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Free «Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development» Essay Sample

Erikson theory looks at the factors that impact personality development from childhood, such as society, external factors, and parents. According to the theory, an individual goes through eight stages of development prior to reaching adulthood.


This is a stage that begins from the moment the child is born and up to eighteen months. It is also referred to as trust vs. mistrust stage. The stage requires the presence of parents in the form of touch and visual contact. These are important, since they help an infant develop a sense of security, belonging, and trust (Erikson, 2002).

Scrooge, a character in ‘Christmas Carol’ is an example of what happens to an individual at this stage. Scrooge does not experience emotions which the majority of people link with Christmas, and this shows that he developed mistrust in infancy. He has negative attitude towards many events in his life, which can be attributed to unresolved crisis in infancy.

Toddler (Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt)

The stage begins from the 18th month and lasts until 3 years. At this stage, the child is in danger of developing such feelings as low self-esteem, shame, and stubbornness. It is at this stage that the child gets to learn skills, develops self-esteem, and learns to differentiate between right and wrong (Erikson, 2002).



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Cinderella is an example of the changes take place in the child at this stage. The fact that the girl is mistreated by her stepmother explains her sense of shame and insecurity. Cinderella had doubts in herself later in life, even after successfully performing tasks because the stepmother never approved of her efforts.

Preschooler (Initiative vs. Guilt)

The stage takes place between 3 years of age to 5 years. At this stage, the child learns things by copying adults. The desire to learn is high, and the child creates play situations to experiment with what he/she observes around. The use of toys is common, as it helps the child copy what is done by the adults, and there is curiosity in exploring the environment (Erikson, 2002).

Dennis the Menace is an evidence of what takes place in children at this stage, which is characterized by curiosity. Dennis’s curiosity caused his mischievous character, but, on the other hand, Dennis’s parents benefited from his curiosity because he always wanted to help them do tasks.

School-Age Child (Industry vs. Inferiority)

Children at this stage are aged between 6-12 years. The stage is often referred to as latency. It is at this stage that a child is able to utilize the skills learned, and, therefore, do things on his/her own (Erikson, 2002). Children at this stage also undergo social development, whereby they tend to compete with their peers in terms of capabilities. The child at this stage is, therefore, in danger of developing the feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, or inferiority (Meacham & Santilli, 2002). The world of children in this stage is expanded such that parents are not only the people they relate with; teachers, neighbors, and friends affect the behavior and perception of the children (Ochse & Cornelis, 2006). 

In “The Simpsons”, the character of Lisa seeks appreciation of her work, which is usually ignored. Fortunately, when she joins SpringfieldElementary School, the teachers are quick to recognize her abilities, and her achievements are awarded at their true worth.

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Adolescent (Identity vs. Confusion)

This stage commences between 12-18 years.  The individual’s development at this stage is affected by what is done to him/her (Ochse & Cornelis, 2006).  Development is also dependent on what the individual does, and, therefore, it is a personal responsibility to seek one’s identity through interaction with other people. Personal decisions are also important at this stage (Erikson, 2002), as they determine how the individual interprets situations and develops ideas.

Betty Suarez, a character in “Ugly Betty” television show, is a good example of individual changes at this stage. She struggles to avoid losing her identity when people in the fashion world ignore her. Betty’s struggle is evidence that she already knows which identity she wants to maintain.

Young Adult (Intimacy vs. Isolation)

The stage starts at 18 and lasts until 35. It is characterized by a need to love and find companionship (Erikson, 2002). Therefore, at this stage individuals seek to settle down and have a family; a lot of responsibilities are developed during this stage due to no longer being dependant on parental care.

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The events that take place during this stage have been shown in many soap operas. The need for intimacy is illustrated, as well as isolation to those who are not ready to settle down.

Middle-Aged Adult (Generativity vs. Stagnation)

The stage lasts from 35 to 55 years, or up to 65 years. A career is of utmost importance at this stage (Erikson, 2002). Since the majority of individuals already have families, they have to provide for them and pursue excellence in their careers.

According to Erikson, generativity of this stage causes individuals to try and make a difference in the society (Meacham & Santilli, 2002). Much significance is attached to relationship with the family, church, workplace, and the community. The stage is also characterized with fear of inactivity or lack of contribution to the societal affairs.

Dr. Campbell in “Medicine Man” is a good example of a person at this stage. He is willing to travel throughout the world to help people with cancer. His feeling of responsibility before the society is the driving force behind all his actions.

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Late Adult (Integrity vs. Despair)

This stage commences at 55 and lasts until an individual’s death. It is characterized by reflections on the life lived. It may be filled with contentment or regrets, depending on achievements or failures at earlier stages of life (Erikson, 2002). Fear of death is also experienced at this stage, whereby individuals struggle to avoid situations that may lead to death, especially diseases. At this stage, many individuals try to stop and wonder about the meaning of life, as well as analyze the stages of their life to find out whether life is worth the experiences (Meacham & Santilli, 2002).

Brooks Halten in “Shawshank Redemption” has spent a long time in prison, and after he is released he faces a hard time trying to adjust to the life out of prison. This causes him to feel despair, which leads him to commit suicide.

Vygotsky’s socio-culture theory strengthens Erikson’s idea of a child’s development through observation and gaining experience (Culp, et al, 2000). He also supports Erikson’s pre-school stage of 3 to 5 years. According to Vygotsky, a child’s development is determined by the environment in which a child is brought up (Culp, et al, 2000).  Just like Erikson, Vygotsky notes that a person observes other people and later internalizes whatever is seen by practicing. Vygotsky also concludes that a person’s development is heavily influenced by the activities of people he/she interacts with. Therefore, children adopt culture by copying what older people do (Culp, et al, 2000).

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Piaget’s theory of cognitive development also strengthens Erikson’s theory by making a particular emphasis on the early stages of Erikson’s theory. By using observational studies, Piaget tried to illustrate differences in cognitive abilities among children (Culp, et al, 2000). According to Piaget, a child’s development is a result of progressive rearrangement of mental processes caused by biological maturation and experience (Culp, et al, 2000). According to Piaget, a child’s mental development is influenced by the surrounding world and a child’s adaptation to what goes on around it (Ochse & Cornelis, 2006). The cognitive development theory suggests that learning supports development in that it controls what a child should adapt to.

Albert Bandura’s social learning theory strengthens Erikson’s theory, which explains development during early stages of life. According to Bandura, a child learns a new behavior by observing what other people do (Culp, et al, 2000). This is similar to the pre-school stage in Erikson’s theory. According to the social learning theory, external forces play a significant role in a child’s development. Through observation of what adults and peers do a child is able to acquire new skills (Culp, et al, 2000).


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