Theories of Personality Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1100 Words
Date:  2022-06-27


Erik Erikson, a Psychologist, developed one of the most popular theories of development (Cherry, 2018). Erik's psychosocial theory has eight distinct stages. Six of the eight stages are undergone during childhood while the remaining 3 during adulthood (McLeod, 2018).

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Erikson's theory was founded on psychosocial development rather than psychosexual development (Cherry, 2018). Erik argues that an individual's personality develops in a predetermined manner and that each stage is an advancement of the previous one, a principle he calls the Epigenetic principle (McLeod, 2018). Erik adds that in each stage a person experiences an element of psychological crisis. The psychological crisis may have a positive or negative impact on personality development. Erikson stresses of the psychosocial nature of the crises. He says that the crises involve both personal needs and the needs of the society (Erikson, 1963).

The eight stages in Erikson theory are as follows (McLeod, 2018):

Stage Psychosocial crisis Basic Virtue Age
1 Trust vs. mistrust Hope 0-1.5
2 Autonomy vs. Shame Will 1.5-3
3 Initiative vs. Guilt Purpose 3-5
4 Industry vs. Inferiority Competency 5-18
5 Identity vs. Role Confusion Fidelity 12-18
6 Intimacy vs. Isolation Love 18-40
7 Generativity vs. Stagnation Care 40-65
8 Ego Integrity vs. Despair Wisdom 65+

1. Trust vs. Mistrust

This is one of the most fundamental stages of psychosocial development. It involves the period between birth and about one year after birth. During this period, the child learns that the caregivers and therefore adults should be trusted. This largely depends on the ability of the parents to meet the child's needs for survival.

Erikson argues because the child is dependent on the caregivers, they should help the child develop trust. The child should the world as a safe place. If the parents or caregivers are not responsible enough, say the child does not get the basic needs; the child is likely to develop a sense of mistrust. Mistrust is likely to lead to anxiety, fear and a feeling of being insecure. The child argues the basic virtue of hope upon successful completion of this stage (McLeod, 2018). Should any crisis a come at a later stage, the basic virtue of hope will help them believe that they will receive help from the world.

2. Autonomy vs. Shame

This is the second stage of this theory and takes place in early childhood (between 1.5-3 years). In this stage, the child learns to be independent. They learn that at least their actions can bring them results. Erik posits the at it is important that children are allowed to explore their potential at this stage. The parents must allow the child to do things without support. The child should not be criticized for any failure. Here, we want to implant an element of self-control while retaining their self-esteem. The child acquires the virtue of WILL upon successful completion of the stage.

3. Initiative vs. Guilt

When children get to a preschool age (3-6years old), they assert their control over their environment and also become a initiative. Bee (19) describes this stage as a period during which the child will be very vigorous in actions and behavior. Here, the child will constantly be in interactions with other children, and will also be engaging in different plays at school. The plays are important in helping the child identify his or her skill. With time, the child will develop the ability, and the confidence to plan and initiate activities. If the child is motivated or encouraged, he is likely to acquire a sense of being initiative. If the encouragement part fails, then the child may develop a sense of guilt. The child acquires the virtue of purpose on successful completion of this page. Otherwise, failure to complete this stage results in unhealthy personality.

4. Industry vs. Inferiority

This is the fourth stage of Erikson's psychosocial theory. In this stage the child learns how to read, write and do almost everything by self. It is at this stage that peers and teachers play a crucial role on the self esteem of the child. Here, the child starts working towards competencies that are of value in the society (McLeod, 2018). If they are encouraged, they will be industrious, if not they will develop a feeling of being inferior. The virtue children acquire in this stage is called competence.

5. Identity vs. Role Confusion

This stage begins at adolescence. Here, the adolescent struggle with trying to find self and identity. Erikson argues that at first, they feel very insecure but adjust with time. The child will explore their potential and begin to identify with self. If they don't get appropriate orientation, they are likely to land in role confusion. Successful completion of this stage gives the child the virtue of fidelity.

6.Intimacy vs. Isolation

This is the sixth stage of the psychosocial theory and begins at early adulthood. During this period, he/she learns to be intimate and how to form relationships. Successful completion of this stage results in a healthy relations and sense of intimacy. Conversely, should one experience any difficulty in the walk towards being intimate, and then a feeling of isolation ensues. The virtue one acquires in this stage is love.

7. Generativity vs. Stagnation

This is the seventh stage and it comes at middle adulthood. During this stage, the person feels the need to give back to the society. They nurture and work towards creation of things that will have an impact in the society (McLeod, 2018). If they fail to contribute effectively to the society, then a feeling of stagnation comes. The virtue acquired at this stage is care.

8. Ego integrity and Despair

This is the last stage of Erikson's psychosocial theory. This comes at late adulthood during which time we are very unproductive. During this period, one checks the accomplishments and assess whether or not they were integral. If we lead unproductive life, then we are likely to have a feeling of guilt and despair. The virtue acquired at this stage is wisdom.

Erikson argues that healthy personality comes upon a successful completion of one stage and progression to the next. If for any reason a person fails to complete one full stage, an unhealthy personality results (McLeod, 2018). Failure to complete one stage may also result in difficulty in progressing to the next stage. Erikson seems to suggest that a failed stage can be redone later in life. In each stage is what Erikson calls, "Basic virtue". The basic virtues can help in solving the following crises.


Cherry, K. (2018). Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

McLeod, S. A. (2013). Erik Erikson. Retrieved from HYPERLINK ""

Graves, B.S., Larkin, E. (2006). Lessons from Erikson. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships.

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