top of page
sports psychology


Erikson Stage 1:  Trust versus Mistrust (approximately age 0-1).  In the first year of life, all infants depend on others to get their needs (i.e., food, shelter, and attachment) met.  If these needs are met, then the infant will develop a secure attachment with his/her parents or caregivers.  This secure attachment teaches a child to trust his/her environment and to be optimistic.  If an infant does not get his/her needs met, then mistrust is developed.  Erikson stated that some mistrust is necessary to learn how to discriminate between honest and dishonest people.  However, when mistrust wins over trust, a child will be frustrated, withdrawn, suspicious, pessimistic, and lack self-confidence.

Erikson Stage 2:  Autonomy versus Doubt/Shame (occurs between ages 1 to 3).  During this stage, parents need to create a supportive environment in which the child can develop a sense of self-control and self-confidence, without a loss of self-esteem.  Toddlers learn to walk, talk, use toilets, and do things for themselves during this age.  If parents encourage their child to try things and do it for oneself, then the toddler will develop the confidence needed to cope with future situations that require choice, control, and independence.  If parents are over-controlling, such as overprotecting or disapproving of independent behavior, then the child may feel ashamed or have too much doubt of one’s abilities.  As a result, a child will develop an external locus of control (meaning, they will depend on others to manage their lives), lack self-confidence, and lack self-esteem.

Erikson Stage 3:  Initiative versus Guilt (age 3-5).  Children have newfound abilities as they develop their motor skills (e.g., running) and become more engaged in social interactions with others.  They learn to balance between an eagerness to try new things and becoming more responsible.  If parents are supportive during this stage, the child will learn to accept certain rules, without guilt, about what is allowed and expected.  This creates a place of safety and security that allows children to foster their imagination through play and make sense of their world.  Play starts to become goal-directed and children develop a sense of purpose in their lives.  If parents are not encouraging (e.g., are over-controlling), then children may develop guilt and begin to believe that it is wrong to be independent.  The child may not develop the ability to be responsible and will have a lack of purpose and direction in his/her life.

Erikson Stage 4: Industry versus Inferiority (ages 6 to 11 or 12). Erikson originally stated the age span was 6 to puberty.  This is the period in which the child enters school and this is a very important domain of a child’s life.  Children learn during this period of life to make things, use tools, and to acquire knowledge and skills.  All of this occurs during a transition from importance of parents to the importance of peers.  However, Erikson stated that important learning does not occur only at school.  Children during this stage are learning at home, at friends’ homes, at religious institutions, and in their neighborhoods.  If children can discover pleasure in being productive (i.e., accomplishing things, having success), then they will develop a sense of competence.  If this does not happen, then children will feel inferior, believe they are inadequate, and lack self-efficacy (i.e., the belief that you can do something).

Erikson Stage 5:  Identity versus Role-Confusion (ages 12 to 18).  This stage occurs during adolescence from puberty to early adulthood, [Note: Recent researchers in developmental psychology have suggested that adolescence be extended to age 25].  This is a time in life when you try to figure out, “Who am I?”  To be able to answer this question, Erikson believed that you must have successfully resolved all previous stages.  This identity crisis stage was considered by Erikson to be the most significant conflict a person must face.  If an adolescent is able to resolve this conflict, then he/she will have a strong sense of identity and be ready to plan for the future.  An adolescent will have fidelity in self (i.e., being true to yourself) and seek it in others.  If not, then adolescents will be unable to make decisions and choices about their role in life.  They may even become social chameleons, changing in different social situations. 

Erikson Stage 6: Intimacy versus Isolation (early adulthood, typically from your 20’s to the end of your 30’s).  In this stage, the most important events are love relationships.  Regardless of work success, Erikson believed that you are not developmentally progressing unless you are capable of intimacy.  An individual who has not completed the 5th Stage may fear a committed relationship and may retreat into isolation.  If you are able to resolve this crisis positively, then you will be able to form relationships with others who have also achieved a sense of identity.  If you are not able to resolve this conflict successfully, then you will not have sharing, feel closeness, or become committed to another person.

Erikson Stage 7:  Generativity versus Stagnation (middle adulthood, usually between ages of 40 and 60).  It should be noted that as the average lifespan increases, the end point of this age range increases as well.  Currently, some researchers argue that middle adulthood is until the age of 65.  During this period, an adult attempts to look outside of himself or herself and care for others. 

This is the process of helping the next generation in developing and leading meaningful lives.  For example, the role of parenting is often found in adults in this age group.  Erikson stated that parents need children just as much as children need parents.  People can resolve this crisis by raising children or helping the next generation in other ways.  If this crisis is not resolved, then the person will remain self-centered and experience stagnation. 

Erikson Stage 8: Integrity versus Despair (ages 60 or 65 to the end of life).  This is a time in your life for reflecting on what you have done and your role in the grand scheme of things.  This process is looking back and evaluating your life.  You reflect on your successes and failures, as well as your satisfactions and disappointments.  If the adult has achieved a sense of fulfillment about life and a sense of unity with others, then he or she accepts death with a sense of integrity.  You do not fear death you accept it.  Erikson stated, “Just as the healthy child will not fear life, the healthy adult will not fear death.”  If your evaluation process is not favorable (i.e., you do not have satisfaction with your life), then you will despair, have anger, and fear death. 


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

Join our mailing list

Never miss an update

bottom of page