Industry versus Inferiority Stage: Overview & Examples

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  • 0:01 Child Development
  • 1:13 Industry & Inferiority
  • 2:38 Examples
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Clause
In this lesson, you will learn about Erik Erikson's fourth stage of socioemotional development: industry versus inferiority. Following this lesson, you will have a chance to test your knowledge with a short quiz.

Child Development

When someone asks you about child development, if you're like most people, your first thoughts would likely have to do with visible characteristics of growth and development. Physical attributes, such as height and weight, are easily seen and can be measured. Additionally, anyone who has been around children can quickly identify key developmental milestones such as walking, talking and running. All of these are straightforward and easy to recognize.

But what about those changes that are unseen? Children not only undergo rapid physical changes, but cognitive, social and emotional changes are taking place nearly as fast. While a little more challenging to measure and not always as obvious, these hidden developmental changes are important nonetheless.

Erik Erikson, a prominent mind in the field of developmental psychology, believed that all humans pass through eight unique stages of socioemotional development over the course of a lifetime. Erikson believed that each stage required mastery of a key developmental task. Achieving the task leads to a healthy lifelong association with that task, and on the contrary, failure to achieve the task can result in a fragile emotional state relative to that developmental task.

Definition of Industry and Inferiority

According to Erikson's model, the fourth stage of socioemotional development takes place from around six years of age to puberty. This stage is associated with mastering the developmental task of industry. In this context, industry is in reference to production. Children who are immersed in an environment that fosters their creativity and highlights their innate abilities to use their newly developing skills yields a sense of industriousness. These children are given opportunities to generate and produce, which leads to confidence and self-esteem. They are able to tell themselves, 'if I work hard and use my knowledge and skills, I can be productive.'

On the other hand, a child who does not develop a sense of industry, but rather views him or herself as inept and incapable, will likely develop a self-view of inferiority as compared to his or her peers. Not only does this self-view hinder his or her motivation to create and produce, but, as importantly, it has a significant negative impact on how the child sees him- or herself within the all-important social context as well. A child who develops a sense of inferiority as related to his or her peers early on will have a difficult time overcoming that feeling later on in life.

These two dichotomous and polar concepts led Erickson to refer to this stage of socioemotional development as industry versus inferiority. We will now look at a couple of examples to further illustrate the differences.


Sally is a new third grader. She is looking at her math book for the first time and sees numbers mixed with unfamiliar signs and symbols. She wonders to herself, 'What in the world does this all mean, and how am I ever going to learn it?' Naturally, Sally is going to require some support and guidance from her teacher and parents along the way, but in the right environment with appropriate support she will no doubt learn to master multiplication and division. Developing new math skills is important, but equally as important during this stage in her development is what she is learning about herself.

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