Babies are born with some basic capabilities and distinct
temperaments. But they go through dramatic changes on the way to
adulthood, and while growing old. According to psychologist
Erik H. Erikson, each individual passes through eight
developmental stages (Erikson calls them "psychosocial stages").
Each stage is characterized by a different psychological
"crisis", which must be resolved by the individual before the
individual can move on to the next stage. If the person copes
with a particular crisis in a maladaptive manner, the outcome
will be more struggles with that issue later in life. To Erikson,
the sequence of the stages are set by nature. It is within the
set limits that nurture works its ways.
Stage 1: Infancy -- Age 0
Crisis: Trust vs. Mistrust
Description: In the first year of life, infants
depend on others for food, warmth, and affection, and
therefore must be able to blindly trust the parents (or
caregivers) for providing those.
Positive outcome: If their needs are met consistently
and responsively by the parents, infants not only will
develop a secure attachment with the parents, but will learn
to trust their environment in general as well.
Negative outcome: If not, infant will develop
mistrust towards people and things in their environment,
even towards themselves.
Stage 2: Toddler -- Age 1
Crisis: Autonomy (Independence) vs. Doubt (or
Description: Toddlers learn to walk, talk, use
toilets, and do things for themselves. Their self-control
and self-confidence begin to develop at this stage.
Positive outcome: If parents encourage their child's
use of initiative and reassure her when she makes mistakes,
the child will develop the confidence needed to cope with
future situations that require choice, control, and
Negative outcome: If parents are overprotective, or
disapproving of the child's acts of independence, she may
begin to feel ashamed of her behavior, or have too much
doubt of her abilities.
Stage 3: Early Childhood
-- Age 2 to 6
Crisis: Initiative vs. Guilt
Description: Children have newfound power at this
stage as they have developed motor skills and become more
and more engaged in social interaction with people around
them. They now must learn to achieve a balance between
eagerness for more adventure and more responsibility, and
learning to control impulses and childish fantasies.
Positive outcome: If parents are encouraging, but
consistent in discipline, children will learn to accept
without guilt, that certain things are not allowed, but at
the same time will not feel shame when using their
imagination and engaging in make-believe role plays.
Negative outcome: If not, children may develop a
sense of guilt and may come to believe that it is wrong to
Stage 4: Elementary and
Middle School Years -- Age 6 to 12
Crisis: Competence (aka. "Industry") vs.
Description: School is the important event at this
stage. Children learn to make things, use tools, and acquire
the skills to be a worker and a potential provider. And they
do all these while making the transition from the world of
home into the world of peers.
Positive outcome: If children can discover pleasure
in intellectual stimulation, being productive, seeking
success, they will develop a sense of competence.
Negative outcome: If not, they will develop a sense of
Adolescence -- Age 12 to 18
Crisis: Identity vs. Role
Description: This is the time
when we ask the question "Who am I?" To
successfully answer this question,
Erikson suggests, the adolescent must
integrate the healthy resolution of all
earlier conflicts. Did we develop the
basic sense of trust? Do we have a
strong sense of independence,
competence, and feel in control of our
lives? Adolescents who have successfully
dealt with earlier conflicts are ready
for the "Identity Crisis", which is
considered by Erikson as the single most
significant conflict a person must face.
Positive outcome: If the
adolescent solves this conflict
successfully, he will come out of this
stage with a strong identity, and ready
to plan for the future.
Negative outcome: If not, the
adolescent will sink into confusion,
unable to make decisions and choices,
especially about vocation, sexual
orientation, and his role in life in
6: Young Adulthood -- Age 19 to 40
Crisis: Intimacy vs. Isolation
Description: In this stage, the
most important events are love
relationships. No matter how successful
you are with your work, said Erikson,
you are not developmentally complete
until you are capable of intimacy. An
individual who has not developed a sense
of identity usually will fear a
committed relationship and may retreat
Positive outcome: Adult
individuals can form close relationships
and share with others if they have
achieved a sense of identity.
Negative outcome: If not, they
will fear commitment, feel isolated and
unable to depend on anybody in the
Stage 7: Middle Adulthood -- Age 40 to 65
Crisis: Generativity vs.
Description: By "generativity"
Erikson refers to the adult's ability to
look outside oneself and care for
others, through parenting, for instance.
Erikson suggested that adults need
children as much as children need
adults, and that this stage reflects the
need to create a living legacy.
Positive outcome: People can
solve this crisis by having and
nurturing children, or helping the next
generation in other ways.
Negative outcome: If this crisis
is not successfully resolved, the person
will remain self-centered and experience
stagnation later in life.
8: Late Adulthood -- Age 65 to death
Crisis: Integrity vs. Despair
Description: Old age is a time
for reflecting upon one's own life and
its role in the big scheme of things,
and seeing it filled with pleasure and
satisfaction or disappointments and
Positive outcome:If the adult has
achieved a sense of fulfillment about
life and a sense of unity within himself
and with others, he will accept death
with a sense of integrity. Just as the
healthy child will not fear life, said
Erikson, the healthy adult will not fear
Negative outcome: If not, the
individual will despair and fear death