Understanding Erik Erikson’s Stages for Caregivers and Educators

Image from Practical Psychology

In the realm of education, fostering an environment conducive to student development is important. One influential framework in this pursuit is Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, which outlined eight stages individuals navigate from infancy to old age (Erikson, 1950). 

This article attempts to shed light on Erikson’s stages, provide practical insights for caregivers and educators in supporting their children or students’ growth within each stage as well as draw parallels between some of these stages and the lessons delivered at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) that support learners with dyslexia including those who learn differently. 

Trust vs. Mistrust (Infancy):

During infancy, the foundation of trust is laid, vital for future relationships and learning (Erikson, 1950). By providing responsive care and a nurturing environment, caregivers and educators play a crucial role in instilling this trust, ensuring children’s needs are met promptly and consistently.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (Toddlerhood):

In the toddler years, children begin to assert independence while still relying on caregivers. Educators can nurture autonomy by offering choices within boundaries and acknowledging children’s efforts, fostering self-confidence and initiative (Santrock, 2019).

Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool):

Preschoolers explore their capabilities and engage in imaginative play, seeking to take initiative in their activities. Educators can encourage this by providing opportunities for creative expression and offering positive feedback, thereby fostering a sense of purpose and accomplishment (Santrock, 2019).

Industry vs. Inferiority (Elementary School):

Elementary years focus on developing academic and social skills. Educators can support this by providing engaging learning experiences, praising effort over outcome, and creating a classroom culture valuing diverse talents, thus promoting a sense of competence and mastery (Berk, 2018). 

For instance, in DAS Main Literacy Programme (MLP) classes, Educational Therapists (EdTs) use a multi-sensory approach during lessons to provide that engaging learning environment to help enhance their students’ learning experiences. Additionally, providing emotionally sound instruction in class promotes learning with increased positive learning outcomes. For example, praising students when it is due is imperative to developing a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescence):

Adolescents may grapple with forming a sense of identity. Educators can aid this process by facilitating reflection, encouraging critical thinking, providing guidance in exploring values and goals and fostering self-assurance and direction (Berk, 2018). In DAS MLP lessons, EdTs encourage students to engage in higher order thinking to reflect on their learning and how they can improve, grow as individuals and help them manage the formation of their sense of identity at this stage of their lives.

Intimacy vs. Isolation (Young Adulthood):

In young adulthood, individuals tend to seek meaningful connections. Therefore, educators can help promote healthy relationships by fostering communication, empathy, and respect for diversity as well as nurture skills essential for successful social interactions (Santrock, 2019). In DAS iStudySmart lessons, facilitators support their students, which includes young adults, to better understand their own strengths and weaknesses through a series of self management concepts. This not only heightens their self-awareness but also promotes intercommunication and meaningful relationships with their peers.

Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle Adulthood):

Middle adulthood entails contributing to society and future generations. Educators can encourage this by providing opportunities for mentorship and continued learning, fostering a sense of purpose and fulfilment (Berk, 2018).

Integrity vs. Despair (Late Adulthood):

In late adulthood, individuals reflect on their lives and seek acceptance. Educators can foster this process by creating inclusive environments valuing elders’ wisdom and experiences and promoting a sense of integrity and dignity (Santrock, 2019).

Erik Erikson’s stages offer valuable insights for caregivers and educators to understand and support their children or students’ development effectively. By recognising the significance of each stage and implementing appropriate strategies, they can create environments conducive to nurturing learners into confident and resilient individuals. 

DAS recognises the spectrum of learning profiles of students at various stages of development and therefore, provides programmes to support these learning needs.

Article written by:
Melody Chang, RETA Associate Member Plus


Berk, L. E. (2018). Development through the lifespan (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.

Santrock, J. W. (2019). Life-span development (17th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.