Human growth and development refers to the study of the process of change humans go through in a lifetime. Many psychologists and theorists have researched and studied human development and have come up with different theories.
However, the German-American development psychologist, Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory is one of the most widely used theories. It covers the development of human beings from birth to death.
Erikson’s human development takes place in eight stages and each stage involves two conflicting ideas that need resolution for a human’s proper development.
Erikson’s Eight Stages of Human Development
Stage 1 – Infancy (Trust vs Mistrust)
It is the earliest stage of development. During this stage, infants depend on their caregivers and develop a sense of trust and mistrust based on how their needs are met. When the infant’s needs are responded to in a caring manner, the child develops trust and vice versa.
Stage 2 – Toddlerhood (Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt)
Toddlerhood is the second stage of development. This stage can also be called independence versus dependence. Toddlers develop a sense of independence when their caregivers encourage them to be independent through activities such as choosing toys, going to the toilet, and the like. If the caregivers are constantly encouraging dependence, toddlers may doubt their abilities.
Stage 3 – Preschool Years (Initiative vs Guilt)
This stage occurs between 3-5 years of age. In this stage, children learn to speak up for their needs. If their assertion is responded to in a positive manner, they learn to take initiative whereas if their assertion is met with guilt, they are less likely to become individuals who take initiative.
Stage 4 – Early School Years (Industry vs Inferiority)
During this stage, children begin schooling and start engaging in social interactions with peers. Children who are praised tend to develop a sense of accomplishment and competence while children who are discouraged may develop a sense of inferiority.
Stage 5 – Adolescence (Identity vs Role Confusion)
During this stage, personal identity is forged and becomes crucial. Teens start exploring different roles and identities. Adolescents who have a self-identity become more secure and independent individuals while those with role confusion may feel insecure and lost.
Stage 6 – Young Adulthood (Intimacy vs Isolation)
This stage revolves around creating bonds with other people such as intimate relationships and friendships. Those who form good and lasting relationships enjoy intimacy while those who are not able to form such relationships may experience isolation.
Stage 7 – Middle Adulthood (Generativity vs Stagnation)
During this stage, people feel the need to contribute to society. Things such as working, raising a family, and the like may make one feel like they are contributing to society and are being productive while those who fail to contribute may experience stagnation.
Stage 8 – Late Adulthood (Integrity vs Despair)
This is the final stage of development which begins around age 65 till death. In this stage, the individual reflects on his or her life. Individuals who have had a successful career and family may look back and be at peace developing ego integrity whereas those who have failed and have regrets may develop despair.
Erikson’s theory, though widely used, is criticized by many and it should be remembered that his theory is just one way to gain an insight into human growth and development.