Learning Theorist – Erik Erikson

By Dr. Lynne Hartman


Erik Erikson studied under Freud. He adapted Freud’s “Psychosexual Theory” into a psychosocial philosophy by having both psychological and social components to his eight stages of development that spans a human lifetime (Fulbrook, 2019). Each of Erikson’s stages has a unique psychological crisis whose outcome is dependent on how caregivers and significant others respond to the needs of the person at each of the stages. The dilemma the person faces at every level needs to be resolved to feel a sense of competence in order to become a well-adjusted adult. Erikson’s work gives us a framework for teaching children and shaping them in well-adjusted individuals within society.


Erikson’s theory is still significant today. The theory helps caregivers meet the emotional needs of the child at every level (Child Development theories). It also provides guidance on what to focus on in development, and how it effects overall growth. He is one of the only theorists to discuss the whole life development from infant to adulthood.


1. Trust vs Mistrust

This stage is the first stage where the infants must learn to trust adults in their lives. This stage starts at birth and ends at about eighteen months. If the baby has an environment that is stable, consistent and reliable the child will trust the world. When the baby cries it is the only way to get their needs met. If their needs are met, they will trust the caregiver and develop a sense of security. If the child does not develop trust of their environment and caregivers, they may grow up feeling mistrust towards people (Fulbrook, 2019).

2. Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt

This stage is eighteen months to three years. This is the “me do it” stage, and when the child starts to make decision (Fulbrook, 2019). The child also will express their preferences in their environment, such as what clothes they want to wear and what toy they prefer. The child achieves a sense of independence. If the child does not explore decision making experiences the child may develop low self-esteem and shame. Parents and caregivers try not to do everything for the child so that the child will have autonomy in the world. (McLeod, 2018).


3. Initiative vs Guilt

This third stage when the young child is three to six years. The child learns to plan and achieve goals involving others. The child needs to have many opportunities to plan activities and make up games. If the child is having a play date have the child plan some activities for the play date. If given the opportunity they will have a sense of initiative, lead others and make decisions.


4. Industry vs Inferiority

This fourth stage is during the elementary school age children, six to twelve years old. The child notices and compares themselves to others. The child at this age is learning how to read and write as well as number sense. During this stage, the child’s peers will play an important role in his life and will become a major confidence booster. The child also thinks about others and what they need. The child needs to win approval that is accepted in the environment and develops a sense of pride with his accomplishments (McLeod, 2018). If the child is not given time or opportunities to be successful, the child will feel inferior and doubt his abilities.

5. Identity vs Role Confusion

The fifth stage lasts from twelve years to eighteen years. In this stage the child is asking, “Who am I?” and “What do I want to do in my life?” (McLeod, 2018). The child is in search of a sense of self and identity. The young adult wants to belong to a society and fit in. The person will try out multiple roles during this time to find out what “fits best”. The adolescent experiences a unified sense of self based on combination of previous learning. If the person does not have a strong sense of self identity and ability to defend his core beliefs in the face of other’s opinions, the person may have role confusion.


6. Intimacy vs Isolation

The sixth stage represents young adults from eighteen to forty years. The adult forms close personal relationships. The person begins to form more intimate relationships that are long-term. The adult develops a sense of commitment, safety and care within a relationship. If the adult does not make the change from making relationships to maintaining relationships, the person may be in jeopardy of being isolated. This stage displays the virtue of love.


7. Generativity vs Stagnation

The adult in the seventh stage is forty to sixty- five years-old. The adult promotes the well-being of others. The adults are concerned with contributing to society, either through their work or parenthood. If the adult does not continue to self-improve for the benefit of others, the person will become stagnate and unproductive.


8. Integrity vs Despair

The last stage of Erikson stages of psychological development is from sixty -five years of age and beyond. In this stage the adult enjoys a sense of satisfaction by reflecting on a life well lived. The adult that reflects on their life positively has a feeling of satisfaction and is satisfied. If the adult feels failure with his life, he will often obsess on ideas of what he “should have” or “could have” done. In that circumstance the adult usually will feel bitterness and despair.


Since Erikson revealed a lifetime of development, he demonstrated a more realistic view of personality development. Use Erikson stages as a tool for development, that guides decisions and interaction with the child. Erikson tied together psychosocial development across a lifetime.


References

Child Development Theorists and Theories Retrieved from: https://www.familyconsumersciences.com/wp-content/uploads/Lesson-17-Child-Development-Theorists-and-Theories.pdf

McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 03). Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

Steven-Fulbrook, P., (2019) 15 Learning Theories in Education ( A Complete Summary), Teacher of Sci. com Retrieved from: https://teacherofsci.com/learning-theories-in-education/

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