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Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development and psychology of International Relations

Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development and psychology of International Relations

 What is Psychosocial Development?

Psychological development is the development of human beings which includes emotional, cognitive, and intellectual development which started from birth and till old age psychological development occurs. There are many theories of personality in psychology but Erik Erikson’s theory of psychological development is prominent. Like a sociologist named Sigmund Freud, Erikson also explained psychological development through a series of stages.

Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson has proposed eight stages through which our personality develops from infancy to old age. He considered social experience valuable throughout life. According to him, in each stage, we find a conflict between the social environment and psychological needs. A person needs to complete these stages if he or she wants to be a confident member of society. We become successful people with human virtues and it makes a positive impact on our personality. Completing these stages give us the courage to face the challenges in our future life.

Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust

It is the first stage of Erikson’s psychological model; psychological development starts from infancy, and we are uncertain about the world in the initial 18 months. During these months we developed basic trust. Now for nurturing, love, and stability, it’s up to the caregivers. If the care is predictable and reliable, the child would gain a sense of security, and confidence and be considered safe in this world. If the care is unreliable and inconsistent, then trust will break. Failure in this stage results in the development of suspicion, fear, anxiety, mistrust, and feelings of lack of ability to predict the surroundings and world.

Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt

This stage focuses on early childhood which starts from 18 months till three years. In this stage, we have an increased perception of our control over physical skills, and we are gaining independence. In this stage the teachers and parents give children a limited choice, to perform an action on their own which results in a sense of independence and feelings of autonomy in the child. In this stage, if the parents encourage their child and avoid criticism if they fail, it results in a feeling of success and confidence in the child. On the other hand, if we criticize excessively then this results in the feeling of being unable to survive and shame in the children. For the virtue of will, we need to make a suitable balance between shame, doubt, and autonomy.

Stage 3: Initiative Versus Guilt

This stage is between the age of three and five years, during preschool. During psychological development, we find a conflict between initiative and guilt, and we start direct social interactions. Our parents considered our behavior aggressive, overly assertive, and energetic and we are discovering our interpersonal skills. In this stage, restriction, and increased criticism lead to a sense of guilt in the children. If a child becomes successful in this stage, they learn to feel secure, and capable and they get the ability to use their initiative. Failure in this stage leads to guilt and self-doubt and we find ourselves unable to lead. Success is important in this stage, but a balance between guilt and initiative will develop a healthy mindset.

Stage 4: Industry Versus Inferiority

This stage is between the ages of 5 to 12 years. In this stage, the children started getting an education, learning to write, read and solve puzzles in math. In this stage, teachers and peer groups have a great role in the psychological development of children. In this stage, we feel pride in many tasks, and it is the motivating factor. In this stage, we learn to handle many academic and social expectations. Success in this stage leads to the virtue of competence and failure in this stage results in a sense of inferiority in doing any specific task. Balance in this stage leads to a sense of competence and achievement.

Stage 5: Identity Versus Role Confusion

This stage is between the ages of 12 to 18. In this stage, there is a conflict between identity and role confusion. Teenagers experience many opportunities and changes to the mind and body in this stage. We experience many questions like who we are. In this stage, teenagers give importance to values, beliefs, and goals but at the same time search for personal identity. This stage is a transition phase from childhood to adulthood. According to Erikson, the fifth stage of psychosocial development exists “between the morality learned by the child, and the ethics to be developed by the adult.” One will become successful who has a strong belief in oneself and failure results due to an identity crisis.

Stage 6: Intimacy Versus Isolation

This stage is between the ages of 18 and 40. In this stage, we make personal and intimate relationships. There is a conflict between intimacy and isolation in this stage. A person becomes successful if they make a happy and healthy relationship and it develops and virtue of love. Failure results due to the avoidance of intimacy, and one becomes depressed and isolated.

Stage 7: Generativity Versus Stagnation

This stage is between the ages of 40 and 65. In this stage, we consider ourselves a need for our children. We want our long-term impact on others. We look to society and make it more valuable and productive. In this stage, we consider ourselves successful if people consider us useful in society and our success lies in our contribution to society. Failure results due to our less impact on society, and we feel uninvolved, and unproductive in this world.

Stage 8: Integrity Versus Despair

This stage is between the ages of 65 and death. This is a stage of reflection in which we spend time reviewing our accomplishments throughout life. In this stage, success is the feeling of happiness due to our achieved goals and we have a sense of peace while getting closer to death. In this stage we consider ourselves a failure due to our mistakes and uncompleted tasks in our life, we are afraid of the end of our life without a sense of having lived well.

Application of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development in the psychology of International Relations

In International Relations there are various actors like states, non-states, and international organizations. All these actors have a great influence on international politics but particularly the state has a great impact on international relations. Inside the state, various factors influence the foreign policy of any state.

Leadership has a great role in shaping the foreign policy of any state. A leader experience Erikson’s eight stages of psychological development and the success and failure in a particular stage will be reflected in the personality of a leader. leaders who failed in most of the stages may be cautious about their states. They may lack confidence in a critical situation. On the other hand, if the country has severe inflation, the leader may behave like a beggar and may come under the influence of any other powerful country. But in the same situation, if a country is under any sanction, a country may get out of it by using its resources and believing in the leader. And this leader may be successful in every stage of Erikson’s theory of psychological development.


An individual gets through various stages, and, in each stage, psychological developments occur. Successful socialization of an individual can impact society. A person which failed in most of the stages got depressed and isolated. We can see the effect of these psychological developments on the leaders of states, and their personality has a greater impact on the foreign policy of a country.

 Picture Credit: Google Sites

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