Erik Erikson:
Psychosocial Development
By: Sarah Sanders &
Cara Barwell
born on June 15, 1902 in Frankfurt, Germany
studied art and a variety of languages during his
school years
instead of going to college he travelled around
Europe, where he kept a journal of all his life
experiences along the way
after traveling he then went to art school in 1927,
where he then began to teach art and other subjects
to children of Americans who had come to Vienna for
Freudian training
after teaching the children in Vienna he then was
admitted into the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute
1933 moved to the United States
There he became Boston’s first child analyst and
received a position at the Harvard Medical school
Moved to California to the Center for Advanced Study
in the Behavioural Sciences at Palo Alto and later
Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco where he was a
clinician and psychiatric consultant
Erik Erikson's early work focused chiefly on testing
and extending Freudian theory in relation to the effect
of social and cultural factors upon human psychology,
in addition he focus more on how society affects
childhood and development.
1950 moved to Massachusetts, where he taught and
worked for ten years
In the same year he wrote his first book, which is said
to be his most important one called Childhood and
Society, it was in this book he first explained his eight
stages theory of human development
He also wrote many other books that talked about his
interest in humanistic and society perspectives
He later retired from clinical practice but did not stop
his research and his writing
Died on May 12th 1994 at the age of 91
Psychosocial Development
• Psychosocial development theory is based
on eight stages of development
• Erikson’s theory is based on the idea that
development through life is a series of stages
which are each defined by a crisis or challenge
• The early stages provide the foundations for
later stages so Erikson says that if a child does
not resolve a crisis in a particular stage, they will
have problems in later stages
• For example, if an adolescent does not establish
their own identity, they will have difficulty in
relationships as an adult
The stages are as follows:
Oral Sensory
Young Adulthood
Middle Adulthood
Stage 1 – Oral Sensory
birth to 1 year (infancy)
basic conflict is trust vs.
the important event is
feeding and the
important relationship is
with the mother
the infant must develop
a loving, trusting
relationship with the
through feeding,
teething and comforting
failure to resolve this
conflict can lead to
sensory distortion, and
Stage 2 – Muscular-Anal
age 1 to 3 years (toddler)
Basic conflict is autonomy
vs. shame/doubt
The important event is
toilet training and the
important relationship is
with the parents
The child’s energy is
directed towards
mastering physical skills
such as walking, grasping
and muscular control
The child learns self
control but may develop
shame, doubt, impulsivity
or compulsion if not
handled well
Stage 3 – Locomotor
age 3 to 6 years
basic conflict is initiative
vs. guilt
the important event is
independence and the
important relationship is
the child continues to
become more assertive
in exploration, discovery,
adventure and play
the child may show too
much force in this stage
causing feelings of guilt
failure to resolve this
conflict can lead to
ruthlessness and
Stage 4 – Latency
age 6 to 12 years
(school age)
the basic conflict in this
stage is industry vs.
the important event is
school and the
important relationships
are teachers, friends
and neighbourhood
the child must learn to
deal with new skills
and develop a sense of
achievement and
failure to do so can
create a sense of
inferiority, failure and
Stage 5 – Adolescence
age 12 to 20 years (adolescent)
the basic conflict is identity vs. role
the important event is
development of peer relationships
and the important relationships
are peers, groups and social
The teenager must achieve a
sense of identity in occupation, sex
roles, politics and religion. In
addition, they must resolve their
identity and direction.
Failure to make these resolutions
can lead to the repression of
aspects of the individual for the
sake of others (fanaticism)
Stage 6 – Young Adulthood
age 20 to 40 years
the basic conflict in
young adulthood is
intimacy vs. isolation
the important event is
parenting and the
important relationships
are lovers, friends and
work connections
in this stage, the
individual must develop
intimate relationships
through work and social
failure to make such
connections can lead to
promiscuity, exclusivity
and isolation
Stage 7 – Middle Adulthood
age 40 to 65 years
the basic conflict is
generativity vs. stagnation
the important event is
parenting and the
important relationships are
with children and the
this stage is based on the
idea that each adult must
find a way to satisfy,
support and contribute to
the next generation; it is
often thought of as giving
failure to resolve this stage
can lead to overextension
or rejectivity
Stage 8 – Maturity
• age 65 to death
• the basic conflict is
ego integrity vs.
• the important event is
reflection on and
acceptance of the
individual’s life
• the individual is
creating meaning and
purpose of one’s life
and reflecting on life
• failure to resolve this
conflict can create
feelings of disdain
Application of Stage 3
(initiative vs. guilt)
• Students need to understand appropriate social
rules and how to work well together. They are
learning their own independence and how that
applies to being a part of a family, class, etc. In
the classroom, teachers can help facilitate this
stage (developing initiative) through:
• active play including fantasy and role playing
(puppet shows, skits, house centre, etc.)
• Centres that allow students to learn how to play
appropriately together
• teacher acting as role model to allow students to
have someone to lead them, but also allowing
students to take on small responsibilities
Application of Stage 4
(competence vs. inferiority)
Students need to master the formal academic skills in order
to feel as though they are capable of accomplishments. The
child must learn teamwork, an understanding of their
potential contributions, and continue to learn to selfdiscipline to achieve. The teacher and classroom play a vital
role in this stage and competence can be fostered through:
collaborative approach to classroom expectations and rules
of interacting with others (all students make a contribution
to this)
group projects and assignments that teach students how to
contribute to a group working towards a common goal
providing a variety of learning opportunities for fundamental
skills including addressing all learning styles
assigning appropriate levels of homework to give students a
sense of accomplishment without overwhelming them- too
much homework means students will be unable to finish it,
causing them to develop a sense of inferiority
hands on projects that emphasize the individual’s strengths
Application to Sara Porter
Ms. Mercer recognizes that Sara needs to develop “survival skills” This
directly relates to stage 4 (the stage Sara is currently in) which includes
children developing and mastering new skills at school by the end of the
Sara does not seem to have developed an understanding of her role in
collaborative learning during the group reading time. Stage 4 calls for
students to recognize the process involved in working with a group and
When Ms. Mercer tells Sara she did not get 100% on her math activity,
Sara seems upset and as though she has given up on trying. In stage 4,
students should be developing a sense of achievement and
accomplishment in regards to their school work.
Because Sara seems to be strong in art (shown in the science title page
activity), Ms. Mercer should emphasize Sara’s strengths to help her feel
as though she is a valuable part of the class and to give her a sense of
Sara is in grade six which puts her at the end of stage 4 and about to
enter stage 5. Erikson says that if an individual does not over come the
conflict in a particular stage, they will struggle with that conflict in the
following stages. In this case, it is essential that Ms. Mercer fosters a
sense of achievement, accomplishment and helps Sara master her
“survival skills” or Sara may chronically struggle with feelings of
inferiority and failure.
Boeree, C. G., Dr. (1997, 2006). Erik Erikson Retrieved
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Erik Erikson [Slide show]. (n.d.). Retrieved October
22, 2008, from
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development.
(n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2008, from
Gerhardt, K. (2008, September 17). Developmental
psychology, chapter two, Erik Erikson. Lecture
presented at Nipissing University - Brantford Campus.
Stages of social-emotional development. (n.d.).
Retrieved October 23, 2008, from

Erik Erikson: Psychosocial Development