Erikson’s Stages of Human Development

One of the most influential psychoanalysts of the 20th century, Erik Erikson developed the theory that each stage of life is associated with a specific psychological struggle, a struggle that contributes to a major aspect of personality. His developmental progression — from trust to autonomy, initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity, and integrity — was conceived as the sequential reorganization of ego and character structures. Each phase was the potential root of later health and pathology. By focusing on the social as well as the psychological, Erikson’s stages represented a quantum leap in Freudian thought, which had emphasized the psychosexual nature of development. While much of his theoretical work has since been challenged, Erikson’s basic developmental framework — conflict negotiated in the context of relationships — continues to illuminate our thinking, as does the concept of the identity crisis, the confusion of roles that Erikson first identified. Source:

Stage Psychosocial crisis/Primary task What happens at this stage?
Trust vs Mistrust
If basic needs (food, clothing, warmth, holding) are dependably met, infants develop a sense of basic trust.  If not, they learn that their environment is not to be trusted to provide for their needs. This is the foundation of the adult’s attachment style.
Autonomy vs Shame/Doubt
Toddlers learn to exercise their will and do things for themselves. If not, they begin to doubt their abilities. This is the foundation of the adult’s self-image and self-esteem.
Initiative vs Guilt
Preschoolers learn to initiate tasks and carry out their plans. If they cannot learn, they begin to feel guilty about their efforts to be independent.
Industry vs Inferiority
Children learn the pleasure of applying themselves to tasks. If they do not experience this pleasure, they feel inferior.
Identity vs Confusion
Teenagers work at refining their sense of self (a.k.a., their identity) by pushing boundaries, testing roles and then integrating them to form a single identity. If not, they become confused about who they are.
Intimacy vs Isolation
Young adults strive to form close relationships and to gain the capacity for intimate love. If they fail, they feel socially isolated.
Generativity vs Stagnation
Middle-aged persons discover a sense of contributing to the world, usually through family and work. If they do not discover it, they feel a lack of purpose.
Integrity vs Despair
When reflecting on their life, older adults may feel a sense of satisfaction that comes from a life well lived. If not, they feel a sense of failure.