Integrity versus despair is the eighth and final stage of Erik Erikson’s stage theory of psychosocial development. This stage begins at approximately age 65 and ends at death. Psychologists, counselors, and nurses today use the concepts of Erikson's stages when providing care for aging patients.
Erikson’s theory suggests that people pass through eight distinctive developmental stages as they grow and change through life. While many developmental theories tend to focus purely on childhood events, Erikson was one of the few theorists to look at development across the entire course of the lifespan. He was also one of the first to view the aging process itself as part of human development.
At each stage of psychosocial development, people are faced with a crisis that acts as a turning point in development. Successfully resolving the crisis leads to developing a psychological virtue that contributes to overall psychological well-being.
At the integrity versus despair stage, the key conflict centers on questioning whether or not the individual has led a meaningful, satisfying life.
What to Know
- Psychosocial Conflict: Integrity versus despair
- Major Question: "Did I live a meaningful life?"
- Basic Virtue: Wisdom
- Important Event(s): Reflecting back on life
What Are Integrity and Despair?
Integrity refers to a person's ability to look back on their life with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Characteristics of integrity include:
- A sense of wholeness
- Lack of regret
- Feeling at peace
- A sense of success
- Feelings of wisdom and acceptance
Despair refers to looking back on life with feelings of regret, shame, or disappointment. Characteristics of despair include:
- Ruminating over mistakes
- Feeling that life was wasted
- Feeling unproductive
The integrity versus despair stage begins as the aging adult begins to tackle the problem of his or her mortality. The onset of this stage is often triggered by life events such as retirement, the loss of a spouse, the loss of friends and acquaintances, facing a terminal illness, and other changes to major roles in life.
During the integrity versus despair stage, people reflect back on the life they have lived and come away with either a sense of fulfillment from a life well lived or a sense of regret and despair over a life misspent.
Benefits of Integrity
There are a number of benefits to successfully achieving feelings of integrity at this stage of life. These benefits include:
- Ego integrity: Successfully resolving the crisis at this stage leads to the development of what Erikson referred to as ego integrity.
- Peace and fulfillment: People are able to look back at their life with a sense of contentment and face the end of life with a sense of wisdom and no regrets.
- Wisdom: Erikson defined this wisdom as an "informed and detached concern with life itself even in the face of death itself."
Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.
There are a number of different factors that can influence the integrity versus despair stage of psychosocial development. Some factors that influence the outcome of this stage include:
- Family: Having supportive relationships is an important aspect of the development of integrity and wisdom.
- Work: People who feel a sense of pride in their work and accomplishments are more likely to experience feelings of fulfillment at this stage of life.
- Contributions: Those who reach this stage feeling that they have made valuable contributions to the world are more likely to achieve a sense of integrity. This often involves contributing to things that will outlast them through their children, friendships, mentorships, work, or community involvement.
Consequences of Despair
Despair can have serious consequences for a person's health and well-being as they face the end of life. Research suggests that ego integrity and despair are important life-space development indicators of well-being.
Some of the consequences of despair include:
- Increased depressive symptoms: Feelings of despair at this stage of life can be marked by feelings of low mood, hopelessness, sadness, and feelings of worthlessness, which are also symptoms of depression.
- Increased regret: People who look back on their life with despair are more likely to ruminate over mistakes and feel regret for the life they have lived.
- Decreased life satisfaction: When people feel despair at this stage, they are also less likely to feel satisfied with their lives going forward. This can have an effect on their ability to cope with stress and decrease their resilience.
Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair.
How to Improve Integrity
This stage of psychosocial development often depends on many of the events that occurred during earlier periods of life. However, there are things that you can do to help develop a greater sense of ego integrity as you age.
- Start early: The things you do during middle age will play a role in your feelings about life as you age. Focus on doing things that will support your emotional wellness as you grow older, such as getting involved in your community and strengthening relationships to ensure you have a strong social support network.
- Seek meaningful relationships: High-quality relationships with people you care about and who care about you are important. Focus on those relationships and work on making peace with relationships that may not be as strong.
- Reframe your thinking: Rather than ruminating over regrets or wishing you can change the past, focus on reframing how you think about those events. For example, you might focus on what you learned from those experiences rather than dwelling on what you wish you could do differently.
- Practice gratitude: Focus on the positive aspects of your life rather than paying excessive attention to the negative.
How to Practice Gratitude
How to Decrease Despair
If you find yourself experiencing a sense of despair as you age, there are steps that you can take to improve your well-being. Some of the steps you can take include:
- Reach out to others: Focus on building social support. Discussing your feelings with friends and family can help, or look for new connections by participating in community groups or organizations.
- Focus on the positive: Think about the memories and events that brought you feelings of pride and happiness.
- Explore new experiences: Seek out activities that bring you pleasure and joy in the here-and-now.
- Engage in spiritual practice: Find ways to explore your spirituality, which may help bring feelings of peace and well-being.
- Get help: If you continue to struggle with feelings of despair, consider talking to your doctor or mental health professional. You may be experiencing symptoms of a condition such as depression or anxiety. Your doctor can recommend treatments that will help.
A Word From Verywell
According to Erikson's theory, individuals don't experience integrity or despair all the time. Instead, most healthy individuals experience a balance between each as they begin to make sense of their lives.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Giblin JC. Successful aging: Choosing wisdom over despair. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2011;49(3):23-6. doi:10.3928/02793695-20110208-01
Perry TE, Ruggiano N, Shtompel N, Hassevoort L. Applying Erikson's wisdom to self-management practices of older adults: Findings from two field studies.Res Aging. 2015;37(3):253–274. doi:10.1177/0164027514527974
Westerhof GJ, Bohlmeijer ET, McAdams DP. The relation of ego integrity and despair to personality traits and mental health. GERONB. 2017;72(3):400–407. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbv062(Video) Erikson's stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair
Lim S-Y, Chang S-O. Nursing home staff members’ subjective frames of reference on residents’ achievement of ego integrity: A Q-methodology study: Achievement of ego integrity. Jpn J Nurs Sci. 2018;15(1):17-30. doi:10.1111/jjns.12166
Erikson EH. The Life Cycle Completed; 1982.
By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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Ego integrity versus despair is the eighth and final stage of Erik Erikson's stage theory of psychosocial development. This stage begins at approximately age 65 and ends at death. It is during this time that we contemplate our accomplishments and can develop integrity if we see ourselves as leading a successful life.What happens during the integrity vs despair stage? ›
During the integrity versus despair stage, people reflect back on the life they have lived and come away with either a sense of fulfillment from a life well lived or a sense of regret and despair over a life misspent.What is an example of ego integrity and versus despair? ›
Example items are “I am able to accept the ups and downs of my past life” (ego integrity; 3 items) and “I look back upon my life with a feeling of discontent and regret” (despair; 3 items).What are the 5 developmental conflicts in psychosocial development? ›
|3||Initiative vs. guilt||3 to 5 years|
|4||Industry vs. inferiority||5 to 12 years|
|5||Identity vs. confusion||12 to 18 years|
|6||Intimacy vs. isolation||18 to 40 years|
Using current approaches of cognitive emotional psychology, despair is defined as an oscillating, affective-cognitive process: the oscillation of doubt is reflected in the alternation of various single affects such as hope, fear, anxiety, anger, shame, guilt, and sadness and then moves towards the negative pole of ...What does Erikson mean by despair? ›
Despair was described by Erikson as a condition in which sadness, bitterness and regret dominate our personal and social existence.What is meant by integrity versus despair quizlet? ›
Integrity. •judging one's life to have been meaningful and productive. •self-acceptance and self-affirmation result from reaching integrity. Despair. •externalizing one's problems.Which indicates an individual is successful in Erikson's stage of integrity vs despair? ›
The person will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.In what stage of growth and development do people typically experience despair? ›
Stage 7 — Middle adulthood. The development in this stage is around generativity and stagnation or self-absorption. This stage begins at age 40 and lasts till age 65. If you don't feel a sense of accomplishment when you look back on your life, you may fall into despair.Which of the following is prominent in Erikson's final stage of integrity versus despair quizlet? ›
Which of the following is prominent in Erikson's final stage of integrity versus despair? 8. Erikson believed that elderly adults use their impending death as a motivation to look back and evaluate their life.
Developmental psychologists aim to explain how thinking, feeling, and behaviors change throughout life. This field examines change across three major dimensions, which are physical development, cognitive development, and social emotional development.What are the 4 types of conflicts psychology? ›
Conflict, in Psychology , is when 2 or more strong motives that arise cannot be solved together. Dollar and Miller gave us insights on four types of conflicts we often get stuck in: approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, approach-avoidance, and double approach-avoidance.What are the 3 types of conflict in psychology? ›
A group of psychologists determined that there are three types of conflict: approach-approach, approach-avoidance, and avoidance-avoidance.What is integrity in psychology? ›
the quality of moral consistency, honesty, and truthfulness with oneself and others.What type of emotion is despair? ›
Sadness: grief, sorrow, gloom, melancholy, despair, loneliness, and depression.How do you identify despair? ›
When an individual is in despair, they are feeling a complete loss of hope, usually accompanied by desperation, anguish and sadness. People in despair may get up every day and go about their business, but there is no joy in life. No passion. Instead desperation, anxiety and hopelessness fill their day.What is despair example? ›
I was overcome by despair at being unable to find them. She finally gave up in despair. The people were driven to despair by the horrors of war. This latest setback has brought/carried/driven her to the depths of despair.What age is integrity vs despair? ›
Despair Age. According to Erikson, a person enters this psychological crisis around the age of 65.What is the cause of despair? ›
We often feel despair after tragic events in our lives, especially when we experience a significant loss. It tends to be the main emotion people feel after a sudden traumatic event, which is normal, but can lead to irrational decision-making in the heat of the moment.What is the difference between integrity and fidelity? ›
Although both of these words have been used to describe the procedures required to implement instruction or assessment correctly, fidelity's origin in faith connotes a desire or intention but might not be measurable. In contrast, integrity suggests completeness.
Integrity Definition: Integrity is the faithful devotion to moral and ethical principles that no power or influence can impair. The direct connection between what one thinks, what one says, and what one does.What are the main ideas of Erikson's theory of psychosocial development? ›
The main idea behind Erikson's theory of psychosocial development is that our personality develops in stages, and at every one of these stages a psychosocial crisis unfolds in a way that determines our personality development based on the outcome.What is the most crucial stage in the development of individual according to Erikson? ›
Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust
In the first stage of Erikson's psychosocial model, infancy is crucial to our psychosocial development. During our initial 18 months, we are uncertain about the world in which we find ourselves and must develop basic trust.
Erikson believed that the trust vs mistrust stage is the most important period in a person's life because it shapes one's view of the world.What are the 4 stages of emotional development? ›
- "How does the emotional healing process work?," is a common question I am asked by people entering their transformative journey. ...
- Stage 1: Acute. ...
- Stage 2: Clearing. ...
- Stage 3: Authentic Self. ...
- Stage 4: Refining Your Gifts. ...
- Stage 5: Mastery & Leadership.
Fidelity, the ego strength associated with adolescence, is defined as “the ability to sustain loyalties freely pledged in spite of the inevitable contradictions of value systems” (Erikson, 1964, p. 125).Which of the following is Erikson's fifth stage of development? ›
Identity versus role confusion is the fifth stage of ego in psychologist Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 12 and 18. During this stage, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self.Which of the following theories challenges the notion that older adults are in despair? ›
Which theory challenges the notion that older adults are in despair because of social isolation? knowledge-related. According to the socioemotional selectivity theory, individuals are motivated by two types of goals—emotional and: activity theory.What are the key issues of psychosocial development? ›
- Trust vs. Mistrust. ...
- Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. ...
- Initiative vs. Guilt. ...
- Industry vs. Inferiority. ...
- Identity vs. Role Confusion. ...
- Intimacy vs. Isolation. ...
- Generativity vs. Stagnation. ...
- Integrity vs. Despair.
- Nature vs. Nurture.
- Early vs. Later Experience.
- Continuity vs. Discontinuity.
- Abnormal Behavior vs. Differences.
Schematic representing thoughts, emotions, and behavior or what to think, what to feel, and what to do. The three domains of learning are cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.What are the five 5 stages of conflict? ›
- Latent Stage: Participants not yet aware of conflict.
- Perceived Stage: Participants aware a conflict exists.
- Felt Stage: Stress and anxiety.
- Manifest: Conflict is open and can be observed.
- Aftermath: Outcome of conflict, resolution or dissolution.
- Avoidance. This approach to conflict reflects the belief that it is impossible to both accomplish your personal goals and maintain relationships while in a dispute. ...
- Accommodation. ...
- Competition. ...
- Compromise. ...
- Intrapersonal Conflict. This stage describes an argument that exists solely within one person. ...
- Interpersonal Conflict. This type of conflict might arise between two or more people in a broader company. ...
- Intragroup Conflict. ...
- Intergroup Conflict.
- Religious conflict. Religious conflicts occur when a character's thoughts or feelings contradict their religious beliefs. ...
- Moral conflict. ...
- Self-perception conflict. ...
- Love conflict. ...
- Political conflict. ...
- Societal conflict. ...
- Existential conflict. ...
- Develop your character.
- Personality differences.
- Non-compliance with rules and policies.
Cognitive resolution is the way disputants understand and view the conflict, with beliefs, perspectives, understandings and attitudes. Emotional resolution is in the way disputants feel about a conflict, the emotional energy. Behavioral resolution is reflective of how the disputants act, their behavior.› conflicts › conflic... ›
Conflicts: Notes on 3 Types of Conflicts|Psychology
Psychology of Conflicts
4 Basic Forms of Conflict Flashcards
Erikson described ego integrity as “the acceptance of one's one and only life cycle as something that had to be” (1950, p. 268) and later as “a sense of coherence and wholeness” (1982, p. 65).What is meant by integrity versus despair quizlet? ›
Integrity. •judging one's life to have been meaningful and productive. •self-acceptance and self-affirmation result from reaching integrity. Despair. •externalizing one's problems.
the quality of moral consistency, honesty, and truthfulness with oneself and others.What were Erikson's three aspects of ego? ›
Erikson (1968) identified three interrelated aspects of ego: the body ego, the ego ideal, and ego identity.What is integrity despair? ›
Characteristics of integrity include acceptance, a sense of wholeness, lack of regret, feeling at peace, a sense of success and feelings of wisdom and acceptance. Despair refers to looking back on life with feelings of regret, shame, or disappointment.What is integrity in personality development? ›
Personal integrity is defined as having strong morals or values and following those principles in both your words and actions. The concept of having integrity is really quite simple—living with integrity means you uphold your values, no matter the situation or who is watching.What is the 5th ego of psychosocial? ›
Identity versus role confusion is the fifth stage of ego in psychologist Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs during adolescence between the ages of approximately 12 and 18. During this stage, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self.What is the difference between integrity and fidelity? ›
Although both of these words have been used to describe the procedures required to implement instruction or assessment correctly, fidelity's origin in faith connotes a desire or intention but might not be measurable. In contrast, integrity suggests completeness.What does it mean to have integrity quizlet? ›
Integrity Definition: Integrity is the faithful devotion to moral and ethical principles that no power or influence can impair. The direct connection between what one thinks, what one says, and what one does.What are 2 examples of integrity? ›
- Refrain from sharing secrets and confidential information with others.
- Remain honest with your partner.
- Avoid gossiping about other people.
- Follow through on promises you make.
- Return found items without an expectation of receiving a reward.
- Admit when you are wrong.
Honesty with patients, full disclosure when reporting information for a study and providing complete representation of all facts during research work are critical to a psychologist maintaining professional integrity. A psychologist should never lie, cheat, steal or commit fraud.What are Erikson's 4 domains of identity? ›
Erikson's observations about identity were extended by Marcia, who described four identity statuses:identity diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium and identity achievement.
- Infancy – Basic trust versus mistrust.
- Toddler – Autonomy versus shame and doubt.
- Preschool-age – Initiative versus guilt.
- School-age – Industry versus inferiority.
The key idea in Erikson's theory is that the individual faces a conflict at each stage, which may or may not be successfully resolved within that stage. For example, he called the first stage 'Trust vs Mistrust'. If the quality of care is good in infancy, the child learns to trust the world to meet her needs.› ... › psychology theories ›