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Learn about children’s identity development theory.

Find out what the different stages of development are and review the model. Read the lesson, and then take the quiz to test your new knowledge.

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Children’s Identity Development

Identity development is a process of maturing into a distinct version of yourself and your unique qualities. It’s a process that’s also known as individuation. Eric Erickson, a psychologist who famously created the model for this process, the Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development, based it on the theory that as we grow, we reach certain crisis points in each stage. The way we resolve these points can be healthy or they can be unhealthy, and these choices can ultimately determine our sense of ‘self,’ or ego identity.

Erickson’s Model of Developmental Stages

Trust vs. Mistrust

During the infancy stage, children learn about the world around them. If they find their caregivers loving and reliable, they will develop a sense of trust. If they do not receive the loving care they need to develop trust, they will experience fear and see the world as an untrustworthy place.

Initiative vs. Guilt

The child begins to assert herself in the world during play and experience a sense of control in social interactions.

Success at this stage creates feelings of confidence and ability. If assertiveness is too strong at this stage, a child may experience feelings of failure and guilt.

Identity vs. Role Confusion

In adolescence, teens explore independence and test limits. Teens acquire identity through this process, and also through gender roles, social skills and a sense of accomplishment. If this doesn’t occur, confusion might result.

Intimacy vs. Isolation

In young adulthood, it is important to develop close bonds with people, or young adults may risk loneliness and isolation. Erickson believed that the trust developed in the early stages of development builds a sense of identity that makes strong bonds possible.

Generativity vs. Stagnation

As adults, we continue to develop and build our lives through relationships, community and careers.

If this doesn’t occur, then we risk a sense of stagnation.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

In this stage of old age, adults should feel a sense of fulfillment, pride in accomplishments and acceptance of self. If in old age we look back with a lot of regrets, feelings of bitterness and despair may be the result.

Learning Outcomes

If you can easily recollect the details of this lesson, you can also:

  • Write the definition of individuation
  • Point out the basis of the Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development
  • Evaluate each of Erickson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

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