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Erikson Self-Study Assignment

Kaitlynn Akers
EDUC 121
Ivy Tech Community College


Erik Erikson, the most influential psychoanalyst of the 20th century, is best known
for his theory that each stage of life is associated with a specific psychological struggle, a
struggle that contributes to a major aspect of personality (1st unknown website citation).
The stages that he created include: Trust vs. mistrust (the infancy period), Autonomy vs.
shame and doubt (early childhood), initiative vs. guilt (play age), industry vs. inferiority
(school age 5-12 yrs.), identity vs. identity diffusion (adolescence), intimacy vs. self
absorption (early adulthood), generativity vs. stagnation (adulthood), integrity vs. despair
(old age). His developmental progression was conceived as the sequential reorganization
of ego and character structures. Each phase was the potential root of later health and
pathology. At each stage of life Erikson seeks to describe how baby, child or adult
encounters his/her environment (Simanowitz, V. Pearce, P.).
Trust vs. Mistrust The infancy period
Because an infant is utterly dependent, the development of trust is based on the
dependability and quality of the child's caregivers. If a child successfully develops trust,
he or she will feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who are inconsistent,
emotionally unavailable, or rejecting contribute to feelings of mistrust in the children
they care for. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is
inconsistent and unpredictable. Of course, no child is going to develop a sense of 100
percent trust or 100 percent doubt. Erikson believed that successful development was all
about striking a balance between the two opposing sides. When this happens, children
acquire hope, which Erikson described as openness to experience tempered by some
wariness that danger may be present. (Cherry, 2014) When I was a baby I would
trust my parents to feed me, bathe me, and give me their attention


whenever I required it. My mother told me that when I was a baby I

would cry a lot and the only thing that would calm me down and cheer
me up was to be tossed in the air and caught over and over again. My
mom said the higher the better. Of course sometimes that didnt work
and theyd take me for a drive until I fell asleep. Trust was the only
thing I knew growing up and I am thankful for the family I grew up
trusting. Those situations proved my strong trust in my family. The fact
that I could rely on them over and over and over again meant that our
relationship was strong enough to trust them with my life. Obviously I
ended in the more trusting side to this stage.
Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt Early childhood period
This stage typically takes place between the ages of two and four years old. At
this stage the child battles for autonomy and the growing ability to stand on his/her own
feet. Shame and doubt, the negative consequences of seeking autonomy, are associated
with being completely exposed and conscious of being looked at (Simanowitz, V. Pearce,
P.). Gaining a sense of personal control over the world is important at this stage of
development. Toilet training plays a major role; learning to control ones body functions
leads to a feeling of control and a sense of independence. Other important events include
gaining more control over food choices, toy preferences and clothing selection. (Cherry,
2014) According to my various family members around the age of two I would insist on
buying my own things at the store. If I didnt get to pick out and buy my own things I
would make a scene in the store. Though as I had neared the age of four I had begun to
become self-conscious. I came to this conclusion because the fits became fewer and I


became shyer and less outspoken. I didnt like being the center of attention. The fact that
I became shyer and less outspoken shows that I passed this stage more on the shame and
doubt side then on the autonomy.
Initiative vs. guilt
The development of courage and independence are what set preschoolers, apart
from the other age groups. Young children in this age group face the challenge of
initiative versus guilt. A child during this stage faces the planning and developing a sense
of judgment. Children have their sense of initiative reinforced by being given the
freedom and encouragement to play. When efforts to engage in physical and imaginative
play are stifled by caregivers, children begin to feel that their self-initiated efforts are a
source of embarrassment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose, while failure
results in a sense of guilt. (Cherry, 2014) According to my family, when I was a
preschooler I had to do everything by myself, for myself. I would get my own cereal
(with some help to reach high places), wash myself when I got dirty playing outside
(again with help, getting the rag and soap), and I would feed and walk the dogs myself
(but only walk the small ones). I was a child who didnt want anyone to do anything for
me. I didnt want to rely on anyone but myself so I didnt have to trouble anyone with
what I could do myself.
Industry vs. inferiority
Erikson viewed the elementary school years as a major point for development of
self-confidence. Elementary school provides, or should support, many opportunities for
children to be granted the recognition of teachers, parents and peers when showing off
their work. During the elementary school age, children start recognizing their talents and


continue to discover interests as their education improves. They may begin to choose to
do more activities, such as joining a sport if they know they have athletic ability, or
joining the band if they are good at music to pursue their interests. If not allowed to
discover their own talents in their own time, they will develop a sense of lack of
motivation, low self-esteem, and lethargy. They may become "couch potatoes" if they are
not allowed to develop interests. (Site second unknown website) When I was in
elementary school I realized that I loved to draw and mess with clay. I loved making
things and showing off my work. I made my grandpa get me a clay station that worked as
a spinning wheel like the ones clay workers use. I made pots and vases for family for the
holidays and drew pictures for them on their birthdays. I loved coming up with comics
and stories.
Identity vs. identity diffusion
Identity versus confusion is the fifth stage of Erik Erikson's theory of
psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of 12
to 18. Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. During adolescence,
children are exploring their independence and developing a sense of self. As they make
the transition from childhood to adulthood, teens may begin to feel confused or insecure
about themselves and how they fit in to society. I was a very active person in middle
school. I was on the track team and swim team. I still love to swim, just not in
competitions. I was one of the common sporty girls early on in my adolescence. As I
progressed through middle school I became more of a punk type of girl. I wore black,
dyed my hair a different color every week, and listened to heavy metal and rock music.
By the time I reached high school I was the nerdy type. I tried my hardest in school and


got good grades. I had become a hipster my senior year of high school. I changed who I
was over and over again to become who I am today: the punkish nerdy hipster chick.
Identity can be easily lost when trying to fit in but I managed to come out of this stage
my own person.

Intimacy vs. self-absorption

Intimacy versus isolation is the sixth stage. This stage takes place during young
adulthood between the ages of around19 and 40 years old. During this period of time, the
focus is on forming intimate and caring relationships with other people. Erikson
believed it was vital that people develop close, committed relationships with other
people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and
isolation. (Cherry, 2014) I havent explored this stage in depth yet. I am eighteen years
old right now and I have only recently entered a romantic relationship. I would like to
have a relationship in which I can be completely honest and open with my partner. I dont
know what type of person or traits I am looking for because I am kind of new to social
interactions. I would always shut others out because I felt awkward when I spoke with
others and felt that I would always say the wrong thing. I am kind of scared to explore
this stage, in actuality.
Generativity vs. stagnation
I am not at this stage but I did interview someone who was. I interviewed my
moms friend, Marian White. I asked a series of questions that my class and I came up
with involving this stage in life. She felt that her Morals and the ability to look at things
from an " Old Fashioned " Prospective were passed on to her from the previous


generation. She said, I would hope I would leave behind in my grand daughter the skills
needed to be a good grandma to her grandchildren as my grandmother did for me. She
felt that other people had impacted or improved her life through their generosity. I
would hope so, was her retort to the question: Do you feel that you have impacted others
in a positive way? She said mother provided a good role model, and her Father did in
some areas such as a strong work ethic. She tries to give back every chance she gets, like
working with children, helping a friend or two, volunteering at nonprofits, etc. she said
that the most generous person in her life was her mother. She said her mother always put
her childrens well being ahead of her own. When asked, In what ways have you
improved the world? she answered: Not sure I could say that I have improved the world.
I just try to do the best I can each day. she found that People are normally gracious when
some one goes out of their way for them. Shes had her low times in life where shes
needed and accepted a hand. She said that shes always tried to show her appreciation and
pay it forward in any way she possibly could, even if it was just helping an elderly lift
heavy objects into their car at the super market. She always says that there are always
small ways to be helpful. She has found that she is satisfied with her productivity through
middle adulthood. The advice she offers to someone entering this stage is to always do
their best and theyll have few regrets. She is satisfied with the way shes living now. She
admits to have felt inconvenienced helping others at times. She said that she has never
had trouble finding ways to give back. She thinks every one would like to go back in time
and change some things. I hope to enter and accomplish this stage in a similar manner
that she has.


Integrity vs. despair

The most important event at this stage is coming to accept one's whole life and
reflecting on that life in a positive manner. According to Erikson, achieving a sense of
integrity means fully accepting oneself and coming to terms with the death. Accepting
responsibility for your life and being able to undo the past and achieve satisfaction with
self is essential. The inability to do this results in a feeling of despair. With A positive
outcome the adult would feel a sense of fulfillment about life and accepts death as an
unavoidable reality. For a negative outcome, individuals who are unable to obtain a
feeling of fulfillment and completeness would face despair and fear death. I would like to
live a healthy and full life. I want a strong and healthy family. I want to live happily with
integrity. I dont want to fear death or face despair. I dont think anyone wants to. I dont
want any regrets. I feel that right now I am a generous, independent, socially awkward,
and comfortable in my own skin. I know I need to improve myself, as everyone does as
they age. I hope that when my time comes that I can go with integrity and be self assured
that I have done well with the life I was given.



Cherry, K. (2014). Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. (2014). Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved


Cherry, K. (2014). Identity Versus Confusion. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. (2014). Initiative Versus Guilt. Retrieved from

Cherry, K. (2014). Intimacy Versus Isolation. Retrieved from

Simanowitz, V. Pearce, P. Personality Development. Berkshire, GBR: McGrawHill Education, 2003. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 4 September 2014.McGraw-Hill

No author listed (2014). Erik H. Erikson: Erikson Institutes namesake. Retrieved


No author listed (2014). Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. Retrieved