#ATTI80: Erikson

So today I thought I’d draw out Erikson. His identity development theory has popped up quite often lately in the texts I have been reading and a few conversations, so figured why not put it to the whiteboard? 🙂

As always, a bit of background!

Erikson is one of the most cited psychologists of the 20th century. His work in psychology has been used by the leading theorists of today. He’s served as faculty at both Yale and Harvard and has done research across the United States. He was the first clinical psychologist to work with identity development as a life journey. Fun fact about Erikson, his original surname was Hamburger, but when he earned his US Citizenship, he changed it to Erikson.


But onto Erikson’s Theory! The identity development theory Erikson created is broken down to 8 Stages and each has a key moment of “crisis” in which an individual develops and balances internal and external environments before moving to the next stage.
The 8 Stages are:

Stage 1: Basic Trust vs. Mistrust – A stage of learning Hope. This stage occurs in the infancy stage, where the infant learns basic primordial trust and mistrust with its parents and environments.  (Whether ot not an infant trusts and relies on the bottle from a parent for nurishment)

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt – A stage of learning Will. This stage occurs as children begin to explore through crawling, walking and control of bodily actions. (Ability to be toilet trained or continue to have accidents)

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt – A stage of learning Purpose. This stage occurs in the years of preschool ages where children begin to learn right from wrong as effects of their actions. (Right thing to do or Wrong thing to do?)

Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority – A stage of learning Competence. This stage occurs in elementary where children learn skills to become useful actors in society through lack of appreciation or encouragment from adults and peers. (Learning the alphabet right, learning numbers wrong, etc.)

Stage 5: Identity vs Indentity Diffusion – A stage of learning Fidelity. This stage occurs in an individual’s teen age years when they are establishing their identity and sense of purpose and self. (The confidence and development of one’s identities)

Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation – A stage of learning Love. This occurs in a young adults life where they work through intimate relationships, friendships, and other relationships in their community. (Broken hearts, friendships, and relationship building)

Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation – A stage of learning Care. This stage occurs as adults and whether or not they give back to society and foster growth in the generations behind them throgh mentoring, children, etc. (Flourishing flowers or decaying flowers?)

Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair – A stage of learning Wisdom. This stage occurs is late adulthood and death becomes a realistic inevitability in their timeline and whether or not they relfect on their life as “productive” or “wasted”. (Do one make good life choice or bad life choices?)

As I drew this out, I could see and really identify my personal journey through these stages. I think however, in term of the timeline and at what point in my life they occured is a bit different than what Erikson proposes because coming out as gay in my late 20s, I had to back track and redo a few stages and then “catch back up”. But still, it was interesting to be able to section off my life in stages and see the growth and development!

Hope you enjoy!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!



Evans, Nancy J., et al. (2010). Chapter three: Psychosocial identity development.Student development in college: theory, research and practice (ed. 2, pp. 47-52). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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