Erikson criticized the heavy emphasis given by Freud on the sexual and biological factors in the developing personality. He felt that relatively more attention should be given to the social factor. Erikson identified eight stages of life that characterize the unending development of a person. He characterized each stage by a particular conflict that needs to be resolved successfully before a person can move to the next stage.
However, these eight stages are not totally separable, and the crises are never fully resolved. Movement between stages is development, as explained below:
I. Infancy: during the first year of life, a child resolves the basic crisis of trust vs. mistrust. An infant who is cared for in an affectionate way learns to trust other people. Lake of love and affection results in mistrust. This stage makes a serious impact on a child that influences events for remaining life.
II. Early childhood: in the second and third years of life, a child begins to assert independence. If the child is allowed to control these aspects of life that the child is capable of controlling, a sense of autonomy will develop. If the child encounters constant disapproval by eiders a sense of self-doubt and shame is likely to develop.
III. Play age: the four and five year old seeks to discover just how much he can do. If a child is encouraged to experiment and to achieve reasonable goals, he will develop a sense of initiative. If the child is blocked and made to feel incapable, he will develop a sense of 'guilt and lack of self-confidence'.
IV. School age: from ages 6 to 12, a child learns many new skills and develops social abilities. If a child experiences real progress at a rate compatible with his abilities, he or she will develop a sense of enterprise. The reverse situation results in a sense of inferiority.
V. Adolescence: the crisis of the teenage years is to gain a sense of identity rather than to become confused about who you are. While undergoing rapid biological changes, the teenager is also typing to establish him or herself as socially separate from the parents. The autonomy, initiative and enterprise developed in earlier stages are very important in helping the teenager to successfully resolve this crisis and prepare for adulthood.
VI. Early adulthood: the young adult during the twenties faces the crisis of intimacy versus isolation. The sense of identity developed during the teenage years allows the young adult to begin developing deep and lasting relationships.
VII. Adulthood: during this stage, the adults face the crisis of generatively versus self-absorption. Self-absorbed persons never develop an ability to like beyond themselves. They become absorbed in career advancement and maintenance; and they never learn to have concern for future generations, the welfare of organizations to which they belong or the welfare of society as a whole. Generative people see the world as much bigger than themselves. Productivity at work and societal advancement become important to them. Through innovation and creativity, they begin to exert influence that benefits their organizations.
VIII. Mature adulthood: the person is developed as a highly mature person. He has gained a sense of wisdom and perspective that can really guide the younger generations.