My Theory of Social Development

Erik Erikson

Hello! I am a psychologist who studied the development of people starting at birth all the way into their senior years through a social perspective. My theory of development focuses on how a person's interaction with other people influence their behaviors and thoughts about themselves. There are 8 stages that most people pass through, and if one step is not fulfilled, all remaining steps in his or her lifetime will be flawed.

1. Trust vs. Mistrust

This stage occurs in infants from birth to age 1. It is characterized by the children figuring out who and who not to trust. They usually attach to their mothers very quickly, even being able to recognize their mother's voice 3 hours after birth. This helps them to gain as much security and belonging as possible. If this stage is not fulfilled, the remaining stages will be skewed or strained.

2. Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt

This occurs in children from around ages 1 to 3. This is when the child will want to do things on his or her own. They do not understand why their guardians will not allow them to do what they want to do at any given time. Allowing your child to constantly be free of rules and restraint can teach them to disrespect authority, such as their parents or teachers. However, letting the child do what he or she wants when appropriate can be healthy- it will teach them to not be afraid of taking initiative and they will be confident in what they do. Overprotecting and restraining the child will cause them to doubt their abilities later in their life because they never had the chance to prove to themselves that they are capable of solving problems and doing what they wish at this age.

3. Initiative vs. Guilt

This happens from ages 3 to 6. Directly resulting from the previous stage, children who are allowed to have some autonomy are more likely to take initiative at being the leader. They will volunteer to be the line leader, or the head of group projects at school. These children desire to be heard. Kids who did not have much autonomy in the previous stage often feel guilty when others do not get their way because of their own initiative or decision, so they are typically more passive and slow to act.

4. Industry vs. Inferiority

This is when children are attempting to find what they love to do, what they are good at, and what gives them a sense of pride. This usually involves finding a sport that they love, or a favorite school subject. People who do not find what make them happy feel inferior, and isolated because they cannot find a place to thrive.

Identity vs. Role Confusion

This is usually found in adolescents. This stage is characterized by question such as these being asked: Who am I? Where am I going? What makes me happy? Teenagers are trying to figure out what they're values and beliefs are, and how they will live their life in line with those values. It usually entails combining all of the different personalities you had in different environments into one, all encompassing, personality, where you act, feel, and communicate the same way in all scenarios.

James Marcia extended my theory and came up with these 4 possible outcomes during this stage:

Intimacy vs. Isolation

After a person has found who they truly are, they transition to this phase, where they now try to find people who will share their true identity with them. This includes a romantic relationship and friends, who ideally will spend the rest of their lives together. The goal of this stage is to find people who accept and love your real, genuine personality. If the person never found his or her own identity, it is much more difficult to find friends who are genuine as well.

Generativity vs. Self Absorption/Stagnation

This is where most middle aged adults ask, am I valued? and, am I happy? They question if they have achieved everything that they wanted to achieve up to this point in their life. If not, they will attempt to, entering a period called a "middle life crisis", where they try to live their life to the fullest before they grow too old to.

Integrity vs. Despair

This is the stage close to the send of a person's life where they look back at their life and are either pleased or disappointed. Self reflection is a huge part of this stage, and they evaluate themselves- were they good people? Were they happy during their lifetime? etc., and if they say no, then they often fall into a lapse of despair and regret, because there is little they can change now. However, if they are pleased with how their life turned out, then they will be content.

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