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Psychology – Human Development: Information to Help Guide Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers

There are three main domains of human development including biosocial, cognitive, and psychosocial. These domains are very important when determining if a child is developing normally.

 Three Domains

1. Biosocial – The part of human development that includes physical growth and development as well as the family, community, & cultural factors that affect that growth & development. Biosocial development is a main domain when it comes to children developing properly in the first two years of life. This domain includes all the growth and change that happens to a child’s body. Also the genetic, nutritional, and health factors that affect growth and development are part of this domain. To read more about the importance of Biosocial development click here.

2. Cognitive – The part of human development that includes all the mental processes through which an individual thinks, learns, & communicates, plus the institutions involved in learning & communicating. This domain includes all the mental processes that a person uses to obtain knowledge. Specifics would include perception, imagination, judgment, memory, and language. Read more about cognitive domain including things parents could look for as signs to know their child is developing normally click here.

3. Psychosocial – The part of human development that includes emotions, personality, & relationships with other people. This domain also includes the larger community and the culture. Psychosocial development is important regarding early development in the first two years of life. A few things in this category include development of emotions, temperament, and social skills. There are many things that influence this domain including family, friends, the community, the culture, and society. Erik Erikson is a well-respected theorist who divided this domain into stages (all stages are explained in detail below).

Jean Piaget is a major influence when it comes to understanding Cognition in infants. This photo gives us a little glimpse at the ideas he had regarding changes in cognition depending on age group. If you want to read more about Piaget and Cognitive development in Infants and Toddlers click here.


Erik Erikson’s 8 Stage Psychosocial Theory:

Helps explain how to best parent a child, better their education and ensure they live a happy life.

4b6583119722fe84c0529e20f498396a.jpg 11eriksonstages Screen shot 2013-02-17 at 1.06.35 AM


Click on image to ENLARGE – each unique information.

A Little History, Erik Erickson:

Erik Erikson was highly regarded in the field of psychology. Through his observations, 

he classified the Human psychological stages that people go through into 8 distinct stages. 
one description of his 8 stages says “Each stage is regarded by Erikson as a “psychosocial 
crisis,” which arises and demands resolution before the next stage can be satisfactorily 
negotiated” (Stages of Social). This revolutionized the field of Psychology in the sense that there was a rough outline of the progression of the conflicts that each person has as they 
go through life. Some examples of the stages are “establishing a sense of trust in others, 
developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation prepare for the 
future” (McLeod). As previously stated, this 8 stage system revolutionized psychology and 
gave psychologists a very basic roadmap to better understand the conflicts their patients 
were going though. It also named the “normal” conflicts for people to have, which helps 
psychologists to find other distinct conflicts that person has in order to help them. Erik 
helped the art of psychology get one step closer to perfection, so yes he definitely made history. 

Work Cited
“Erik Erikson.” n.p. WriteCheck. Simply Psychology, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014
“Stages of Social-Emotional Development.” n.p. Child Development Institute, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014


Erik Erikson was a psychologist who created the 8-stage psychosocial theory that is used to explain how people develop social interactions over the course of their lifetime. His original purpose in creating the theory was to observe KIDS, since “You see a child play and it is so close to seeing an artist paint, for in play a child says things without uttering a word” (Cherry 3). This quote shows that Erikson showed a deep interest in children and how they developed, and that was his original focus. But of course, after a certain point children turn into adolescents and then further into adults, and they do not suddenly stop changing. This is why he created the 8 stages, the last 3 taking place during adolescence through death, because people are always growing and changing. Each stage is very detailed and can be observed throughout any person’s lifetime. This contribution to the field of psychology has been helpful not only through explaining how to best parent a child, but also how to better their education and ensure that a child can live a full and happy life.

Works Cited:
“Erik Erikson Biography (1902 – 1994)” 
“Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development” 

Erik Erikson was influential in the field of psychology, creating a 8 stage system for human life and maturity. He has made several observations about society in the United States “constantly concerned with the rapid social changes in America and wrote about issues such as the generation gap, racial tensions, juvenile delinquency, changing sexual roles, and the dangers of nuclear war” (Sharkey).  Erikson not only revolutionized Freudian thought he developed ideals that are still used today regarding the social development of humans and the identity struggles they face. The identity of a patient is directly connected with their meaning and can be influenced severely by Logotherapy as many of Erickson’s ideals are the basis of Logotherapy.


Developed by Viktor Frankl, the theory is founded on the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose; Logotherapy is the pursuit of that meaning for one’s life. Frankl’s theories were heavily influenced by his personal experiences of suffering and loss in Nazi concentration camps.

According to Frankl, “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances“.

On the meaning of suffering, Frankl gives the following example:

Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?:” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.

— Viktor Frankl

One’s sense of meaning is enhanced by the realization that we are irreplaceable.  In essence, all humans are unique with an entity of body, mind and spirit. We all go through unique situations and are constantly looking to find meaning. We are free to do this at all times in response to certain demands.

The Body (soma), Mind (psyche), and Spirit (noos). According to Frankl, the body and mind are what we have and the spirit is what we are.


The 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development Explained:

1. Stage One: Trust vs Mistrust

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Trust vs Mistrust
  • Major Question: “Can I trust the people around me?”
  • Basic Virtue: Hope
  • Important Event(s): Feeding

The trust versus mistrust stage is the first stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs between birth and approximately 18 months of age. According to Erikson, the trust versus mistrust stage is the most important period in a person’s life. Because an infant is entirely dependent upon his or her caregivers, the quality of care that the child receives plays an important role in the shaping of the child’s personality. During this stage, children learn whether or not they can trust the people around them. When a baby cries, does his caregiver attend to his needs? When he is frightened, will someone comfort him?

When these needs are consistently met, the child will learn that he can trust the people that are caring for him. If, however, these needs are not consistently met, the child will begin to mistrust the people around him.

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.

2. Stage Two: Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt
  • Major Question: “Can I do things myself or am I reliant on the help of others?”
  • Basic Virtue: Will
  • Important Event(s): Toilet Training

Autonomy versus shame and doubt is the second stage of Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. This stage occurs between the ages of 18 months to approximately age two to three years. According to Erikson, children at this stage are focused on developing a greater sense of self-control. 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 one’s 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.

3. Stage 3:  Initiative versus Guilt

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Initiative versus Guilt
  • Major Question: “Am I good or bad?”
  • Basic Virtue: Purpose
  • Important Event(s):Exploration, Play

Initiative versus guilt is the third stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during the preschool years, between the ages of three and five. During the initiative versus guilt stage, children begin to assert their power and control over the world through directing play and other social interaction.

Children need to begin asserting control and power over the environment by taking initiative by planning activities, accomplishing tasks and facing challenges. During this stage, it is important for caregivers to encourage exploration and to help children make appropriate choices. Caregivers who are discouraging or dismissive may cause children to feel ashamed of themselves and to become overly dependent upon the help of others.

Play and imagination takes on an important role at this stage. 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.

4. Stage Four: Industry versus Inferiority

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Industry versus Inferiority
  • Major Question: “How can I be good?”
  • Basic Virtue: Competence
  • Important Event(s): School

Industry versus inferiority is the fourth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. The stage occurs during childhood between the ages of six and eleven. School and social interaction play an important role during this time of a child’s life. Through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities. 

During the industry versus inferiority stage, children become capable of performing increasingly complex tasks. As a result, they strive to master new skills. Children who are encouraged and commended by parents and teachers develop a feeling of competence and belief in their skills. Those who receive little or no encouragement from parents, teachers, or peers will doubt their ability to be successful.

According to Erikson, this stage is vital in the development of self-confidence. During school and other social activities, children receive praise and attention for performing various tasks such as reading, writing, drawing and solving problems. Children need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.

5. Stage Five: Identity Versus Confusion

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Identity Versus Confusion
  • Major Question: “Who am I?”
  • Basic Virtue: Fidelity
  • Important Event(s): Social Relationships

Identity versus confusion is the fifth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 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. As they seek to establish a sense of self, teens may experiment with different roles, activities, and behaviors. According to Erikson, this is important to the process of forming a strong identity and developing a sense of direction in life.

Those who receive proper encouragement and reinforcement through personal exploration will emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control. Those who remain unsure of their beliefs and desires will be insecure and confused about themselves and the future.

6. Stage Six: Intimacy Versus Isolation

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Intimacy Versus Isolation
  • Major Question: “Will I be loved or will I be alone?”
  • Basic Virtue: Love
  • Important Event(s): Romantic Relationships

Intimacy versus isolation is the sixth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during young adulthood between the ages of approximately 19 and 40. During this period of time, the major conflict centers on forming intimate, loving relationships with other people.

While psychosocial theory is often presented as a series of neatly defined, sequential steps, it is important to remember that each stage contributes to the next. For example, Erikson believed that having a fully formed sense of self (established during the identity versus confusion stage) is essential to being able to form intimate relationships. Studies have demonstrated that those with a poor sense of self tend to have less committed relationships and are more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression.

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.

7. Stage Seven: Generativity Versus Stagnation

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Generativity Versus Stagnation
  • Major Question: “How can I contribute to the world?”
  • Basic Virtue: Care
  • Important Event(s): Parenthood and Work

Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during middle adulthood between the ages of approximately 40 and 65. During this time, adults strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them; often by having children or contributing to positive changes that benefits other people.

Contributing to society and doing things to benefit future generations are important needs at the generativity versus stagnation stage of development. Generativity refers to “making your mark” on the world, through caring for others, creating things and accomplishing things that make the world a better place.

Stagnation refers to the failure to find a way to contribute. These individuals may feel disconnected or uninvolved with their community and with society as a whole.

Those who are successful during this phase will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home and community. Those who fail to attain this skill will feel unproductive and uninvolved in the world.

8. Stage Eight: Integrity versus despair

  • Psychosocial Conflict: Integrity versus despair
  • Major Question: “Did I live a meaningful life?”
  • Basic Virtue: Wisdom
  • Important Event(s): Reflecting back on life

Integrity versus despair is the eighth and final stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during late adulthood from age 65 through the end of life. During this period of time, people reflect back on the life they have lived and come away with either a sense of fulfillment from a life well lived or a sense of regret and despair over a life misspent. 

Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.

Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair.

Click here for my other Post on Erikson’s Psychosocial Development.


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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