“What is an industry in Erikson’s theory? What does inferiority mean?” This and many other questions frequently arise when the theory of psychosocial development is brought up. Based on my understanding of this interesting concept, I have compiled an explanation of these two terms from Erikson’s work and helped it with some examples to the best of my ability.
During this stage, children explore different interests, take on new challenges, and develop skills that shape their identity.
This concept comes from Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, an influential theory that identifies eight stages of human development, each with a central psychosocial conflict that individuals must resolve.
Definition of Industry vs. Inferiority
Children at this stage are eager to learn and accomplish new things, striving to meet the expectations set by their teachers or parents.
The difference between industry and inferiority is that while the former seeks to improve, the latter seeks to tear down.
Industry: I will practice my guitar until I play like Jimi Hendrix.
Inferiority: My guitar sucks because I’m not a good enough musician.
The Role of ‘Industry vs. Inferiority’ in Erikson’s Model
The ‘Industry vs. Inferiority’ stage is the fourth of Erikson’s eight stages and typically affects children between 6 and 11 years old. This stage often corresponds with early school years, where children develop a sense of pride and competence in their skills and abilities (industry) or may feel inadequate and inferior if they can’t measure up to standards.
Erikson believed that successfully navigating this stage helps children build the virtue of “Competency.” The successful resolution of industry vs. inferiority sets the foundation for the next stage in the model – ‘Identity vs. Role Confusion’ – associated with adolescence.
Characteristics of Industry vs. Inferiority Stage
Although Erik Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages are typically thought of in terms of the issues humans face at each stage, it is more helpful to focus on the characteristics that make individuals successful or unsuccessful at each stage.
Let’s explore the characteristics of the industry vs. inferiority stage.
- They have strong self-confidence and self-worth
- They can adapt to any situation and are unafraid to take risks
- They can learn from mistakes and use this knowledge for future success
- They have high levels of energy and motivation for life in general
- They can think critically, solve problems, and make good decisions based on their judgment
- The child knows that they are not good enough or inferior, but they don’t know how to deal with it
- Inferiority becomes a part of their identity
- They can become depressed and develop a negative self-image
- A sense of shame and guilt can develop
- They may try to hide their inferiority by compensating for it in other ways, such as being overly critical of others.
Impact of Industry vs. Inferiority
The industry vs. inferiority stage has lasting implications on an individual’s development, shaping their relationships with work, productivity, learning, and self-confidence.
1. Development of Self-Esteem: Successfully navigating this stage results in a strong sense of self-confidence and industry. Children who feel industrious develop positive self-esteem and are more likely to be driven, ambitious, and confident in their abilities.
2. Commitment Toward Goals: Children with a strong sense of industry tend to be more perseverant and committed to their goals. They are more likely to put in the effort to succeed in their tasks and can effectively cope with failures.
3. Future Learning and Productivity: The sense of competence and productivity developed during this stage significantly influences an individual’s approach to learning and work in their future life. People with a strong sense of industry are likelier to be engaged, motivated, and productive in their adult lives.
On the other hand, children who do not navigate this stage successfully and develop a sense of inferiority may struggle with the following:
1. Low Self-Esteem: Inferiority can lead to low self-esteem, a pattern of self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy. Over time, these feelings can impact an individual’s mental well-being.
2. Avoidance of Challenges: People with an ingrained sense of inferiority may shy away from challenges or new tasks for fear of failure or continued feeling of inadequacy.
3. Less Ambitious: An internalized sense of inferiority might make individuals less ambitious in their future undertakings, as they do not consider themselves capable enough.
4. Difficulty with Relationships: Inferiority feelings might affect individuals’ social interactions and relationships, as they may feel anxious about their image or perceived inadequacies.
Here’s an overview of industry vs. inferiority:
|Definition||Industry refers to a sense of competence and willingness to work hard.||Inferiority refers to feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, or unproductivity.|
|How it is Developed||Industry is developed through the successful completion of tasks, encouragement, and constructive feedback.||Inferiority is developed through constant failure, harsh criticism, or negative comparison.|
|Impact on Self-esteem||Boosts self-esteem, as the child feels competent and capable.||Lowers self-esteem, as the child feels inadequate and less competent than their peers.|
|Impact on Future Learning||Promotes active learning and engagement in future tasks.||Might lead to avoidance behaviors, with individuals shying away from new tasks or challenges.|
|Behavior Characteristics||Tendency to take initiative, be ambitious, and display resilience in the face of failure.||Tendency to avoid challenges, display less ambition, and struggle with coping mechanisms.|
|Impact on Relationships||Positive impact, as individuals can confidently interact with others.||Potential negative impact, as feelings of inadequacy may influence social interactions.|
Supporting Industry, Not Inferiority in the Classroom
Helping the class is a challenging endeavor. So many instructors don’t get beyond the basics of responding to student queries. Here are a few quick tips to support industry vs. inferiority in the class:
1. Develop a learning environment conducive to success.
The first step in supporting competence is creating an environment that encourages success. This means providing students with the tools and resources they need to succeed and giving them opportunities to get feedback on their work.
2. Encourage students to ask questions and seek clarification when necessary.
Students who feel comfortable asking questions and seeking clarification are more likely to understand new material, allowing them to master it eventually.
3. Offer extra-credit opportunities for students struggling with a concept or skill set.
This strategy encourages students with difficulties and motivates those who excel at the content. If a student is struggling with something, offering extra credit may help him or her reach mastery sooner than if he or she had simply been graded on performance alone.
What Industry Can Learn from Inferiority
Erikson’s psychosocial theory of human development argues that life is a series of stages that influence our personalities. The theory proposes eight stages: trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair.
Ultimately, Erikson believed that people develop a sense of industry or inferiority due to their circumstances and myriad experiences throughout life. Your parents, peers, and the environment play a part in shaping who you are.
If you have been given no opportunity to fulfill your potential, it would be easy and understandable to feel that what you bring to the table isn’t worth much. On the other hand, if you recognize yourself as an aspiring leader whose goals extend further than where you currently stand, then you would most likely come to believe that your accomplishments thus far were just the tip of the iceberg.
What Is Industry Vs. Inferiority?
Industry vs. inferiority is the fourth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage centers around the development of skills and knowledge in children. Industry equates to feelings of competence and productivity, while inferiority relates to an inadequate sense of self and a lack of belief in one’s abilities.
What Age Is Industry Vs. Inferiority?
The industry vs. inferiority stage typically occurs between ages 6 and 11. This time period largely aligns with the early school years, where children start learning new skills.
Why Did Erikson Label the Developmental Task of Middle Childhood “Industry Vs. Inferiority”?
Erikson labeled this developmental stage “Industry vs. Inferiority” because it is during this time that children compare their self-worth and abilities with their peers. If children can master tasks and skills (‘industry’), they will feel competent and believe in their abilities. If they consistently fail or struggle with tasks, they may feel inferior and develop a sense of low self-esteem.
Which Scenario Is Typical of the Industry Vs. Inferiority Stage?
A typical scenario could be a child attempting a complex math problem at school. If the child manages to solve the problem, they will develop a sense of industry, feeling competent and proud of their abilities. Conversely, if they struggle with the problem or repeatedly get it wrong, they may feel inferior, doubting their intellectual capabilities compared to their peers.