Erikson's Stages of Development – Term Paper

Erikson was an ego psychologist whose works were inspired by Freud seen as in how he also believed that personality is developed in a series of stages. However, he chose to focus on psychosocial growth as opposed to psychosexual development.  In theory, he describes the impact of socialization across the entire lifespan, and how this interaction and relationships complemented growth and development (Erikson, 1963). He also focuses on ego identity development and how it changes according to new information, experiences, and interactions with others. The development process is further discussed below:

Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust (Birth – 1 year)

He states this period as the most fundamental one in life. An infant depends entirely on its caregivers and develops trust according to the quality of care given. It is dependent on the caregiver for basic needs, safety and nurturing (Erikson, 1963). Without proper care, the child loses the ability to trust or depend on the adults in his or her life, and eventually everyone else in life.

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A child who successfully develops this confidence will feel secure in the world, but inconsistent, rejection, and emotional unavailability among the caregivers leads to developing mistrust, fear, and a notion that the world is inconsistent. Erikson clarifies that no child hast the ability to develop full trust or doubt but successful growth was about balancing the two sides. The child also acquires hope and an openness to experiences.  

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. doubt and shame (1-3 years)

Children in this phase focus on nurturing a sense of personal control. They gain some independence by performing actions individually and making decisions according to their preference. They also gain control over food, toys, and clothing choices. Allowing toddlers to get control through decision making helps to culture a sense autonomy. Erikson concurred with Freud on the significance of toilet training but stated that people gained control and independence through learning how to manage their body functions. A child who completes this phase becomes secure and confident, and those who fail to succeed get self-doubt and a feeling of inadequacy.

Stage 3: Guilt vs. initiative (3-5 years)

This phase comprises of preschool going children. They being to assert more power and control over the world or in decisions they make through play and social interaction. Success at this stage is determined by the ability to feel capable and be a leader, while the different leads to self-doubt, lack of initiative, and a sense of guilt. An ideally balanced child portrays both initiative and a willingness to work with other people, a state that Erikson describes as the ego having a purpose.

Stage 4: Industry vs. inferiority (6-12 years)

Children are mostly in school at this time and away from their parents or caregivers. They gradually develop pride in their abilities and accomplishments through social interactions. Both parents and teachers play a huge role in encouraging the toddlers and making them feel competent enough in their skills. Children who lack encouragement from both the school and the home setting develop self-doubt in their abilities. The main aim of development at this stage is to strike a balance between being competent and inspiring self-belief.

Stage 5: Identity vs. confusion (12-18 years)

This step is viewed as the most turbulent one in the development process because a child develops personal identity during this period. In this phase, they acquire a stronger urge to become independent and develop their sense of self, which is essential in influencing behavior as an adult. As they grow older, children still need encouragement and reinforcement and those who rightly receive it grow up with a strong sense of self, independence, and control.  Those who lack proper motivation become unsure of their beliefs and develop personal insecurities. Erikson stated that completing this stage leads to fidelity, which is described as the ability to live according to societal standards.

The other scenes include intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, and integrity versus despair. They comprise of several experiences and changes that people go through as they explore adulthood. An efficient background  development process sets the precedence of how an adult goes through his or her life.

Behavioral Child Development Theories

This concept is an example of a minor theory that focuses specifically on how environment interaction influences child behavior. Theorists such as B.F Skinner,  John Watson, and Ivan Pavlov produced the most influential works on child behavior in human development. Being minor concepts, they focus on observable behaviors and development as a reaction towards factors such as stimuli, rewards, reinforcement, and punishments. The behavioral concept differs from other development theories because it disregards the internal state of an individual, for example, the person’s thoughts and feelings. It instead focuses on how people’s experiences shape their individuality. Skinner is mostly known for his view on classical and operant conditioning, processes that are used to form behavior.   


Motivating operation is a behavior concept that is useful in explaining the momentary effectiveness of consequences in operant conditioning. It labels the events within an environment that change the magnitude of reinforcers and punishers (Sailor, 2009). The term motivating operation (MO) originates from the law that motivating operations are responsible for conditions that result in either increase or decrease of the effectiveness of consequence whether as a punisher or reinforcer.

Motivating operation follows a three-term contingency order that involves a stimulus being presented, followed by a response and then a consequence that comes after the response to either weaken or strengthen possibility of a response coming up in similar conditions.

While looking at motivating operation, two concepts abolishing operations and establishing operations are useful for putting it into perspective. Abolishing operations are those that decrease the effectiveness of a reinforcer or punishment (Iwata et al., 2000).

The behaviors that are maintained by negative reinforcers for instance the elimination of demand or task to engage in an activity that is preferred can be weakened through the a process referred to as differential reinforcement of alternative behaviors (DRA). Alternatively, there can be a delivery of reinforcement non-contingently procedures during situations that are high demand.

The interventions of abolishing operations can be illustrated by a study investigating the interrogating the impacts of positive and negative reinforcement on the problem behaviors with the aim of abolishing the problem behaviors. The removal of discriminative stimulus or cues for undesirable behavior is one of the strategies that is applied in abolishing operations. It is logical that when the stimulus or cues necessary for triggering undesirable behavior are absent, a person is less likely to engage in the behavior (Sailor, 2009).

However, it is not sometimes possible or even appropriate to completely do away with a task or an event as a way of dealing with behavior problem. For instance, in the case of a child that faces difficulty in learning how to read and involves herself in problem behavior to escape from the task, it would not be a practicable idea to eliminate the reading instruction. The alternative would be to eliminate instruction reading temporarily with the aim of decreasing the occurrence of problem behavior (Iwata et al., 2000). Once there are low levels of problem behavior occurrence, and then it is advisable to reintroduce slowly reading activities back into the schedule of the student until such a timer that reading occurs at levels that are acceptable. In essence, it is clear that abolishing operations are an important part of motivating operations since they are useful in addressing problem behaviors in an antecedent approach.