What Is Conflict?

Psychosocial conflict
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According to Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, a conflict is a turning point during which an individual struggles to attain some psychological quality. Sometimes referred to as a psychosocial crisis, this can be a time of both vulnerability and strength, as the individual works toward success or failure.

Conflict at Each Stage Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s theory outlines a series of eight stages that all people go through as they progress through life.

At each point in development, a conflict emerges that can contribute or impede an individual’s growth.

Stage 1

For example, in Erikson's first stage of psychosocial development, the conflict centers on trust versus mistrust.

In the earliest stages of a child's life, they are learning whether they can trust the people around them. Children who learn that they can trust and depend on their caregivers emerge with a sense of security and safety. Those who are not able to trust their caregivers may be left with the feeling that the world is unreliable.

Stage 2

The conflict at the second stage of development is centered on autonomy versus shame and doubt. Children are learning to become somewhat independent, so being encouraged to perform some tasks on their own can lead to feelings of independence and autonomy. Children who do not successfully resolve this conflict may be left feeling ashamed or doubtful of their abilities.

Stage 3

The third stage is focused on the conflict between initiative and guilt. Self-directed activities and play give kids the opportunity to learn how to take initiative. Kids who successfully resolve this conflict develop a sense of purpose, while those who do not manage this conflict well may be left with feelings of guilt.

Stage 4

The primary conflict during the fourth stage of development centers on industry versus inferiority. School and peers play a major role in the outcome of this conflict. Kids who get along well with peers and who feel accomplished in their academic work will emerge from this stage feeling competent. Those who manage this conflict poorly end up feeling inferior and lacking in self-confidence.

Stage 5

The fifth stage of Erikson’s theory involves the conflict between identity and role confusion. Teenagers begin to explore new roles and try to figure out who they are as they approach adulthood. Handling this conflict well leads to a strong sense of personal identity. Those who struggle at this stage will be left feeling confused about who they are and what they want to do with their life.

Stage 6

As people enter adulthood, the primary psychosocial conflict is centered on intimacy versus isolation. Forming strong bonds with other people, particularly romantic attachments, plays a vital role in resolving this conflict. Those who succeed are able to develop strong and lasting relationships while those who fail will be left feeling isolated and lonely.

Stage 7

The seventh stage of development deals with the conflict between generativity versus stagnation.

People want to feel that they have contributed something to the world. Raising a family, succeeding at work or volunteering in the community can help resolve this conflict and develop a sense of accomplishment.

Stage 8

The conflict during the final years of life focuses on looking back with either a sense of integrity versus despair. If a person feels satisfied with their life, they will emerge with a sense of wisdom and satisfaction. Those who do not manage this conflict successfully will look back on their life with feelings of regret and bitterness.

More Psychology Definitions: The Psychology Dictionary

Also Known As: Psychosocial Crisis

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