Erikson's Psychosocial Theory

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Erik Erikson developed an eight-stage psychosocial theory of personality development that spans infancy to late adulthood. He suggested that society and its demands are to blame for shaping people's personalities (Shaffer, 2009). According to Erikson's theory, each stage has a personality crisis, and successful resolution of the crisis leads in a high character, but failure to successfully resolve the crisis results in an unhealthy personality. The first stage in Erikson's theory is trust vs. mistrust, which happens throughout an infant's first year of life.At this stage, the child relies on their caregiver for constant care so as to learn to trust the world and people around them.

 The second stage in Erikson's theory is autonomy vs. shame that occurs between eighteen months and three years of a child's life. Initiative vs. guilt is the third phase in Erikson's theory. This stage is responsible for a child's creativity or feeling of guilt. Industry vs. inferiority that determines a child's sense of competence or doubtfulness of one's abilities is Erikson's fourth stage in the psychosocial theory. The fifth psychological step, identity vs. role confusion occurs during adolescence. The sixth phase of Erikson's theory is intimacy vs. isolation where young adults try to form intimate relationships. Additionally, the seventh psychosocial stage is Generativity vs. stagnation occurring during middle adulthood. Finally, integrity vs. despair is the last stage in Erikson's theory where individuals at their late adulthood reflect on their achievements in life.

Freud's Psychoanalytical Theory

Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory argues that human behavior is shaped by the interactions among three parts of the mind that are: the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud, personality develops during childhood because of the conflicts among the three parts of the mind (Watts, Cockcroft, & Duncan, 2009). Freud emphasized that character is critically shaped by a series of five psychosexual stages, which he regarded as his psychosexual theory of development. A child is presented with conflicts between biological drives and social expectations at each stage. Successful resolution of the internal conflicts results in a strong personality while unsuccessful navigation may lead to a more unhealthy nature. The first stage in Freud's psychosexual stage is the oral stage that occurs from birth to one year. At this step, the focus of the libido is in a baby's mouth, and weaning is the primary developmental task.

Anal stage is second in Freud's theory occurring during one to three years, and the libido is focused on the child's anus with toilet training being the primary developmental task. Between 4-5 years of age, the third stage of Freud's theory, phallic stage occurs. The focus of the libido is the genitals and resolving the Oedipus and Electra complexes is the primary developmental task. Latency stage is the fourth in Freud's theory occurring during 6-11 years of a child's life. At this phase, the libido is usually dormant, and the child's energy is channeled into developing new skills. Finally, from 12 years of age to adulthood, is when the last psychosexual stage, the Genital stage occurs. The genitals are the focus of the libido now as the adolescence focuses on achieving mature sexual relationships.

How the Two Stages Complement and Contrast Each Other

Freud's ideas widely influenced Erikson's theory. For instance, just like Freud's theory, Erikson's theory focuses on the child's primary caregiver at the first stage of personality development. For both theories, touch is the primary tool used by the caregiver to fulfill the child's needs. However, the two approaches differ in various ways. For instance, while Freud based his theory on sexual drives of an individual, Erikson focused on identity. Moreover, unlike Freud who focused on development up to adolescence, Erikson focused on personality development throughout a person's life from birth to death (Watts, Cockcroft, & Duncan, 2009). However, based on my thoughts, Erikson's psychosocial theory of personality development seems to make more sense as compared to Freud's theory. Erikson provides an explanation of how an individual's behavior and personality develops throughout their life from infancy to late adulthood. This approach mainly contributes to stable social relations since it focuses on the role of the society and its demands in shaping an individual's personality.


Shaffer, D. R. (2009). Social and personality development.

Watts, J., Cockcroft, K., & Duncan, N. (2009). Developmental psychology. Cape Town, South Africa: UCT Press.

April 19, 2023

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