Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages

What is the Trust vs. Mistrust stage?

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a psychoanalyst who translated Freud’s psychosexual stages into his own set of psychosocial stages. He also extended his stages into adulthood. In effect, he interpreted Freud’s emphasis on sexual body parts as a metaphor for emotional and interpersonal processes. His eight psychosocial stages include: Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity Development vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, and Integrity vs. Despair. The first four stages take place in childhood while the last three stages cover adulthood.

The first four stages cover childhood and parallel Freud’s psychosexual stages. Trust vs. Mistrust parallels Freud’s oral stage and takes place during the first year and a half of life. This is when the child’s fundamental sense of the safety and benevolence of the world is formed. If the child is well cared for and his or her needs are met, the child will experience the world as a generally safe and positive place. If the child does not receive this basic level of care, it sets the stage for a general experience of mistrust; the world will be seen as cold and dangerous. This fundamental world view forms the foundation of all later psychological development.


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