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Master of Science in Education Insight: Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development

Study alongside Walden College of Education students with this required reading excerpt taken from the MSEd course The Adult Learner.

Every student is unique. That’s why to be a truly effective teacher, you have to tailor your teaching strategies to fit the capabilities and personality of each of your students. This is easier said than done. However, by studying Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, you can gain important insights that can help guide your teaching, whether you’re an early childhood educator, a high school teacher, or someone working to understand adult learners.

As Kendra Cherry explains in her article read by Walden MSEd students, Erikson’s theories on psychosocial development are some of the of the most famous and well-respected in the field.1 They center on the notion that as we age, we progress through a series of eight developmental phases. Each phase puts us into a specific state of conflict, which we either overcome and thus develop an important psychological quality or fail to overcome and thus don’t develop the psychological quality. The qualities we develop or don’t develop impact the rest of our lives, including the ways we learn.

Master of Science in Education Insight: Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development

As described by Cherry, Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development are:

Trust vs. Mistrust

Age developed: Birth to 18 months
Conflict faced: Because we’re completely helpless at this age, we depend on others to care for us and love us. If we receive good care and love, we learn to trust and will generally feel safe and secure in the world. If we don’t receive good care and love, we struggle to trust and will generally feel fearful of the world.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Age developed: 2 to 3 years
Conflict faced: If we successfully complete toilet training and are allowed to gain more control over food choices, toy preferences, etc., we will develop autonomy and generally feel more secure and confident. If we fail to gain autonomy in these years, we will generally feel more shame and doubt.

Initiative vs. Guilt

Age developed: 3 to 5 years
Conflict faced: In this stage, we learn to assert ourselves in social settings. If we succeed, we will develop initiative and generally feel more capable. If we fail, we’ll generally be left with more guilt and self-doubt.

Industry vs. Inferiority

Age developed: 6 to 11 years
Conflict faced: If we’re encouraged to improve our abilities and if our accomplishments are commended, we’re likely to develop a sense of confidence. If we’re discouraged and/or ridiculed by parents, teachers, or peers, we’re more likely to doubt our abilities.

Identity vs. Confusion

Age developed: 12 to 18 years
Conflict faced: In our teenage years, we can receive affirmation of our ideals, values, and sense of self or we can receive various forms of derision and rejection. Those who have their sense of self positively reinforced develop stronger feelings of independence and control. Those who don’t receive positive reinforcement end up with more insecurity and remain confused about themselves and their future.

Intimacy vs. Isolation

Age developed: 19 to 40 years
Conflict faced: If we develop close, committed relationships in our early adulthood, our lifelong relationships are more likely to be enduring and secure. Because each stage of development builds upon the others, the ability to form strong relationships is closely tied to whether or not we developed a strong sense of self in our teen years. Those without a strong sense of self are more likely to have less-committed relationships and suffer isolation and loneliness.

Generativity vs. Stagnation

Age developed: 40 to 65 years
Conflict faced: If we succeed in building a good and productive life, we’re likely to feel like we’re contributing to the world. If we fail to build a good and productive life, we’re likely to feel uninvolved in the world.

Integrity vs. Despair

Age developed: 65 years to death
Conflict faced: In our later years, we tend to look back on life. If we can develop a sense of pride in our accomplishments, we’re likely to feel satisfied. If we fail to develop this pride, we’re likely to feel our life has been wasted.

How Can You Learn More About Teaching?

Cherry’s article on Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development is just one example of the type of information you could encounter during the course of your studies as a student in Walden University’s Master of Science in Education (MSEd) degree program. Comprehensive in scope and offering multiple specializations, Walden’s MSED degree program can help you gain the knowledge you need to better relate to your students, excel in the classroom, and move forward in your education career.

Walden’s online teaching degrees are making it possible for teachers everywhere to improve their skills. It’s a great way to advance your classroom abilities and your career.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education (MSEd) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

1Walden MSEd Curriculum Source:

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,