Children's Identity Development Theory: Model & Stages

Instructor: Mary Firestone
Learn about children's identity development theory. Find out what the different stages of development are and review the model. Read the lesson, and then take the quiz to test your new knowledge.

Children's Identity Development

Identity development is a process of maturing into a distinct version of yourself and your unique qualities. It's a process that's also known as individuation. Eric Erickson, a psychologist who famously created the model for this process, the Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development, based it on the theory that as we grow, we reach certain crisis points in each stage. The way we resolve these points can be healthy or they can be unhealthy, and these choices can ultimately determine our sense of 'self,' or ego identity.

Erickson's Model of Developmental Stages

Trust vs. Mistrust

During the infancy stage, children learn about the world around them. If they find their caregivers loving and reliable, they will develop a sense of trust. If they do not receive the loving care they need to develop trust, they will experience fear and see the world as an untrustworthy place.

Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt

During this stage, children learn to have control over physical skills, which includes things like toilet training, the ability to pick up things, expressing certain food preferences, and walking. Successful completion of this stage leads the child to develop a sense of independence. If the stage isn't successful, she may develop feelings of shame and self-doubt.

Initiative vs. Guilt

The child begins to assert herself in the world during play and experience a sense of control in social interactions. Success at this stage creates feelings of confidence and ability. If assertiveness is too strong at this stage, a child may experience feelings of failure and guilt.

Industry vs. Inferiority

A child at this stage must experience themselves as able to face the challenge of learning new skills, and if they don't, they risk feeling inferior.

Identity vs. Role Confusion

In adolescence, teens explore independence and test limits. Teens acquire identity through this process, and also through gender roles, social skills and a sense of accomplishment. If this doesn't occur, confusion might result.

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