Erik Erikson was a psychoanalytic theorist, who believed that all humans go through eight stages of development throughout their lifetime. The first stage is called Trust vs. Mistrust. The second stage is called Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Third stage is Initiative vs. Guilt. The fourth stage is Industry vs. Inferiority. Fifth stage is Identity vs. Confusion. Sixth stage is Intimacy vs. Isolation. Seventh stage is Generativity vs. Stagnation. The eighth and final stage is Integrity vs. Despair (Berger, 17).
Each stage occurs at a specific time frame and requires achievement to obtain successful completion. The first stage occurs between birth and one year of age. During this stage, if one’s parents provide familiarity, consistency, and continuity, a feeling that the world is a safe place and people are reliable and loving will develop (Berger, 129). Also, the child learns to trust their body and biological urges that go with it. If the parents are inadequate and unreliable, or the child is harmed or rejected, then mistrust is developed.
This mistrust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable. If this stage is achieved successfully, children acquire hope, the belief that even when things aren’t going well they will work out well in the end. The second stage occurs in early childhood. The goal of this stage is to achieve autonomy while minimizing shame and doubt. If a toddler is allowed to explore and manipulate their environment they will develop a sense of independence. The child develops self-esteem and self-control (Berger, 129).
If parents or caregivers come down hard on toddlers’ attempts to explore and be independent the toddler will give up and assume that they cannot and should not act on their own. Also, giving children no sense of limits, unrestricted freedom, and doing for children what they should do for themselves will lead them to conclude that they are not good for much and shouldn’t do for themselves. A little shame and doubt is beneficial because without it, one will develop a shameless willfulness that leads one to jump into things without proper consideration of one’s abilities.
Too much shame and doubt leads to compulsiveness. If the proper balance at this stage is achieved the virtue of willpower is developed. The third stage occurs during preschool years. Goal is to learn initiative without too much guilt. Initiative means a positive response to the world’s challenges, taking on responsibilities, learning new skills, and feeling purposeful (Berger, 198). If parents encourage children to try out their ideas and accept and encourage fantasy, curiosity, and imagination. Capacity of moral judgment has begun.
Parents have the responsibility to encourage the child to “grow up. ” If this process is done too harshly or too abruptly, the child learns to feel guilty about their feelings. Too much initiative and too little guilt leads to ruthlessness, taking initiative and doing whatever it takes to achieve the goals. Extreme form of ruthlessness is sociopathy. On the other hand, too much guilt leads to inhibition. This person will not try things because not trying means nothing to feel guilty about. If a good balance is achieved during this stage a sense of purpose is developed.
The fourth stage occurs approximately 5-11 years of age. During this stage parents must encourage, teachers must care, peers must accept. Children must learn that there is pleasure in conceiving a plan and carrying it out (Berger, 272). They must learn the feeling of success. If a child is allowed too little success they will develop a sense of inferiority or incompetence. They may never develop social skills. If this stage is achieved children will develop the virtue of competence and the belief in our own abilities to handle the tasks set before them. Stage five occurs in adolescence.
The task is to achieve ego identity and to avoid role confusion. They learn who they are and how they fit into the rest of society (Berger, 348). Through receiving proper encouragement and reinforcement through personal exploration adolescents emerge with a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control. Those who are unsure of their beliefs and desires will feel insecure and confused about themselves and their future. Completing this stage successfully leads to fidelity, the ability to live by society’s standards and expectations. Stage six occurs during early adulthood.
Erikson believed that a strong sense of personal identity was important for developing intimate relationships (Berger, 456). Those with a poor sense of self tend to have less committed relationships and are more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression. Successful resolution of this stage results in the virtue known as love, marked by the ability to form lasting, meaningful relationships with other people. Stage seven occurs in adulthood. The focus is on career and family. Success in this stage leads to a feeling of contributing to the world by being active in the home and community (Berger, 473).
Failure to attain this skill leads to feelings of unproductivity and non-involvement in the world. Successful handling of this stage leads to the virtue of care, being proud of one’s accomplishments, watching children grow into adults, develop a sense of unity with your life partner are important accomplishments. Stage eight occurs in old age. Those unsuccessful in this stage feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. They are left with feelings of bitterness and despair (Berger, 530). Those who are successful feel proud of their accomplishments and a sense of integrity.
Successful completion means looking back with few regrets, a general feeling of satisfaction, and attaining wisdom even when confronting death. My most favorite stage I have experienced so far is stage seven, Generatively vs. stagnation. This is true because I feel that I have found a job that allows me to contribute to my society and the world in a positive, helpful way. I am able to watch my children grow into wonderful adults. I am proud of all my accomplishments in school, work, and raising my children. I feel a strong sense of productivity that I have not had before. My least favorite stage was adolescence.
It was tough having to discover who I was and what I wanted to be. Peers were very important and it was tough trying to fit in and be a part of a group. I would change my stage six, Intimacy vs. Isolation. My father passed away during this time and I was very close to him. So much of me and my sense of self was related to my father and when he died it was like I lost a big part of me as well. It was a very difficult time for me and I felt a great sense of loss. I believe that it has had an impact on my ability to form close, secure, committed relationships with other people.
I am most looking forward to continuing in stage seven, Generatively vs, Stagnation. I am enjoying all of my accomplishments and watching my children grow so much that I am looking forward to continuing in this stage. I am dreading stage eight, Integrity vs. Despair because I know there are things and decisions that I will regret as I reflect back on my life. I have learned much and am happy with the majority of my life. Also, during this stage is usually when death occurs and I am not ready to give up my life just yet, I still have some things I would like to accomplish and I want to be around for my children and grandchildren.