Erik Erikson–Ego Identity versus Role Confusion


According to Erik Erikson, the psychologist, adolescence is defined as the period of life between childhood and adulthood. Adolescents pass through the psychosocial crises of identity versus role confusion which explores who the individuals are in a given societal setting. According to Erik Erikson, there are different developmental stages of individuals from childhood to adulthood. These steps include:

Basic Trust versus Basic Mistrust

During this phase, the infant is approximately one year and are born between mistrusting and trusting their parents. If the infant’s needs and demands are met dependably, the babies develop a sense of trust in the predictability conditions of the environment. However, frustrated infants may become fearful, concerned, and suspicious about security (Erikson, 2003, p. 31). In real life experience, infants of about a year tend to trust their parents while others have mistrust on their parents. 

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Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt

During this stage, the toddler is approximately two years and struggles to gain a sense of control and independence of functions of the body. Small and large motor skills are quite apparent to the parents of such babies. During this stage, talking, walking, learning to control bowel, feeding and dressing oneself functions are some of the tasks that children learn. If the child repeatedly fails to master these skills, the infant may experience shame and self-doubt. In real life situations, children at this stage struggle to walk, talk and learn different functions of their bodies.  

Initiative versus Guilt

In this stage, the children are about 3 – 5 years of age. They learn to carry out plans, undertake new projects, and initiate tasks. Parental care and support for their initiatives lead to a sense of joy and happiness among the children (Erikson, 2003, p. 43). Nonetheless, if the babies are unable to get a sense of these initiatives, they tend to develop strong feelings of resentment, unworthiness, and guilt. According to life experience, children tend to have actions and new tasks that make them happy and joyous.

Competence versus Inferiority

During this stage, children either at home or school encounter a new set of experiences and expectations. They require skills for their bodies to function as those of adults adequately. If the children are not in a position to meet these experiences, they might conclude they are inferior, mediocre, and inadequate and may lose faith in their power of becoming competent. In real life circumstances, children at this stage try to be competent rather than inferior while undertaking several tasks either at home or in school.  

Identity versus Role Confusion

During this stage, the adolescents are in the early 20s. Childhood ends at puberty and adulthood starts at this stage (Erikson, 2009, p. 11). The primary challenge at this stage is to find one’s identity. However, failure to find a character results in despair and role confusion. In life experience, adults who fail in discovering their identities may end up in depression and role confusion.

Intimacy versus Isolation

In this stage, both men and women learn to be intimate emotionally and physically with the other adults usually in marriage. In forming a close relationship, lovers should be autonomous, initiative, trusting and should understand themselves (Erikson, 2009, p. 17). Failure of intimacy can lead to a painful sense of isolation and loneliness. In real life experience, people in the society, form an affection of love relationship in their marriage.

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  1. Erikson, E. H. (2003). Childhood and society. WW Norton & Company.
  2. Erikson, E.H. (2009). Identity development throughout the lifetime: An examination of Eriksonian theory. Graduate Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1(2), 14.
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