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Erikson's Psychosocial Theory of Human Development
   - Applied and Made Easy for Parents

Erik Erikson (1902 -1994) was a German-born American psychoanalyst; he was known for his psychosocial theory of emotional development of human beings. This theory looks at the impact of parents and society on personality development from childhood to adulthood. According to Erikson, each person has to pass through a series of eight interrelated stages over his entire life cycle. We will look at the first 4 stages that cover the childhood years.

Developmental Crisis

Erikson hypothesised that the personality of a person develops in universal and observable patterns corresponding to the ways a human foetus develops. In fetus development, each organ system of the body has its own innate time for growth (or danger of defect). In the same way, each stage is characterized by an emotional bipolar crisis.

Erik Erikson - (First Four) Stages of Psychosocial Development
Period Developmental
Positive Resolution Negative Resolution
Birth - 18 months
Trust vs Mistrust Trust in people & the environment Mistrust of people & the environment
18 mths - 3 years
vs Shame & Doubt
Pride in self;
Assertion of will in the face of failures
Doubt in self & one's abilities
3 - 6 years
Initiative vs Guilt Able to initiate activities;
Enjoy learning
Inhibition because of fear of failure, guilt & punishment
School Age
6 - 11 years
Industry vs
Acquire skills for & develop competence in work;
Enjoy achievement
Repeated frustration & failure lead to feelings of inferiority

Crises are seen as decisive turning points of increased vulnerability or strength to function effectively. However, Erikson did not imply that any manifestation of potentially dangerous traits is undesirable but that when the negative far outweighs the positive, then difficulties in development arise.

A positive resolution of any given developmental crisis is not regarded as an achievement because no one crisis is resolved once and for all. Each crisis is present in some way as the person moves through the life cycle. For example, the crisis of industry versus inferiority is experienced intensely during school-going stage but the struggle goes on throughout life.

The strengths and capabilities developed through successful resolution of a crisis at any given stage can be affected by later events. In this, there are both hope (that the vulnerability can be overcome) and danger (that the strength developed can be destroyed). Nevertheless, a psychological strength is generally affected most strongly during the stage in which it is developed.

Erik Erikson's Stages - Applied and Made Easy for Parents Jun 1998 Alan S.L. Wong