Real life examples of Erikson stages of development

According to Erikson stages of development human beings has eight development stages throughout life. The first four stages occur during infancy and childhood, the fifth stage during adolescence, and the last three stages during adult years up to old age. 

There is not a defined age criterion for a particular stage and every child has their own timetable. Each stage contributes to the formation of the total personality of a human. 

Erikson stages of development theory support that each stage has major characteristics, consequences, and challenges that he or she must confront. These challenges are called crises, and each crisis is most salient during a particular stage, but it has roots in previous stages and further consequences on the next stage. This model is proposed by psychologist Erikson.


Erikson stages of development


Stage 1 Basic Trust versus basic mistrust

This starts from the birth of a child. When an infant comes into the world he/she totally depend on others, with no familiarity with the outside world. Each day when infant wakeful hours increase, the infant becomes more and more familiar with the external world and experiences.

erikson stages of development

Situations of comfort and the people responsible for these comforts become familiar and identifiable to the infant. The infant feels good in the environment and starts developing trust. Daily routines, consistency, and continuity in the infant’s environment provide the earliest basis for a sense of psychosocial identity. 

Through continuity of experiences, nourishment, and warmth with adults the infant learns to rely on them and to trust them. With trust and acceptance, children begin to develop hope for the outside world.

Lack of recognition (mistrust) can cause estrangement in the infant’s personality a sense of separation and abandonment. These experiences affect individual personality in all further stages.

Stage 2 Autonomy versus shame & doubt

The second stage of Erikson stages of development is psychosocial development, the child learns toilet training. During the second stage of life, the child learns what is expected of it, its obligations, privileges, and what limitations are placed upon it.

stage 1 basic trust vs mistrust

The child experiences dual: a demand for self-control and demand for acceptance of control from others in the environment. In order to tame the child’s willfulness, adults will utilize ‘shame’, yet they will encourage the child to develop a sense of autonomy and to eventually stand on its own two feet.

Excessive shamefulness will induce the child to be shameless or force it to attempt to get away with things by being secretive. This is the stage that promotes freedom of self-expression on one side and loss of self-control can cause a lasting feeling of shame and doubt on another side.

The child begins to judge himself and others and to differentiate between right and wrong. It develops a sense of the rightness or wrongness of certain acts and words, which prepares it for the experience. Will emerges during this stage as the child learns from itself and from others what is expected and what is expectable. 

Stage 3 Initiative versus Guilt

In the third Erikson stage of development, the child presents itself as being decisively more advanced and more “together” both physically and mentally. The child is eager to learn and learns well at this age; it strives to grow in the sense of obligations and performances. 

The child’s major activity at this age is playing, and purpose results from its playing explorations, attempts and failures, and experimentation with its toys. The child actively participates in play-acting, wearing costumes, imitating adult personalities, and pretending to be anything from a dog to an astronaut.

By imitating adult images, it realizes to some degree what it is like to be like them. Children develop purpose during this developmental stage. Play provides the child with an intermediate reality. 

The child learns what the purpose of things is, the connection between an inner and outer world, and how memories o the past apply to goals of the future. The danger in this stage is the feeling of guilt that may haunt the child. The inner falling-out that may ensue from this stage of childhood is a sense of guilt. 

Stage 4 Industry versus inferiority

During this fourth stage of Erikson stages of development, the child must submit to controlling its energetic imagination and settling down to formal education. It develops a sense of industry. The interest in toys and play is gradually superseded by an interest in productive situations and the implements and tools used for work.

Stage 4 Industry versus inferiority

 The hazard of this stage is that the child may develop a sense of inferiority if it is unable to master the tasks that are set for it by teachers and parents. The virtue of competence emerges during the industry stage. Virtues of the previous stages (hope, will, and purpose) provided the child with a view of future tasks.

The child now needs specific instruction in fundamental methods to become familiar in a technical of life. It is ready and willing to learn about and use the tools, machines methods preparatory for adult work.

As soon as it has developed sufficient intelligence and capacities for work, it applies to work and prevent feelings of inferiority. The child learns language by natural process. To know how children learn language psychologically follow this link.

Work. sense includes many and varied forms, such as attending school, doing at home, assuming responsibilities, studying music, learning manual skills well as participating in skilful games and sports. The important thing is the child must apply their intelligence and abounding energy to some undertaking and direction.

A sense of competence is achieved by applying oneself to work and to completing tasks, which eventually develops workmanship. The fundamentals of competence prepare the child for a future sense of workmanship; without it, the child would feel inferior.

Stage 5 Identity versus identity confusion

In this stage, an adolescent begins to sense a feeling of his/her own identity, a feeling of unique human being and yet prepared to fit into some meaningful role in society.

The person becomes aware of individual inherent characteristics, such as likes and dislikes, anticipated goals of the future, and the strength and purpose to control one’s own destiny. This is a time in life when one wishes to define what one is at the present and what one wants to be in the future.

Stage 5 Identity versus identity confusion

It is a time for making vocational plans. In this stage, a child identity is transferred into adulthood. A child feels social changes and suffers from a confusion of roles. This state can cause one to feel isolated, empty, anxious and indecisive. The adolescent feels he or she must make important decisions but is unable to do so.

Adolescents may feel that society is pushing them to make decisions: thus they become even more resistant. They are deeply concerned with how others view them. During identity confusion, the adolescent may feel he or she is regressing rather than progressing. The adolescent’s behaviour is inconsistent and unpredictable during this state.

 At one moment he or she has an inner reservation not to commit to anyone in tears of being rejected, disappointed, or misled. The next moment the adolescent may want to be a follower, a lover, or disciple, no matter what the consequences of such a commitment may be.

The identity crisis, however, may seem particularly dangerous because the whole future of the individual as well as the next generation appears to depend on it. 

Stage 6 Intimacy versus isolation

During this stage adolescence willing to unite their identity with others. They seek relationships of intimacy, partnerships, and affiliations and are prepared to develop the necessary strengths to fulfil commitments.

Now, for the first time in their life, the youth can develop true sexual attraction in mutuality with a loved partner. It requires someone to love and to have sexual relations and whom one can share in a trusting relationship. 

The hazard of the intimacy stage is isolation, which is the avoidance of relationships, this can also, result in severe personality problems. Love comes into being during the intimacy stage of development. 

Young adults are now capable of committing themselves to a joint relationship in which their mode of life is mutually shared with an intimate partner.

Stage 7 Generativity versus Stagnation

Most revolutionary scientists and scholars were found to be in the forties and above. This Erikson stages of the development stage are characterized by concern for future generations.

A person develops strong concern for upcoming generations. When generativity is weak, the personality regresses and takes on a sense of impoverishment and stagnation. Care develops during this stage and is expressed by one’s concern for others: by wanting to take care of those who need it and to share one’s knowledge and experience with them.

This is accomplished through childrearing and teaching, demonstrating, and supervising. Humans as a species have an inherent need to teach, a need common to those of every vocation. Humans achieve satisfaction and fulfilment by teaching children, adults. 

Caring and teaching are responsible for the survival of cultures, through the reiteration of their customs, rituals, and legends. The advancement of every culture owes its progression to those who care enough to instruct and to live exemplary lives. 

During In one’s lifetime a multitude of experiences and knowledge is accumulated, such as education, love, vocation, philosophy, and style of life. All these aspects of livelihood must be preserved and protected, for they are cherished experiences. 

Stage 8 Integrity versus despair

This is the last stage of life. It can best be described as a state one reaches after having taken care of things and people, products, and ideas and having adapted to the successes and failures of existence. Individuals may reap the benefits of the first seven stages of life and perceive that their life has some order and meaning within a larger order.

Although one who has reached a state of integrity is aware of various lifestyles of others, he or she preserves with dignity a personal style of life and defends it from potential threats. On the other hand, despair is a feeling that life is meaningless, and the end is near.

Time is now too short to turn back and attempt alternative styles of life. The physical and mental activity of everyday functions is slowing down by this time in the life cycle. Simple wisdom maintains and conveys the integrity of accumulated experiences of previous years.


Erikson derives his model of psychosexual development stages from observing normal children and adolescents. Every human being passes these eight stages of development. Erikson stages of development were popular to date.

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