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Understanding Psychological Development from Infancy to Adolescence

by on 11/07/2023 798

Psychosocial development is a theory that identifies the psychological and social stages through which a healthy developing human pass from infancy to late adulthood. Psychosocial skills on the other hand are a performance component that refers to an individual’s ability to interact in society and process emotions which include mental, emotional, spiritual dimensions, social and self-management skills.

According to Erik Homburger Erikson, who was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, development of personality is determined through interaction of internal maturational plan and external societal demands. Eric Erikson came up with a theory of psychosocial that is composed of eight stages that are biologically fixed. Each stage refers to the challenges that people would face throughout their life. The challenges are met through the interaction of inner psychological influences and outer social influences.




Favourable Outcome

Unfavourable Outcome


1st year of life

Trust vs. Mistrust

Faith in the environment and future events

Suspicion, fear of future events

2nd year

Autonomy vs. Doubt

A sense of self-control and adequacy

Feelings of shame and self-doubt

3rd through 5th years

Initiative vs. Guilt

Ability to be a “self-starter,” to initiate one’s own activities

A sense of guilt and inadequacy to be on one’s own

6th year to puberty

Industry vs. Inferiority

Ability to learn how things work, to understand and organize

A sense of inferiority at understanding and organizing

Transition years


Identity vs. Confusion

Seeing oneself as a unique and integrated person

Confusion over who and what one really is


Early adulthood

Intimacy vs. Isolation

Ability to make commitments to others, to love

Inability to form affectionate relationship

Middle age

Generativity vs. Self-absorption

Concern for family and society in general

Concern only for self-one’s own well-being and prosperity

Aging years

Integrity vs. Despair

A sense of integrity and fulfilment; willingness to face death

Dissatisfaction with life; despair over prospect of death

Table: Psych-mental health hub 


Ages 0-1 year old (Infant)

Infants develop trust and they believe the world is dependable. When parents are not sensitive or responsive, the infant become insecure, lacks trust and withdraws from others.

Trust vs Mistrust
  • Infants are regularly fed.
  • Caregivers respond when infants cry.
  • Caregivers give comfort when the child is in distressed.


Ages 1-3 years old (Toddler)

At this stage, the child develops autonomy and will attempt challenges and become more sufficient. When parents are restrictive, the child can feel doubt and become reluctant to attempt new challenges. Caregivers should support child performance and allow freedom of choices.

Autonomy vs Shame Doubt

  • Child feeds self.
  • Began to dress self.
  • Toilet trained.
  • Moves around environment.


Ages 3-6 years old (Preschooler)

Based on Erikson’s theory, children at the age of 3 to 6 years, it is at the third stage. The main conflict faced by the children is initiative versus guilt. Children always come out with the question whether he is good or bad.

Initiative vs Guilt

  • This stage revolves around locomotors development and a sense of independence.
  • As the child enters preschool, he learns from playing and learning exercise, thus beginning to explore the world beyond his environment.
  • The child develops a basic sense of trust in the immediate environment and himself, thus initiating intellectual and motor activities.


Ages 6-12 years old (Grade- schoolers)

Industry vs. Inferiority is the fourth stage in this theory. The definition of industry is being productive upon receiving an evaluation of one's work. In some studies, industry may also be referred to as competence. The definition of inferiority is an individual becoming discouraged, feeling inferior, or incompetent upon receiving an evaluation of one’s work.

  • Child starts to master new abilities, when empowered he builds up a sentiment capability and self-assurance. Otherwise, when adults do not encourage, he does not have confidence in his abilities and doubts that he will be successful. Thus, child will feel inferior.
  • Once school begins, grades and feedback from parents and teachers encourage children to pay more attention to the actual quality of their work. Many childrem’s development is disrupted when family life has neglected to set them up for school life, or when school life neglects to maintain the guarantees of earlier stages.
  • If the children are empowered and encouraged for their initiative, they start to feel productive and feel certain about their capacity to succeed. On the other hand, if this activity is not empowered, in the event that it is confined by guardians or educators, then the child starts to feel inferior, questioning his own particular capacities and along these lines may not achieve his or her potential.


Ages 12-19 years old (Adolescence)

Adolescence is a complex transitional process involving advancement from the immaturity and social dependency of childhood into adult life with the goal and expectation of fulfilled developmental potential, personal ability to act independently, and social responsibility.

Identity vs Role Confusion 

  • This stage is mainly about where these adolescents are heading to (future) and how they will fit into society.
  • Failure in dealing with their conflict may cause them to be confused and take on an identity that adults would oppose, and it is an identity Erikson referred to as negative identity.

This article was written by Nurulhuda Jaafar (Occupational Therapist) from SI World. SI World is a professional therapy centre for children with special needs with centre locations in Klang Valley, Kedah, Perak and Sabah.