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Erik Erikson on stage of Adolescence, Identity, Identity Crisis

Erik Erikson on the stage of Adolescence

Erik Erikson gave the psychosocial theory of development. He proposed that humans are motivated to achieve competence in various areas of life. Erikson explained in his theory how our personalities are influenced by the social experiences we gain throughout our lives.

He described psychosocial development through eight stages. In each stage, an individual experiences a psychological crisis which may yield positive or negative outcomes. An individual may rise to their fullest potential during the crisis or they may fail.

People progress through a series of stages as they grow and change throughout life. During each stage, people face a developmental conflict that must be resolved to successfully develop the primary virtue of that stage.

The stages of psychosocial development are:

stages of psychosocial development

Adolescence is a crucial period in the developmental years.

The fifth stage of Erikson’s development discusses the conflict faced by adolescents- Identity vs Role confusion. This stage occurs approximately between the ages of 12 and 18. Adolescents are eager to explore their personal identity and a sense of self.

“Who am I?”

A question very commonly asked by adolescents.

This is the time of life where they are transitioning from being a child (where they were told what do and what not to do) to being an adult (where they must know what’s right and what’s wrong). This is the stage where they need to figure out a lot about themselves. The main element is the development of personal identity. They need to explore their ideas, beliefs, opinions about academics, relationships, and so many other things. Through social interaction, a conscious sense of self also develops with various new experiences and day-to-day interactions in life. Adolescents need to figure out the roles they will occupy as an adult.

From this stage, one of the two alternatives may occur-



The individual may be confused, insecure about the circumstances in life.  They need to identify the priorities in life (career, relationships, society) and set goals to achieve them as an adult. With appropriate encouragement and support by the social surroundings, they will be successful in understanding their personal identity and shall emerge with a coherent sense of self.

According to Bee (1992), what should happen at the end of this stage is “a reintegrated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be, and of one’s appropriate sex role”.


Role confusion-

When an individual remains unsure about their desires, beliefs and roles, they may be left with feelings of confusion or insecurities about themselves and the future. They may not be clear with what path to choose and what to avoid. These role confusions may continue even in adulthood. Adolescents may be indecisive, may not actively search for their personal identity or may be forced by parents to conform with their ideologies, such things lead to a weaker sense of self. Adolescents who struggle in consciously adopting a positive role in their lives struggle in future as well.


Identity Crisis

Identity was described by Erikson as “a subjective sense as well as an observable quality of personal sameness and continuity, paired with some belief in the sameness and continuity of some shared world image. As a quality of unself-conscious living, this can be gloriously obvious in a young person who has found himself as he has found his communality.”

The term ‘identity crisis’ was coined by Erikson. Developing a sense of identity is an important part of adolescent years but he did not believe that the formation and growth of identity were just limited to adolescence. Instead, he believed that identity is something that changes and grows throughout life as people experience new challenges and tackle different problems.


Some common questions adolescents may ask

How am I different from my parents? Or siblings?

Do I believe in God?

Do I believe in spirituality?

Do I want to identify as a boy/girl/neither?

Who am I attracted to?

What are my talents? What am I good at?

Do I enjoy being alone more or being with others?

What subjects at school/college interest me the most?

How will I earn a living?

What’s my role as a human in the world? How will I contribute?



Finding oneself is a necessity. If we don’t know ourselves if we don’t know our likes and dislikes if we don’t understand our thoughts and feelings, how can we understand those of the others and how can we expect others to understand us?

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde



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Written by Aastha Kothari

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Nidhi Dahiya

Amazing work

Amna Alim

very informative!!

Brinda S

Well written!

Stuti Jhaveri

Good work!!

Riya Rajkotiya

Good one !!!!!

Sreejita Sarkar

Your article is incredible. It helped me learn so much about infants. It was really interesting. I would have loved to see a connection between Jean Piaget and Erikson’s works on children. But that apart, your writing is impeccable, not to mention your illustrations

Sneha Agrawal

I think that was quite a brief and concized article on Erik Erikson’s theory.Erikson believed that his theory was a “tool to tho k rather than factual analysis”.His theory gives us a way to view development of a person through an entire lifespan,but at the sane time it does not detail how u move from one stage to the next.


The article is very informative , it helps understand a lot of things. Erikson’s work is articulated in a brief and simple manner which makes it easier to understand.

Jasnoor Kaur

Hey! It was a nice article which is concise yet describes Erikson’s adolescence stage in detail. This is actually considered the most imp stage and this description and elaboration surely clears any doubts one may have regarding this stage. Keep it up, really appreciate this!

Janvi Shah

Your article was incredible!!! I really loved it great!!!

Maniparna Sen

That is an interesting and well-written article. If you could elaborate on the conflict that adolescents have with figures of authority such as parents and teachers and the causes and reasons behind the occurrence of such conflicts, it would have been extremely helpful. Looking forward to reading many more of your articles. Till then, take care.


Getting to know about this theory for the first time. Thank you so much


Getting to know about eriksontheory for the first time. Thank you so much

Simone Morarka

A very well written article! One can easily see that you’ve done your research for this

Simone Morarka

Looking forward to more of your work!!

Jigyasa vashistha

Amazing content

Aashna Parekh

Your article makes Erikson’s theory very easy to understand! Really great article!

Prerna koul

This is quite a well structured article. You’ve described almost everything. Great work.

Maanasa Balaji

Beautifully written article and full of information. I would’ve loved to also read about the limitations of Erikson’s theory and it’s connection to other developmental theories. Loved reading this!

Anushka Kapadia

I remember learning this in college. A good recap given by you. Thank you!

Anushka Kapadia

I remember learning this in college. A good recap given by you. Thank you!

Parishree Pandya

The article was written well, but I found it very abrupt that you jumped to the 5th stage. I know the title said it was about the adolescent age but I think you could have discussed about the previous stages a bit too. Also you could have added measures that could help someone resolve or not go into an identity crisis.

Reema Adhikary

Well-written article! Really informative. Appreciate your work and efforts, keep writing more


It was an interesting article to read. I would like to suggest that you can also use the concept of self esteem and self identity along with identity crisis to have a better idea of the whole concept for the readers. Thank you.

Andrea Shannon

Good to read.!
Yet describes well