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Erikson and Personal Psychosocial Stage

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Renowned psychologist Erik Erikson is best known for his theory of psychosocial stages of personality development. Unlike Freud, Erikson’s theory spans a person’s entire lifespan, from childhood to old age. One of the main elements of Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory is the development of ego identity (Cherry, 2013). Ego Identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction (Cherry, 2013). Erikson believed that our ego identity is constantly changing due to new experiences and information we acquire in our daily interactions with others (Cherry, 2013). The stages of Erikson’s theory are concerned with becoming competent in an area of life (Cherry, 2013). Erikson believed that if a stage is handled well the person will feel a sense of mastery or is often referred to as ego strength or ego quality (Cherry, 2013). He also believed that if a stage is handled poorly the person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy (Cherry, 2013). The eight stages as taken from my module 3 discussion board post where I put forth that I believed personality is developed in stages and used Erikson’s stages for my example are: Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust – Occurs between birth and 18 months of age. Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliable care and affection.

Erikson believed that a lack of caregiver’s attention will lead to mistrust (Cherry, 2013). Stage 2 Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt – Occurs during early childhood, 2-3 years of age. A major event during this period is toilet training and the ability to control one’s physical skills. Erikson believed that success during this stage of development leads to feelings of autonomy, while failure leads to shame and doubt (Cherry, 2013). Stage 3 Initiative vs. Guilt – Occurs during preschool, 3-5 years of age. According to Erikson during this stage children need to learn to assert control and power over their environment. In Erikson’s view children may try to exert too much power which may result in disapproval thus leaving them feeling a sense of guilt (Cherry, 2013). Stage 4 Industry vs. Inferiority – School age 6-11 years of age. According to Erikson children need to begin to cope with academic and social demands of the school environment. He believes that success leads to a sense of competence, while failure leads to a sense of inferiority (Cherry, 2013). Stage 5 Identity vs. Role Confusion – Adolescence 12-18 years of age. Erikson believed that teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity.

According to Erikson, success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to a weak sense of self and role confusion. Stage 6 Intimacy vs. Isolation – Young Adulhood 19-40 years of age. Erikson believed that young adults need to form loving intimate relationships with others. According to Erikson success leads to strong relationships, while failure leads to loneliness and isolation (Cherry, 2013). Stage 7 Generativity vs. Stagnation – Middle Adulthood 40-65 years of age. Erikson theorized that adults need to create and nurture things that will outlast them. It could be by having children or creating some kind of positive change that will benefit other people. According to Erikson success leads to feelings of accomplishment and usefulness, while failure leads to shallow involvement in the world (Cherry, 2013). Stage 8 Ego Integrity vs. Despair – 65 years of age till death. Erikson believed that older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of accomplishment. Success leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure leads to bitterness, regret and despair (Cherry, 2013).

The following is also from my module 3 discussion board post in response to a question from Professor Clark-Rapa. The successful completion of each stage results in a healthy personality and the acquisition of basic virtues (McLeod, 2008). Basic virtues are characteristic strengths which the ego can use to resolve subsequent crises (McLeod, 2008). Failure to successfully complete a stage can result in a reduced ability to complete further stages and therefore a more unhealthy personality and sense of self (McLeod, 2008). These stages, however, can be resolved successfully at a later time (McLeod, 2008). The better that people come through each crisis, the better they will tend to deal with what lies ahead, but this is not to say that all is lost and never to be recovered if a person has had a negative experience during any particular crisis stage. Lessons can be revisited successfully when they recur, if they are recognized and welcomed (“Erikson’s Psychosocial,” 2013)

I am currently 30 years of age. I see myself as being in the proper stage for my age which is intimacy vs. isolation and is described by Erikson as young adults need to form loving intimate relationships with others. According to Erikson, success leads to strong relationships, while failure leads to loneliness and isolation. My current stage has a substantial influence in my life as I attempt to create long and lasting relationships with friends. Some of my friends are not my age, but I don’t let this stop me from finding meaningful relationships with them. For example, I am going out to the movies this weekend with a friend I have known for a long time from church, who is much closer to my mother’s age than my own. We don’t have any trouble conversing or getting along despite our age difference. I must admit that I don’t have many meaningful relationships in my life due mostly to my introverted personality and shyness. I believe that I have some social anxiety and for example am uncomfortable in crowds of people. I do try to make connections when I can. My life consists most of going to the gym, bike riding or running, work, and school. These activities keep me fairly busy, and I don’t always have a lot of time for going out. I am not really into the bar scene as I don’t drink.

Very shortly after I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I was diagnosed with some serious health problems. I was hospitalized three times before doctors arrived at an accurate diagnosis. The resulting ongoing issues with my health sometimes inhibit the forming of meaningful relationships. Although I am shy by nature, I try not to let this keep me from getting along and conversing with people at work and in general. It is just that shyness is a tendency, one that I need to be aware of. I try to get outside of my comfort zone and talk to people to form acquaintance-type relationships. Although these are not meaningful relationships, they are the type of relationships I have with people at work, and it makes work more pleasant to have people to talk to and converse with as I go throughout the day. Being shy, and in a stage where I should be finding meaningful relationships is a hindrance, and could be seen as a negative effect on the stage that I am currently in.

My mother tells me that when I was very young I was very extroverted and made a lot of friends easily. As I got older I developed a weight problem and was overweight throughout middle school and high school. I tried to get in with the popular crowds, but didn’t have much luck. This left me feeling rejected. I believe that this fear of rejection is the source of my introversion. I also went away to school to UMass Amherst for a year and a half and didn’t make many friends. I also had some problems with my roommate at which point I decided to leave. I transferred to UMass Lowell and commuted to school. Feeling like I failed socially at UMass Amherst left me feeling down on myself. Only being a commuter at UMass Lowell, and being the shy person that I am, I also did not make many friends during my time there either. I have a difficult time just talking to people I don’t already know.

Although I feel that I am in the proper stage for my age I must admit that I also feel that I am striving to find a personal identity as the previous stage suggests. This is big part of the reason I have decided to pursue an advanced degree. It has always been a goal of mine. For a long time I let my health issues keep me from pursuing that goal. But I decided to take the plunge late last year. Because I was not a psychology major as an undergraduate, I had to take an undergraduate psychology research course to qualify for the program, which delayed my getting started on my graduate courses. But I didn’t let it hinder my goal of becoming a graduate student. I feel that education is a part of one’s identity.

That is why I say that a part of me is still searching for that personal identity. My goal is to finish the master’s program, look for a job in human resources, and to pursue a Ph.D. part time as I work. I have always wanted to be a psychologist and I am proud to say that I am working toward that goal. My health issues have limited my career possibilities in some ways, and I am working in a position that is not one that you would expect someone my age with a college education to be doing. I let it get me down for a long time. But now I am happy to only be working part-time so I have time for my studies and I now identify myself as a graduate student, which has helped my self confidence tremendously.


Cherry, K. (2013). Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development. http://psychology.about.com/od/psychosocialtheories/a/psychosocial.htm Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory. (2013) retrieved July 28th, 2013, from http://www.businessballs.com/erik_erikson_psychosocial_theory.htm
McLeod, S. (2013). Erik Erikson. http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html * Staff, Psych Central. (2013) . Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Symptoms. http://psychcentral.com/disorders/obsessive-compulsive-personality-disorder-symptoms/

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