PSYC231 – Chapter 6: Erikson: Identity Theory 02/08/2013
Psychosocial Stages of Personality Development
8 stages of crises spanning the human life. At each stage we must cope with a crisis in either an adaptive
or a maladaptive way. First 4 stages resemble Freud’s stages. Unlike Freud, Erikson focused on social
environment over biological factors.
Epigenetic Principle of Maturation: the idea that human development is governed by a
sequence of stages that is genetically predetermined. (However, Erikson noted the importance society and
environment have on influencing which direction this development goes)
Crisis: confrontations with our environment that require a shift in perspective. Necessitates some
change in our behaviour and personality.
Crisis can be dealt with adaptively or maladaptively. If the conflict at any stage remains unresolved, we are
less likely to be able to adapt to later problems/resolve later conflicts.
A crisis is fully resolved when person learns to cope with dominantly adaptive strategy, but must also learn
that the maladaptive strategy is sometimes necessary (ex. Trust is good, but mistrust is also useful in some
Basic Strengths: motivating characteristics and beliefs that derive from the satisfactory resolution of
the crisis at each developmental stage. Failure to resolve a crisis = cannot gain any more strengths until
that crisis is resolved.
Trust vs. Mistrust (01): interactions with mother determine formation of trust or mistrust attitudes
for future dealings with environment.
Trust ▯ mother is affectionate, consistent, and provides security
Basic Strength: Hope
Autonomy vs. Doubt and Shame (13): focused on “holding on” and “letting go”. Child begins to
increase in abilities and autonomy. If parents are supportive of this increasing independence, child will
become autonomous. If they impose strict rules and thwart autonomy, child experiences doubt and shame.
Basic Strength: Will
Initiative vs. Guilt (35): Child’s mental & cognitive processes improving and he begins taking
initiative in activities. If child is encouraged and supported, with explanations on what is “permissible”
behaviour, child will become confident in envisioning and pursuing goals; begin to build a sense of morality.
Basic Strength: Purpose
Industriousness vs. Inferiority (611): Child exposed to new social influences and begins to
learn good work and study habits. Refinement of skills and building things. If accomplishments are praised
and reinforced, child is encouraged to continue striving. If ridiculed or rejected, gives up and falls into
feelings of inferiority and self doubt.
Basic Strength: Competence
NOTE: First 4 stages rely primarily on other people and their reaction to us. Last 4 stages, we have more
control over our environment, but our behaviours are influenced by our resolutions in the first 4 crises. Identity Cohesion vs. Role Confusion (1218):
Ego Identity: the selfimage formed during adolescence that integrates our ideas of who we are, who we
want to be and what others think of us
Identity Crisis: the failure to achieve ego identity during adolescence
A period of moratorium in which the teen tries on different identities in exploration to find one that fits
Excessive association/obsession with people can restrict the developing ego
Basic Strength: Fidelity (sincerity, genuineness)
Intimacy vs. Isolation (1835): autonomy from parental institutions and development of intimacy
(not just romantic, but also feelings of caring and commitment). Emotions can be displayed openly without
defense mechanisms and we are able to merge in a relationship with another without losing our identity.
People unable to establish such intimacies will experience isolation and prefer to be alone.
Basic Strength: Love
Generativity vs. Stagnation (3555): similar to midlife crisis, people in this stage must learn to
actively teach and guide the next generation. Must participate in community and give back to others. People
that fail to do this become obsessed with their own needs and regress into childlike behaviours.
Basic Strength: Care
Ego Integrity vs. Despair (55+ years): Focus is on accepting your past and accepting death. If
we look back on our lives and feel fulfilled and satisfied, we have ego integrity. If look back and see regret,
mistakes, and despair, we fall into a sense of despair and bitterness.
In both ego integrity and Generativity stages, Erikson noted the importance of actively participating in life
(family, friends, community, school, etc) and not becoming stagnant
Basic Strength: Wisdom
Basic Weaknesses: motivating characteristics that derive from the unsatisfactory resolution of