Erikson’s Theory of Emotion & Learning
Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a theorist who modified Freud’s controversial psychosexual theory into eight stages of psychosocial theory of development. According to him, the socialisation process consists of eight phases which he called the eight stages of man. These eight stages were formulated through a range of experiences in psychotherapy including children and adolescents from low, middle and upper social classes. These stages provided structure to the learning and development of individuals at each stage of life. Erickson was particularly interested in how social interaction and relationships affect the development of human beings.
Each stage has its own significance and personal experience or conflict related to development attached to it.
Stages of Psychosocial Development:
- Trust vs. Mistrust: This is the period of infancy. From birth to 12 months of life when the child develops a sense of trust, feeling loved and secure. If not handled with care it may develop into insecurity and mistrust. Here the infants must learn that adults are the ones to be trusted as they meet their basic needs of survival.
- Autonomy vs. Shame/ Doubt: Toddlers (ages 1-3 years) when they begin to explore they can control their actions according to the environment. Their preferences change as per the environment, food and clothing. The task is to establish independence and resolve the issue of autonomy vs. shame and doubt.
- Initiative vs. Guilt: The preschool stage (ages 3-6) where students are capable of initiating activities and taking control over their routine. It resolves the task of initiative vs guilt. Initiative and a sense of responsibility occur when parents allow a child to explore within limits. This develops self-confidence and a sense of purpose in them. If parents try to over-control their children at this stage it may develop feelings of guilt.
- Industry vs. Inferiority: The elementary school stage (ages 6-12) where children compare themselves with their peers. They develop a sense of pride in social and school work or they feel inferior and inadequate. It is better for them to learn with others to avoid developing inferiority complexes.
- Identity vs. Role Confusion: In adolescence (ages 12-18) children are into identity vs role confusion, they develop a sense of self and struggle with their identity where they may try to fit in multiple situations trying to figure out where they belong. It explores various roles, ideas and adult selves. If adolescents are successful at this stage they have a strong sense of identity and values. If they don't show interest and are pressured by parents they may develop a sense of role confusion. In future, it may develop into identity confusion and struggle to find themselves as adults.
- Intimacy vs. Isolation: Early adulthood (20s and early 40s) where a sense of self is developed and people are ready to share their life with others. Young adults may have trouble with relationships, Erikson said that it's better to have a strong sense of self before developing relationships. Adults who do not have a self-concept may develop feelings of loneliness.
- Generativity vs. Stagnation: Middle adulthood that extends to the mid-60s. Here adults need to have a long-lasting change in their life that benefits other people too. Having a positive change and success leads to feelings of accomplishment. We continue to build our lives, focus on career and family. Those who achieve these milestones feel that they have contributed to the world and their home, whereas those who fail to do so feel unproductive and uninvolved.
- Integrity vs. Despair: This is the last stage of life from the mid-60s to the end, also known as late adulthood. People reflect on their lives and feel a sense of satisfaction or failure and regret at this stage of life. Those who feel they have well-lived feel satisfied with a sense of peace. And those who feel regret feel fearful that their life is not what they planned for.
Psychosocial Crisis Stages - Interpretation
Age is a rough guide especially in later stages of life where parenthood timings may vary so Erikson did not specify ages for stages of life. There is a lot more complexity involved in the final and old stage. Each stage contains more meaning and successful passage because each of the stages are dependent on striking a balance between the conflicting extremes. It doesn't focus on the ideal or preferred self. Erikson tried to explain that there is much development in creating and maintaining a well-balanced personality. Failure cannot be defined but too much emphasis on the ‘good self’ is also disturbing.
Unhelpful stages develop unhealthy and negative outcomes. These outcomes arise from repeating a crisis or thinking and relating to it because stages of life cannot be repeated as a person cannot revisit a younger age but it is possible to revisit your experiences and feelings associated with that stage of life. It is a matter of understanding our weaknesses and where they come from to become stronger, happier and productive.