Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development – MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 7- Section 1 - Personality & Identity - Personality Formation
Play Video about MCAT Psychology - Personality & Identity - Personality Formation - Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Sample MCAT Question - Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson replaced Freud’s emphasis on sexual desires with an emphasis on:

a) social interactions.

b) the unconscious mind.

c) the desire for mastery.

d) libido.

A is correct, Like Jung and Adler, Erik Erikson rejected Freud’s emphasis on sexual desires in the development of one’s personality. He replaced this with an emphasis on social interactions and how they shape an individual’s personality over the course of their entire life, rather than just their early childhood experiences. B is incorrect because Jung, not Erikson, placed more emphasis on the unconscious mind. C is incorrect because Adler, not Erikson, emphasized the desire for mastery. D is incorrect because Freud emphasized the libido as the motivating factor for one’s personality development.

Get 1-on-1 MCAT Tutoring From a Specialist

With MCAT tutoring from MedSchoolCoach, we are committed to help you prepare, excel, and optimize your ideal score on the MCAT exam.


For each student we work with, we learn about their learning style, content knowledge, and goals. We match them with the most suitable tutor and conduct online sessions that make them feel as if they are in the classroom. Each session is recorded, plus with access to whiteboard notes. We focus on high-yield topics if you’re pressed for time. If you have more time or high-score goals, we meticulously cover the entire MCAT syllabus.

Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development for the MCAT

In this lesson, we intorduce Erikson’s stages of Psychosocial Development. Erikson was a psychologist who studied psychoanalysis under Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter. Erikson agreed with many aspects of Freud’s theory, including that the structure of our personality has three components: the id, ego, and superego. However, Erikson disagreed with a number of points of Freud’s theory, leading Erikson to develop his own psychosocial theory of personality.

Erikson vs. Freud

One of the key disagreements that differentiates Erikson from Freud is that Erikson believed that personality development occurs over an individual’s entire lifespan and not just during childhood. Recall that Freud very much believed that the events during the early years of a person’s life have a major impact in determining that individual’s personality in the future.


Another key difference between Freud and Erikson is that Erikson focused less than sex and more on social interactions. This is actually a common trend of many psychologists. After Freud, most psychologist shifted the focus of their theories away from sex. As mentioned, Erikson shifted his focus towards social interactions. 

Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Another important part of Erikson’s theory is that Erikson is well known for coining the term “identity crisis.” He believed that ego identity is gradually acquired by resolving a different psychosocial crisis at each stage of development. Let’s take a look at these stages.

Stage 1 - Trust vs. Mistrust

Stage 1 is infancy (ages 0-1) and the psychosocial crisis that occurs during this stage is basic trust versus mistrust. The virtue that can be obtained by successfully passing this stage is hope. At this stage, infants are completely dependent on adults for their basic needs, such as food, changing their diapers, really anything they need, as well as affection. There are two possibilities here: A primary caregiver can be attentive to the infant’s needs and, if that’s the case, the child will end up developing a trusting attitude towards the world. Alternatively, if the child experiences neglect or lack of affection, this will result in mistrust and the child will be untrusting and insecure.

Stage 2 - Autonomy vs. Shame

Stage 2 is toddler (ages 2-3) and the psychosocial crisis is autonomy versus shame and doubt. The virtue that can be obtained by successfully completing this stage is will. It is during this stage that children begin toilet training. They also experience other forms of parental control. Again there are two experiences that a toddler going through this stage can experience: If a child is slowly able to take on more personal responsibility for their daily activities, such as getting dressed, eating, and bathing, and the parents respond to this independence well, the child will develop a sense of autonomy. Alternatively, if the parents are too critical and unsatisfied with the child, the child may develop a sense of shame and self-doubt.

Stage 3 - Initiative vs. Guilt

Stage 3 is preschool age (ages 4-6) and a psychosocial crisis here is initiative versus guilt. The virtue that children can develop by successfully completing this stage is purpose


During this stage, children begin to make decisions through social interactions and play. They also take on tasks independently, succeeding at some and failing with others. If adults are encouraging to the children, the children will develop initiative and self-confidence. If instead the child receives disapproval, then they will develop feelings of guilt.

Stage 4 - Industry vs. Inferiority

Stage 4 is school age (ages 6 through puberty) and the psychosocial crisis here is industry versus inferiority. (For later stages of Erikson’s theory there aren’t clear age ranges for these stages.) The virtue that can be developed here is competence.


As children are in school or participating in various activities, such as solving problems, drawing, writing, reading, and so forth, if a child receives positive feedback from their teachers and their parents, they will develop industry, become productive, and accept evaluations of their efforts. If instead, the child is criticized or punished for failing to meet expectations, they will develop feelings of inferiority.

Stage 5 - Identity vs. Identity Confusion

Stage 5 is adolescence and the psychosocial crisis that teenagers experience during this stage is identity versus identity confusion. The virtue that can be obtained by successfully completing this stage is fidelity.


This stage was particularly important to Erikson because he himself struggled a lot with his own identity, thus influencing his theory. According to Erickson, adolescents experience an identity crisis and, in order to move forward in life, they have to answer two questions – “Who am I?” and “Where am I going in life?” Adolescents who are able to answer these two questions and develop a sense of self will be able to successfully contribute to society, while those who don’t develop a sense of self remain confused about their identity.

Stage 6 - Intimacy vs. Isolation

Stage 6 is early adulthood and the psychosocial crisis is intimacy versus isolation. The virtue that can be obtained here is love. At this stage individuals learn how to form and navigate long term commitments to others. If they succeed, they will be able to experience intimate relationships and, if they fail, they will feel alone and isolated.

Stage 7 - Generativity vs. Stagnation

Stage 7 is middle adulthood and the psychosocial crisis as generativity versus stagnation. The virtue that can be obtained by successfully completing this stage is care. According to Erikson, middle-aged adults have to develop a general concern for guiding the next generation. If they succeed, they will be able to provide unselfish guidance to younger generations, but if they fail, this will result in self-indulgence and self-absorption.

Stage 8 - Integrity vs. Despair

The last stage, stage 8, is late adulthood and the psychosocial crisis of this stage is integrity versus despair. The virtue obtained by successfully completing this stage is wisdom. During this stage, aging individuals have to reflect on their life. Through this reflection, they will develop either a sense of integrity from satisfaction with their life or despair from feelings of bitterness and resentment from their life.

Explore More MCAT Masterclass Chapters

Take a closer look at our entire MCAT Masterclass or explore our Biochemistry lessons below.

Interview - Job interview

One-on-One Tutoring

Are you ready to take your MCAT performance to a whole new level? Work with our 99th-percentile MCAT tutors to boost your score by 12 points or more!

See if MCAT Tutoring can help me

Talk to our enrollment team about MCAT Tutoring

Medical College Admission Test - MCAT Physics

MCAT Go Audio Course

Engaging audio learning to take your MCAT learning on the go, any time, any where. You'll be on the way to a higher MCAT score no matter where you are. Listen to over 200+ lessons.

Stock photography - Image

MCAT Practice Exams

Practice makes perfect! Our mock exams coupled with thorough explanations and in-depth analytics help students understand exactly where they stand.

MCAT Prep App Mobile

MCAT Prep App

Access hundreds of MCAT videos to help you study and raise your exam score. Augment your learning with expert-created flashcards and a question banks.

Happy April Fool’s Day from MedSchoolCoach!

While mastering sleep-learning is still a dream, MCAT Go helps you study for the MCAT while you are awake. Listen to MCAT Go for free (a $99 value) by entering your email below to receive an exclusive discount code. This ain’t no joke.