Erickson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development: Fidelity, Love, Care, and Wisdom

Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, developed by the German-American developmental psychologist Erik, are a series of eight different stages which Erikson believed that any mentally healthy human beings pass through as they age from infancy into late adulthood. These psychosocial developmental stages are sometimes used in conjunction with the more typical developmental stages of child-to-adult psychology, although Erikson’s psychosocial stages are more specific than the overreaching categories of regular development.

Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages are broken into challenges which must be confronted in order to pass into the next psychosocial stage of development. Ideally, these psychosocial challenges will be successfully completed in order as a person ages from infancy until their late adulthood years. However, it is not necessarily required for each psychosocial stage to be mastered or completed in order for someone to advance onto the next psychosocial stage. For example, someone who is in the young adult stage of ‘Love’ will still advance onto the adulthood stage of ‘Care,’ regardless of whether or not the challenge of Intimacy vs. Isolation has been successfully confronted. When a challenge is not successfully confronted, it is believed that they will reappear again to be confronted in the future.

There are eight different stages in Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Each stage is broken down into four components: virtues, psycho social crises which occur during this stage, significant relationships in this stage, and the overarching existential question during this stage.These stages, which are typically referred to by their Virtues, are: Hopes, Will, Purpose, Competence, Fidelity, Love, Care and Wisdom. The last four stages focus on adolescence through late adulthood, or from 13 years of age until death.

Fidelity

The fifth stage of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development is called Fidelity, which refers to the virtue of Fidelity which develops during this stage. This stage, which covers the ages of thirteen to nineteen years, is centered around the conflict of identity versus role confusion. During this stage, an individual is no longer considered a child–they are adolescents. A concern of appearance, and especially of how they appear to others, develops during this stage as a part of the growing development of identity and self-identity. Because adolescence occurs in between childhood and adulthood, adolescents in this stage are primarily considered with finding out who they are and what they want to be when they become adults. They often experiment with concepts and behaviors which may mirror the concepts and behaviors they will encounter when they enter into adulthood. For example, adolescents often begin to join groups of like-minded people such as political groups or religious gatherings, and they may also look for part-time jobs in a field which they enjoy, such as working at a daycare or auto parts store.
Adolescents who are able to explore their sense of identity with encouragement will develop a stronger sense of identity that adolescents who are not properly fostered, which can lead to role confusion—or the lack of a developed role for an adolescent. Common examples of role confusion include adolescents who are unable to develop interests, skills or an idea of who they want to be in the future.

Love
Erikson 2.1 Love
The sixth stage of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development is called Love, which refers to the virtue of love which develops during this stage. This stage, which covers the ages of twenty to twenty four years, is centered around the conflict of intimacy versus isolation. During this stage, individuals are finally considered to be adulthoods. This period of young adulthood still involves the development of identity and self, however it is primarily focused on the development of relationships with other people. Friendships and romantic relationships developed during this stage may, for some people, be the relationships which last them well into their adulthood or even until their death. People during this stage are confronted with the conflict of intimacy versus isolation; when people are able to feel confident and trusting enough to develop intimacy with other people, they can develop intimate and satisfying relationships. However, when an individual is afraid of trusting others, or is afraid of creating connections, they tend to isolate themselves from other people. Their isolation does not need to be literal—they may still have friends and even romantic partners—but because they do not have full confidence in their ability to be intimate with other people, they remain, in a sense, isolated.

Care

The seventh stage of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development is called Care, which refers to the virtue of care which develops during this stage. This stage, which covers the age of twenty five to sixty four years, is centered around the conflict of generativist versus stagnation. During this stage, adults have generally developed a sense of identity, both with themselves and other people. The conflict during this phrase involves generavity, or the concern of being able to guide the next generation of people in a positive way. Examples of generavity include working for a children’s charity organization, achieving a level of responsibility in the community, and creating a positive environment for any children in the family. Generavity is part of the overreaching theme of productivity which occurs during this stage. Without a sense of productivity, adults in this stage may feel as if they are stagnate, which can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and depression.

Wisdom
Erikson 2.2 wisdom
The eighth and final stage in Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development is Wisdom, which refers to the virtue of wisdom which develops during this stage. This stage, which covers the ages of sixty five years until death, centers around the conflict of integrity versus despair. As a person enters late adulthood, they desire a sense of integrity and a sense that they have accomplished what they have wanted to in their lifetime. This is usually accomplished through retrospection, or looking back on their life, their relationships, and their accomplishments. If this retrospection leads them to believe they have led a fulfilling, productive and happy life, they will develop a positive sense of integrity about themselves. If they feel disappointment because of what they have or have not done in their life, this can lead to an overall feeling of despair about their life as well as their self-identity.

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