HOME PAGE / BLOG / What Is The Theory Of Psychosocial Development And What Are The Stages Of It?
Last Update Date: 05 January 2018

Psychosocial developmental stages have been identified and developed by Erik Erikson. Let's define this first: What is psychosocial?

Psycho-Social: The term, which is a combination of "psychology" and "social", refers to the various stages of human life which is affected by environmental factors.

Erik Erikson who was a psychologist worked in the area of developmental psychology and psychoanalysis, had a theory that human beings have passed through eight different stages from birth to death. This theory with a very powerful approach is an important source for so many specialists working in psychology today.

psychosocial development

It is important for parents and educators to know this theory and the stages so that they can understand better their children, their surroundings and their own behaviors! In this regard, it is possible to identify the differences and conflicts between normal and abnormal people while following their personal development.

To understand better, let's see one by one "What is Psychosocial Development Theory" and "What are the Stages of Psychosocial Development?"


Erik Erikson suggested that a person in order to develop himself/herself with a healthy way of psychology must complete various goals at each these eight stages. Conflicts and consequences create these goals.

The theory says we are going to face different conflicts in these eight stages of our lives and we have to overcome these conflicts successfully. How much we can overcome with the conflicts successfully, our personality development will be successful at that level. Also, coping with the conflicts successfully will prepare us to another level more successful.

If we cannot overcome the current conflicts, then we will face different difficulties in the next stages and we have to go back and find it difficult to compensate for the damage left by our previous conflicts. However, Erikson says that personality disorders can be compensated for later in life with a healthy approach.

There are 2 very important factors on this subject:

  1. Any conflict cannot be finished at any stages must be overcome as soon as possible. These kinds of conflicts threat the psychology of the person during whole life.
  2. Childhood and adolescence are very important periods for the stages of psychosocial development (which we will talk about just now).
Erik Erikson


First Development Stage: Trust vs. Mistrust (0-1.5 Year)

The first developmental stage involves the infant’s oral learning period. Therefore, the name of this stage is called ORAL STAGE. The first goal of newborn babies is to seek and suck the mother's breast by their mouth. In the oral stage, parents need to feed their children regularly. The infant, who need a safe area and is met with these needs, becomes more hopeful and positive in the later.

After about 6th months, babies who have more developed motor skills learn to touch, hold, and bite as a new experience. A baby with new teeth does not beat his/her finger again when he/she experiences beating the finger is painful. In the same way, when the baby beats her mother's breast and the mother tries to get away this, baby tent to reduce this behavior by time.

The baby, who faces reactions against the effects (e.g. biting), develops the first personality characteristics and feels the existence. If parents handle all the needs and expectations of the baby in a healthy way, baby develops confidence. The growing sense of trust has a great deal of importance for the baby in terms of his/her perspective on life. In this period, the baby who feels insecurity may be pessimistic in the future.

In the following process, if the baby cannot see the parents, he/she can handle with it and does not feel being abounded. And this is accepted as the first social success of the baby.

Facing trust-based problems and unpleasant situations during the first stage between 0-1.5 year period of the baby, causes various problems in the future. These are pessimism, being introversion and alcohol-drug addiction. Of course, it is cannot be said that these are definite results, but these situations increase the possibilities.

Second Development Stage: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (1-3 Year)

It is the period when the child learns to control the intestines and muscles in terms of toilet training. Therefore, this stage is called as ANAL STAGE. The fact that the child is able to provide own body control for a compulsory need indicates that he or she can now get along with himself/herself. In this period, stubbornness can be also seen.

It is very important that the toilet training is done correctly during the second developmental stage. A toilet training that scares, threats, and applies a lot of pressure on child is never a good way of education. However, overprotective behaviors of parents also prevent children to self-control their own behavior. So, such misbehavior of the parents can lead the child to become a shy and suspicious individual in the future.

Various complex situations we see in adults date back to anal stage and the problems that were faced in this period. As an example, people who behave doubtful, who think they are being used or ruled, who act perfectionist and normative. According to Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, such behaviors are influenced by the problems experienced in the second (1-3 years) stage.

Another characteristic of this period is that the child now has his or her self-control. More precisely, this is what it should be. If you do not allow your child to make his/her choice by his/her own experiences and use free will in this stage, you will have a negative impact on personality development. In following ages, situations like feeling a sense of shame, self-evaluating oneself as a bad individual, evaluating own physical and mental features as bad can be occurred. All of this leads to a normative and stiff personality formation.

So what happens in the opposite case? If the children feel the self direction and self confidence, and they are encouraged and supported by their parents, they become more confident, respectful, and honest individuals in the future.

Third Development Stage: Initiative vs. Guilt (3-5 Years)

It is a period that the child is able to express himself/herself more easily and to use language and motor skills better. This stage is called as phallic-oedipal period. One of the most significant features of this stage is that being curios about sexual issues. In this period, children can touch their sexual organs, touch the sexual organs of their friends and play sexual games. All of these are because of curiosity, but unconscious parents can accuse or punish the child, think that it is a moral corruption.

In this period, children who are humiliated, subjected to violence, or punished because of their curiosity will be devastated. The consequences of this kind of behaviors appear at later ages. Sexual problems and depression are usually based on the age of 3-5 years.

The age of 3-5 year is the period when a child can establish relationships with their friends. There may be some little aggressive behaviors because of the age, but they can be satisfied with games or toys. That is exactly the healthy way for them. Of course, the guidance of parents on this issue is important. We advise you to get a pedagogy support to deal with the situations better.

Parents should show a positive approach to their children who fight and need to evaluate their behavior as a strong impulse, not a crime. Using violence to the children for making them stop tendency to violence only increases their tendency to violence. In later periods, they may turn into such type of egoistic individuals who do not respect the life perspective of others and force them to behave according to their own perspectives. If this period is overtaken positively, the most important things would be done for an individual who is respectful and responsible.

You must have realized that with every stage a new behavior appears and the environmental (family) reactions follow it. For example, in the case of initiative versus guilt stage, which is the third stage of development, there is sexual curiosity, and against it there is also punishment or positive leading. There is a tendency to violence, and there is punishment or a positive leading again. All the behaviors and the reactions against them are effective factors in the personality development of the child.

Let's continue with the fourth development stage.

Fourth Development Stage: Industry (Competence) vs. Inferiority (5-11 Years)

It is the process that covers pre-school and primary school period. The fourth development stage which occurs during childhood between the ages of five and eleven is called latent period. This is the stage where social relationships develop and production ability arises together with learning process. Also, during this process children choose role models to themselves.

They learn how to finish a job on their own, how to get help where they need it, and how to help others. It is one of the stages when the sense of accomplishment is the most pleasurable and much needed. The children who completed in this stage successfully become peaceful and competent without feeling inferiority complex. On the other way around, (Example: Failure at school) they can see themselves as ineffective individuals.

In this period education and school success is very important and it should not be forgotten that education begins in the family first. Your child may have learning disabilities, attention deficit, may be gifted (gifted children may fail in a standard curriculum), may be hyperactive, or have not discovered the potential for intelligence yet. These can be all intervened in with early detection. That is why families should evaluate their opinions with experts instead of criticizing them.

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Fifth Development Stage: Identify vs. Role Confusion (12-19 Years)

It is the stage covers the adolescence. The age between 12 and 19, where emotional and physical changes are experienced rapidly, is called adolescent period.

In this period, the individual acts with the goal of finding identity. They search and question for habits, perspectives of life, beliefs and thoughts. Disorderly behaviors may also be seen, but over time, behaviors that are appropriate to the norms of society and are accepted as right and healthy start to take place.

Young people seeking for identity may want to join to a number of groups. These may be one of the groups which have social responsibility purpose or the groups that are completely harmful. Young people can also choose to look strong such as joining a political group that target young people. Those who do not get what they want from the groups can try to be like an important figure of the public (or a famous person).

It is the period of time where adolescent care about their physical appearance excessively. Some of them admire themselves, and some others do not like themselves at all, and generally these feelings are experienced extremely.

The future anxiety, the desire to stand on one’s own feet, the thoughts of leaving from home and parents are seen at the end of this stage.

It is an important period for the individual to know oneself and shape the future of life. Adolescent must have completed the previous stages to complete this process properly. Otherwise, alcohol and nicotine addiction, tendency to commit crimes, and similar negative behaviors can permanent in the person. If you look around, you might have seen that most of the cigarette addicts are those who started to smoke at early ages and probably they cannot cut out even if they regret. Feeling to encourage them to smoke in adolescence may be seeking for identity. If you want your children to be able to cope with such problems, you need to help them and be conscious.

Psiko-sosyal gelişim evreleri

Sixth Development Stage: Intimacy vs. Isolation (20-30 Years)

It is an adulthood stage and covers a wide range of time period, which is also called as young adult period. Seeking identity or personality clash lose its significance. Instead of that, tendency to socialize, establishing social relations and having long relationships take place. Of course, it is important to complete previous stages in a healthy way.

Learning to live together and have relationships are some of the goals of this period rather than being polarized with different ideas and peoples. Highly responsible goals such as sexual life, work and family life, status acquisition also belong to this stage.

Moreover, there is also a tendency to filter the social environment. But according to what exactly? Usually a person wants to separate one’s own live from other people who have high possibility to harm oneself during the sixth development stage. There is also anxiety about being alone. If these concerns occur, then the person is already alone and has begun to struggle with a number of personality problems.

According to Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, the way to complete the sixth developmental stage in a healthy way is as follows: At this stage, individual should have the goals of having family and confidence, reproduction, and beneficial for the society. Likewise, it should be aimed that to enjoy, have a stability in business life, gaining status. These goals prevent the adult from being lonely and anxiety about being alone.

Seventh Development Stage: Generativity vs. Stagnation (30-60 Years)

It is a complete transition period, where the person continues to produce, but usually begins to produce in the educational direction, and has goals to increase the productivity of new generation and lead them. There are also concerns to become monotone, and desires to fight it. Even domestic people feel to go out and have various activities during this stage. If sexuality, mental health and socialization needs cannot be met at a satisfactory level at the 6th stage, unreal relationships can be established at the 7th stage. The seventh developmental stage is likely to be seen at extreme levels emotionally. These possibilities could increase the productivity and creativity or vice versa.

Eight Development Stage: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (60 Years and more)

The 8th stage of psychosocial development creates a conflict between peace and regret. Those who believe in self-fulfillment and have a sense of completeness do not regret their past and have completed the previous stages in a healthy way. Those who are unrestful and desperate are depressed people who continue to regret what they have done in the past.

One of the typical characteristics of this period is the attempt to fulfill conscientious responsibilities even it is late. For example, to worship may be aimed (or increasing) or desiring to leave something for the next generation.

When you go through Erik Erikson's theory of psycho-social development, many examples in your everyday life must be revived in your head. These very accurate and scientific research-based theories should be showing us that again.

Human beings live conflicts of emotional changes arising from their relationships with their surroundings throughout their lives. Those who have achieved positive results from these conflicts and who have completed the previous stage in a healthy manner, begin to the next stage healthier. It is just like building a structure with solid steps from the foundation to the roof. In the last stage, we either expect peace or regrets.

We hope you to be conscious and do not regret,

We wish healthy life...


Stages Approximate Age Conflicts
1st Development Stage 0-18 Months Trust vs. Mistrust
2nd Development Stage 1-3 Years Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
3rd Development Stage 3-5 Years Initiative vs. Guilt
4th Development Stage 5-11 Years Industry (Competence) vs. Inferiority
5th Development Stage 12-19 Years Identify vs. Role Confusion
6th Development Stage 20-30 Years Intimacy vs. Isolation
7th Development Stage 30-60 Years Generativity vs. Stagnation
8th Development Stage 60+ Years Ego Integrity vs. Despair
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