HOME PAGE / BLOG / What Is The Theory Of Psychosocial Development And What Are The Stages Of It?
Last Update Date: 15 November 2019

Psychosocial developmental stages were identified and developed by Erik Erikson. But first: What is psychosocial development?

Psychosocial Development: This term is a combination of ‘psychology’ and ‘social’, and refers to the various stages of human life that are affected by environmental factors.

Erik Erikson, who was a psychologist, worked in the area of developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. He had a theory that human beings will pass through eight different stages from birth to death. This theory is an important source for many psychology specialists today.

psychosocial development

It is important for parents and teachers to understand this theory and its stages so that they can better understand their children, their surroundings, and their behaviours!

To dive into this further, let's first understand ‘What is Psychosocial Development Theory?’ and ‘What are the Stages of Psychosocial Development?’.


Erik Erikson suggested that for every person to develop themselves healthily, they must complete various goals at all eight developmental stages. People will face different conflicts over these eight stages of their lives, and they must overcome these conflicts. Personality development will depend on how each conflict is overcome.

If the conflict cannot be overcome, then a person will face more difficulties in the next stage of life. However, Erikson also says that these difficulties can be compensated for later in life if the person takes the initiative to correct their previous experiences healthily.

There are two essential factors on this subject:

  1. Conflict must be overcome as soon as possible because it will threaten a person’s psychology.
  2. Childhood and adolescence are critical periods for the stages of psychosocial development.
Erik Erikson


1st Development Stage: Trust vs Mistrust (Birth to -1.5 Years)

The first developmental stage involves the oral learning period. Therefore, the name of this stage is called the oral stage. The primary goal of newborn babies is to seek and suck the mother's breast with their mouth. In the oral stage, parents need to feed their children regularly. If this happens, then the infant will be a more well-rounded person later in life.

After about six months, babies with more developed motor skills will learn to touch, hold, and bite. A baby with new teeth will not bite their finger again when they experience this as painful. In the same way, when the baby bites their mother's breast and the mother tries to avoid this, the baby will reduce this behaviour over time.

This learning behaviour helps the baby to develop their personality. If parents handle all the needs and expectations of the baby healthily, the baby will develop confidence. At a later stage, the baby will feel so secure that even if the parents leave for a brief amount of time, the baby will feel fine. This growing sense of trust between the baby and the parent has a great deal of importance for the baby in terms of their later life.

Facing trust-based problems and unpleasant situations during this first stage between birth and 1.5 years can increase the chance of various issues in the future. This includes pessimism, introversion, and alcohol or drug addictions.

2nd Development Stage: Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt (1 to 3 Years)

This is the period when the child learns to control their intestines and muscles in terms of toilet training. Therefore, this stage is called the anal stage. The fact that the child is able to control their own body is a big step.

It is vital that toilet training is done correctly. Toilet training that scares, threatens or pressures the child is never a right way to teach them. However, overprotective parents can also prevent children from learning self-control. Misguided parenting can lead a child to become a shy and suspicious individual in the future.

Behavioural problems in adults will often date back to the anal stage and the problems that were faced in this period. According to Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, these behaviours are influenced by the difficulties experienced in the second (1 to 3 years) stage.

The child should also now have self-control. If you do not allow your child to make their own choices according to their experiences and use their free will, you will have a negative impact on your child’s personality development. This may cause low self-esteem and high self-doubt in the future.

So what happens in the opposite case? If the child feels confident in making their own decisions, and they are encouraged and supported by their parents, they will become more self-assured, respectful, and honest individuals in the future.

3rd Development Stage: Initiative vs Guilt (3 to 5 Years)

During this period, children can express themselves more easily and use their language and motor skills. This stage is known as the phallic-oedipal period. One of the most significant features of this stage is curious about sex. Children may touch their sexual organs, touch the sexual organs of their friends, and even play sexual games. This is driven by curiosity, so parents should not accuse or punish the child.

Children who are humiliated, subject to violence, or punished because of their curiosity will be devastated. The consequences of this kind of behaviours appear at later ages. Sexual problems and depression in adulthood are usually due to negative experiences between the ages of 3 to 5 years.

This is also a period when a child will establish relationships with their friends. There may be some aggressive behaviours, but it can easily be resolved with games or toys. Of course, the guidance of parents is important. We advise you to find pedagogical support if you need specialised assistance.

Parents should not use violence to discipline their children who are aggressive and fight. This will only increase their tendency for violence later in life. If this period is carefully approached positively, the child will most likely grow up to be an individual who is respectful and responsible.

You might have realised that with every stage, a new behaviour appears in the child and the environmental (i.e. family) reactions will shape their development. For example, in the case of the initiative versus guilt stage (the third stage of development), the child will experience sexual curiosity — and parents can either have a negative or positive reaction to this. Every new behaviour and the subsequent parental reactions will further develop a child’s personality.

4th Development Stage: Industry (Competence) vs Inferiority (5 to 11 Years)

This stage covers pre-school and primary school, and occurs during childhood between the ages of 5 and 11. It is known as the latent period. This is the stage where social relationships develop, and productivity and learning increases. Children will learn how to finish tasks on their own, to ask for them when they need it, and to help others. Also, during this process, children will choose role models.

This is a stage when children enjoy having a sense of accomplishment. Children who complete this stage successfully are satisfied with themselves and feel competent, without developing an inferiority complex. On the other way around, children who experience failure can begin to doubt their abilities.

Even though education and schooling are very important, it should not be forgotten that education begins in the family first. Your child may not have discovered their full learning potential yet, or they might have learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, or even be gifted (gifted children may fail in a standard curriculum). Parents can support their children in all of these matters if they detect the issue early on. This is why families should consult with experts.

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5th Development Stage: Identity vs Role Confusion (12 to 19 Years)

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

During this period, the individual wants to find their own identity. They search and question habits, perspectives on life, beliefs and thoughts. Disorderly behaviours may also be seen, but over time, this behaviour will correct itself.

Young people seeking to understand their own identity may join a number of social groups, such as political or social responsibility groups. This is also a time when adolescents care excessively about their physical appearance. Towards the end of this stage, adolescents will experience the desire to stand on their own feet, and they will feel anxiety about the future and have thoughts of leaving home and their parents.

This is an important period for an individual to know themselves and shape their future life. If any previous stages were experienced negatively, then the adolescent may fall victim to alcohol and nicotine addiction, petty crimes, and similar negative behaviours — and these behaviours may become permanent with time. If you look around, you might see than many smokers are those who began smoking at an early age and cannot quit even if they want to. Therefore, this is a crucial stage for parents to help their children learn to cope with life’s problems.

Psycho-social development stages

6th Development Stage: Intimacy vs Isolation (20 to 30 Years)

This is the young adulthood stage and covers a long-time period. The need to socialise and establish intimate relationships take precedence, as well as taking responsibility at work, within the family, in sexual relations, and within society. Learning to live together with others and have deep relationships are key goals during this time, rather than learning about different ideas and meeting new people. It’s important for people to choose relationships carefully during this stage in order to reduce loneliness, anxiety and negative influences.

According to Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, the healthiest way to complete the sixth developmental stage is to find a partner, develop confidence, and contribute to society. This will reduce loneliness and anxiety.

7th Development Stage: Generativity vs Stagnation (30 to 60 Years)

This is a transition period, where people continue to be productive but are also looking to pass on their knowledge and influence to the generation after them. People may also feel themselves becoming comfortable in their everyday routines, and therefore take steps to counter this stagnation. If sexuality, mental health and socialisation needs were not met during the sixth stage, then this will have an emotional impact on relationships in the seventh stage. This impact will decrease a person’s productivity and creativity.

8th Development Stage: Ego Integrity vs Despair (60 years plus)

The eighth stage of psychosocial development creates conflict between peace and regret. Those who believe in self-fulfilment and have a sense of completeness will not regret their past and will have completed the previous stages healthily. Those who are restless are depressed people, who will continue to regret what they have done in the past.

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

When you go through Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial 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 will have a healthy life with no regrets!


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