Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development describes how people develop their personality through various stages of their life, starting from birth. The theory includes eight stages, each of which include a psychosocial crisis which, based on how the individual resolves the conflict, can either have a positive or negative impact on personality development. These stages include trust versus mistrust (birth to one and a half years old), autonomy versus shame (one and a half to three years old), initiative versus guilt (three to five years old), industry versus inferiority (five to twelve years old), identity versus role confusion (twelve to eighteen years old), intimacy versus isolation (eighteen to forty years old), generativity versus stagnation (forty to sixty-five years old), and ego integrity versus despair (sixty-five years old and above).
There are a few benefits of using this theory. First, the stages are outlined well into adulthood, meaning it can be applied throughout various stages of life.
Second, the theory explains that—should an individual successfully navigate a psychosocial crisis—at the conclusion of each stage, they will acquire a basic virtue. These virtues include hope, purpose, and care.
Finally, each stage includes an existential question that an individual may unconsciously be asking themselves as they move through the stage or navigate a crisis. For example, in the first stage, trust versus mistrust, a young child is essentially asking, "Can I trust the world?" In this stage, the young child is exploring new things and relationships to determine whether they are trustworthy.