and learn the skills necessary to cope in the world autonomously, by themselves. Failure to do so can result in doubt or shame about their abilities.

Third, we have preschool. Children leave the home more and meet broader circles of people. And they must learn to negotiate their surroundings and understand the expectations of their parents. Otherwise, they might have feelings of guilt about not being able to get on in the world and meet the expectations of their parents. So the central challenge of the preschool stage is to avoid guilt and to learn to meet the expectations of parents.

The next stage is preadolescence, which lasts from about ages 6 to 13. And in this stage, children sense that they need to get out there and do something positive in the world. They need to do something with their lives. So they want their pursuits encouraged and their industriousness rewarded. So in this stage, the central challenge then is that of industriousness versus failure or inferiority.

You can think of the stereotype of the couch potato. So I'm going to just sit on the couch in this stage of life and doesn't do anything. Your parents are always encouraging you, wanting to keep you busy, like, well, you can't just sit on the couch all day. Go do something. This is a recognition of this central challenge of preadolescence, industriousness versus inferiority.

The fifth stage of development is adolescence. We typically associate adolescence with the teen years, ages 13 to 19 approximately. And in adolescence, the challenge is to define who you are and what you can do in the world and in life. So you must establish or the goal is to establish a unique identity and have goals for your life, rather than just to fail at this and stay confused about who you are and what you can do in the world and really not pin down any kind of identity.

After adolescence, we have young adulthood. In this stage, the central challenge is to develop and maintain intimate relationships with other people, establish relationships of friendship and importantly a relationship of love where you show you can give and take in a loving relationship. To do this, you might-- if you fail, you might become isolated. And this is what is to be avoided, so you want to establish relationships in young adulthood.

Middle adulthood, in the seventh stage, middle adulthood, we're caught up in making sure we've contributed something or made a difference in the world. Middle adulthood then, we want to make sure we've given something to the next generation. We want to answer the call that our life meant something and that we established some sort of meaning in life that goes beyond just our own existence. So to do this, often we might have kids or something like that. In middle adulthood, the central challenge is to avoid turning inwards and becoming completely self-absorbed because we haven't extended ourselves and created some sort of sense of meaning that goes beyond just our own existence.

Finally in our development, we have old age. And in this final stage of development near the end of our lives, we're concerned with the challenge of integrity versus despair. Despair is such a powerful word. But we want to look on what we've accomplished with a sense of pride and integrity like our life mattered and that we did something positive and that the person we became was a good person.

We might feel despair if we fail at this. We might feel that we missed chances and that we made some bad decisions and that these caused us to become a person that we didn't necessarily want to become. We want to know we lived an OK life then and that we made good decisions and became a good person and avoided despair.

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Erikson's eight stages of development and the central challenges within each stage. Have a great rest of your day.

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.