The first of Erikson’s Stages of Development occurs from birth to about one and a half years of age with a normal child. During this stage, Erikson says that the developmental task concerns the child attaching to their mother because such a connection will allow the child to later attach and trust others. Accordingly, Erikson identifies the psychological crisis of that stage as “Trust vs Mistrust.” If the child fails to connect with his mother or caretaker for whatever reason, such as an unstable or absent nurturer, the child will grow to feel hesitant and insecure when forming bonds with others. Thus, Erikson states that it is crucial that within the first days of life to the one and a half year mark, a child be given enough attention and love.
The second of Erikson’s Stages of Development takes place from the one-and-a-half year mark until the child is roughly three years old in normal children. Erikson states that during this stage a child will learn basic motor control and explore their environment. For example, a child may begin crawling or walking around his home, perhaps begin exploring playgrounds with their care givers, and start toilet training. The psychological crisis Erikson identifies as being part of this stage in maturity is known as “Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt” because a child which fails to gain basic motor control and explore their environment, whether because they are physically unable or are experiencing an inhibitory fear, will grow to question themselves in new situations and will lack the confidence necessary to succeed.
The third stage transpires from when a normal child is three to six years of age. The developmental task of that time is gaining purpose and direction and the psychological crisis Erikson identifies is “Initiative vs Guilt.” During this time, generally the frame in which most children will begin school, children start manipulating language skillfully and may begin to ask for attention or assistance. If a child is rewarded for their attempts, they will learn not to be ashamed of basic needs. However, if a child is exposed to care takers which ignore or condescend to them, the child will inevitably learn to keep their desires to themselves.
The fourth stage of development Erikson illustrates is known as “Competence vs Inferiority” and comes about when a normal child is six years old, lasting until they reach puberty. During this stage of development, Erikson claims that children are expected to behave in socially correct ways. If a child cannot behave properly or is told they are inefficient, whether by teachers, through their peers ridicule, or self directed criticism, a child will inevitably become shy, quiet, modest, and fearful to joining social groups or voicing their opinions and to try things on their own.
The fifth stage of Erikson’s Stages of Development is “Identity vs Role Confusion” and will happen when a child is in adolescence. Here a child begins to consider their sense of self, thinking of how their reputation and identifiable character traits will make others perceive them. If a child has no clear heroes or aspirations, settling on an identity will be more difficult. However, it is normal for children of this age to go through various stages in which they try on different clothes, listen to different kinds of music, or otherwise expand their horizons in looking for where they feel most comfortable or true to themselves. If a child fails to do this, whether because they are too intimidated or will be punished if they question their beliefs, Erikson states that they will remain confused and unhappy until they do so.
The sixth stage of Erikson’s Stages of Development occurs in early adulthood and concerns the formation of intimate bonds and friendships. This may include marriage to merely identifying who someone’s true friends are. In this stage, Erikson says that people face “Intimacy vs Isolation” and that a failure to secure meaningful bonds will snowball into a person’s inevitable reclusive and antisocial mannerisms.
Erikson’s seventh and second to last stages of development transpires through middle age, where the developmental task concerns fulfilling life goals, such as having a family, career, and being a respected member of society. Called “Productivity vs Stagnation”, Erikson says that a person chooses to either coast on their former success or push themselves further to each new heights and claims that the latter is important lest a person begin to feel insignificant and become distressed.
The final stage in Erikson’s Stages of Development is known as “Integrity vs Despair” and comes to pass when people become elderly. Essentially, within this period of time which extends until someone’s death, a person must accept the meaning of their life and be satisfied with what they have accomplished. Failure to do so will result in remorse, depression, resentment, and an inability to accept that a person will soon die.