Skip to main content

The ninth stage in the cycle of life – reflections on E. H. Erikson's theory


In the present paper, Erik H. Erikson's theory of psycho-social development is analysed, including a new, ninth stage proposed by his wife, Joan M. Erikson. However, a new understanding of the ninth stage is proposed, in which integrity versus despair is still the crisis of the last stage of life regardless of the addition of the ninth stage. The crisis of stage eight takes place on the continuum between involvement versus resignation. The term ‘involvement’ is understood as the choice of one's own way of life in the world, in view of personal development oriented towards the realisation of universal values, in accordance with the ethical dimension of social ethos, and with a sense of acceptance of the changes that are the result of the human ageing process. ‘Resignation’, in turn, is understood as the second pole dynamising the conflict of stage eight, which manifests itself in the fact that no new activities are undertaken or old ones continued by an individual, out of the conviction that it is senseless to undertake any activities for his or her own development. There is, however, strength that can be engendered by the struggle of older people between involvement and resignation, namely courage. In the acquisition of courage, older people should be supported by geragogy of courage. Society needs the courage of older people and their involvement in the ethical preservation of the world.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Beata E. Bugajska, Department of Humanities, Institute of Pedagogy, University of Szczecin, ul. Ogińskiego 16/17, 71-431 Szczecin, Poland E-mail:
Hide All
Agronin, M. E. 2014. From Cicero to Cohen: development theories of aging, from antiquity to the present. The Gerontologist, 54, 1, 30–9.
Baltes, M. M. 1998. The psychology of the oldest-old: the Fourth Age. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 11, 4, 411–5.
Baltes, P. B. and Baltes, M. M. 1990. Psychological perspectives on successful aging: the model of selective optimization with compensation. In Baltes, P. B. and Baltes, M. M. (eds), Successful Aging: Perspectives from the Behavioral Sciences. Cambridge University Press, New York, 134.
Baltes, P. B. and Mayer, K. U. (eds) 1999. The Berlin Aging Study: Aging from 70 to 100. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Baltes, P. B., Mayer, K. U., Helmchen, H. and Steinhagen-Thiessen, E. 1993. The Berlin Aging Study (BASE): overview and design. Ageing & Society, 13, 4, 483515.
Baltes, P. B. and Smith, J. 1999. Multilevel and systemic analyses of old age: theoretical and empirical evidence for a fourth age. In Bengtson, V. L. and Schaie, K. W. (eds), Handbook of Theories of Aging. Springer, New York, 153–73.
Baltes, P. B. and Smith, J. 2003. New frontiers in the future of aging: from successful aging of the young old to the dilemmas of the fourth age. Gerontology, 49, 2, 123–35.
Brown, C. and Lowis, M. J. 2003. Psychosocial development in the elderly: an investigation into Erikson's ninth stage. Journal of Aging Studies, 17, 4, 415–26.
Domino, G. and Affonso, D. 1990. The IPB: a personality measure of Erikson's life stages. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54, 3/4, 576–88.
Erikson, E. H. 1963. Childhood and Society. Second edition, W. W. Norton, New York.
Erikson, E. H. 1980. Identity and the Life Cycle. W. W. Norton, New York.
Erikson, E. H. 1982. The Life Cycle Completed. W. W. Norton, New York.
Erikson, E. H., Erikson, J. M. and Kivnick, H. Q. 1986. Vital Involvement in Old Age. The Experience of Old Age in Our Time. W. W. Norton, New York.
Erikson, E. H. and Erikson, J. M. 1997. The Life Cycle Completed (Extended Version). W. W. Norton, New York.
Heisenberg, W. 1971. Schritte Uber Grenzen. R. Piper & Co., Munich.
Kivnick, H. Q. and Wells, C. K. 2014. Untapped richness in Erik H. Erikson's rootstock. The Gerontologist, 54, 1, 40–5.
Laslett, P. 1991. A Fresh Map of Life: The Emergence of the Third Age. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Neugarten, B. L. 1974. Age groups in American society and the rise of the young-old. Annals of the American Academy of Politics and Social Sciences, 415, 1, 187–98.
Suzman, R. M., Willis, D. P. and Manton, K. G. (eds) 1992. The Oldest Old. Oxford University Press, New York.
Tornstam, L. 1989. Gero-transcendence: a meta-theoretical re-formulation of the Disengagement Theory. Aging: Clinical and Experimental Research, 1, 1, 5563.
Tornstam, L. 1992. The quo vadis of gerontology: on the gerontological research paradigm. The Gerontologist, 32, 3, 318–26.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 150
Total number of PDF views: 527 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2112 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.