Introduction to Psychosocial Development Theory in Social Work
What is Psychosocial Development Theory?
Erik Erikson’s 8 stages of psychosocial development
1. Trust vs. Mistrust
2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
3. Initiative vs. Guilt
4. Industry vs. Inferiority
5. Identity vs. Role Confusion
6. Intimacy vs. Isolation
7. Generativity vs. Stagnation
8. Integrity vs. Despair
Assumptions of psychosocial development theory
- Social expectations in each stage are the same across all cultures.
- Parental influence exists throughout the stages of childhood and adolescence.
- Humans develop similarly across the eight stages.
Applications of psychosocial development theory
Strengths and weaknesses of psychosocial development theory
- A strength of this Erikson theory is its ability to connect important psychosocial development across a person’s lifespan. This approach provides a pragmatic perspective on personality development.
- However, a major weakness of Erikson’s psychosocial development theory is that Erikson himself concedes the theory falls short of explaining how and why development occurs.
- Another strength of psychosocial development theory is that it demonstrates middle and late adulthood are active and significant periods of personal growth, while other theories deem both stages irrelevant.
- Erikson does not clarify how the outcome of one psychosocial stage influences one’s personality in a later stage.
- Adding to the theory’s strengths is that people can relate to the various stages through their own experiences.
- The theory does not provide a universal method for crisis resolution.
- Unlike Freud’s psychoanalysis approach, that psychosocial development theory was built upon, Erikson offers a wider and more comprehensive view of humanity.
- The theory is dated, as it does not address the influence of single-parent households on a child.
How Does Psychosocial Development Theory Apply to Social Work?
Criticism of Psychosocial Development Theory
- Erikson lacks academic credentials.
- The theory fails to detail what type of experiences are necessary to resolve the conflicts in each stage.
- Erikson employed an ambiguous style of writing and used a variety of terms such as identity development, identity consolidation and identity foreclosure to define identity without offering an explanation for their use. This practice may leave readers or followers confused.
- Psychosocial development theory focused on crises and asserted the completion of one crisis was necessary for the next crisis in development.
- Social explanations used may not translate to other cultures besides the U.S. middle-class.
- Erikson does not accurately address the experience of women, as evidenced in the Generativity vs. Stagnation stage. Women are more likely to move away from child-bearing and refocus on the self.