Erikson created this tool in the 1950’s, so it’s probably a little dated, although I can still see some merit and truth in it. It purely focuses on the nurture element of life experience and doesn’t look at natural traits. I am fascinated by ‘how humans develop’, based on their early environment and relationship with their primary caregiver. If the primary caregiver hadn’t resolved the stages themselves, before having children of their own, the pattern will likely continue, because we pass down to our children what we ourselves experience. Erikson believed we progress through the 8 stages in order, and have a conflict or crisis to overcome at each stage, with the resultant outcome being positive or negative.
More information about the 8 Stages
During the first year the baby is looking to the parent for reliable caregiving. It is from this stage they develop a secure or insecure attachment for future relationships.
During the second stage the toddler is learning independence. If the parent is critical or controlling, the child will develop feelings of inadequacy; but if the child is encouraged and allowed to assert their independence, they will feel confident and secure.
During the third stage the child becomes more physical and aggressively pursues their independence. If the caregiver allows this natural development, the child will play with others, by creating games and role playing. Success at this stage results in security, leadership and initiative. If however the caregiver sees this behaviour as wilful or wrong and controls the behaviour, the child will feel guilty, a nuisance and lack initiative.
During the fourth stage the child starts to socialise, read, write and do simple arithmetic. If initiative is encouraged at this stage the child develops self confidence and feels competent. If the child is minimised, discouraged or babied at this stage, they start to develop self doubt and a feeling of inferiority.
During the fifth stage the adolescent is trying to balance independence with belonging. They search for a sense of self and identity, with a particular focus on sexuality, vocation, music and style. They can feel awkward about their bodies at this stage, but start to develop boundaries and acceptance of others. If their authentic expression is not met with acceptance, they develop role confusion and feel unsure about their place in society.
During the sixth stage the young adult is developing intimate connections with others, which may lead to happy and successful partnerships, or anxiety, depression, loneliness and intimacy issues.
During the seventh stage the individual is focused on making their mark on the world. Success at this stage leads to societal involvement and accomplishment, whereas failure results in isolation, stagnation and unproductiveness.
During the eighth stage the individual reflects on their life and either feels satisfaction or disappointment dependent on the outcome of the previous stages.
This wonderful post at Very Well Mind covers the topic in more detail.
Psychology Today have a great post on Building Confidence & Self Esteem as an adult, if you experienced attachment trauma in childhood.
So, over to you
Do you identify with the positive, negative traits or a mixture?
Does it add up for you, do you remember significant events from childhood that may be keeping you stuck?
If you are a parent, will it make you parent more mindfully now you are aware of the cause & effect?