Industry vs Inferiority: 10 Examples (Erikson 4th Stage)

Industry vs Inferiority: 10 Examples (Erikson 4th Stage)Reviewed By Chris Drew (PhD)
industry vs inferiority examples and definition

Industry vs. inferiority is the fourth stage in Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, which occurs between the ages of 6 and 12. At this stage, children develop their sense of self-worth, competence, and skills essential for their future success.

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 develop numerous skills and abilities at school, at home, and among their peers.

According to Erickson’s theory, the sense of “I” is greatly enriched with a real increase in the child’s competence in various areas.

During the industry vs. inferiority stage, children focus more on the outside world, such as school, sports, hobbies, and peer relationships.

As a result, they start to compare their skills and abilities with their peers and may experience feelings of pride or inferiority.

When children are encouraged to make anything, like build aircraft models or cook, and are praised and rewarded for the results, they develop skills and abilities for technical creativity, both by parents and teachers.

On the other hand, parents who see only “pampering” and “dirty” in their children’s work contribute to the development of a sense of inferiority in them and a lack of self-esteem.

Overview of the Industry vs Inferiority Stage

Industry vs inferiority is the fourth stage in Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory, which begins around age six and continues until 11 or 12 and focuses on developing a sense of competence, self-worth, and industry (Erikson, 1963)

During this stage of development, children are exposed to new experiences that allow them to develop their skills and abilities. In addition, they compare themselves with those around them and may experience a sense of inferiority or pride. 

This stage’s key crisis or challenge is to develop a sense of industry or competence rather than inferiority. So the main question asked is:

“How can I be good?”

(Erikson, 1963)

Children who successfully navigate this stage develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and are motivated to continue learning and growing.

Those who are encouraged to develop their skills and abilities during this stage by being praised for their achievements and efforts are more likely to feel competent and industrious. 

On the other hand, children who receive criticism or are constantly told that they are not good enough may develop feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-esteem.

The basic virtue associated with the industry vs. inferiority stage is competence, which Erikson defines as a sense of mastery and achievement (Orenstein & Lewis, 2021).

This virtue is developed through learning, working hard, and receiving recognition for one’s efforts.

Besides, the important event happening at this stage is the school. It allows children to develop academic and social skills, build peer relationships, and learn how to work in groups.

10 Industry vs Inferiority Examples

  • A 10-year-old boy who is praised by his teacher for completing a difficult project successfully and receives recognition from his peers for his achievement may develop a sense of pride and competence.
  • A girl who is constantly told she is not good enough and that nothing she does is ever good enough develops a sense of inferiority and an inability to trust her own judgment.
  • A child who is encouraged to try different activities, like baking or playing an instrument, and is praised for their efforts, develops a sense of industry and competence.
  • A kid who struggles in school and is constantly told that he’s not smart enough can develop a sense of inferiority and may even give up trying. Such a child may even experience depression or anxiety. 
  • A 6-year-old boy who is praised by his parents for completing a difficult task develops a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • A kid who is constantly ridiculed by their peers for not being “smart enough” or “cool enough” can develop a sense of inferiority since they are not accepted and may even feel inadequate.
  • A child who is encouraged to take on a leadership role in their class or team and is praised for their hard work may develop a sense of industry as they feel competent in their abilities.
  • A 10-year-old girl who is constantly told that she is “lazy” or “not good enough” develops a sense of inferiority and lack of self-esteem.
  • A child who is given a difficult task and perseveres develops an increased sense of industry and pride in their ability.
  • A child learns to cook or bake, following recipes and experimenting with ingredients, and gains a sense of competence and accomplishment.

Factors Causing Children to Succeed at Industry vs. Inferiority Stage

A supportive environment, encouragement of industry, recognition of effort, and freedom to explore interests are all critical factors for a child to succeed at the industry vs. inferiority stage (Erikson, 1963).

Here are some factors that can contribute to a child’s success at this stage:

  • Supportive Environment: To thrive and reach their fullest potential, children need a safe home environment that encourages them to explore the world around them. By providing support and positive reinforcement, parents and caregivers can foster an atmosphere of security in which young ones are empowered to take risks, try new things, and grow.
  • Encouragement of Industry: When parents encourage their children to dedicate themselves and strive towards progress, they can instill in them a sense of capability and accomplishment. Praising hard work and offering chances to learn novel skills are just some examples of how you can help your child become self-assured yet diligent.
  • Recognition of Effort: Praising children for their achievements will motivate them to keep learning and growing, as recognition gives them a sense of capability. For instance, when they receive compliments for completing an intricate task or improving their academic performance, it can certainly enhance their self-confidence and competence.
  • Freedom to Explore Interests: Providing children with the freedom to discover their passions and explore their hobbies empowers them to unveil invaluable skills, gain a sense of pride in themselves, and find an invigorating purpose. Allowing kids these valuable opportunities can make all the difference in helping them reach their full potential.

Industry vs Inferiority Positive Outcomes

By fostering an attitude of hard work and ambition, adults can give kids the tools to embrace confidence and resilience. With these skills, children will be better prepared to take on any challenge, paving their path to success.

The success and recognition achieved by working hard can boost children’s confidence and feelings of worth, leading to stronger self-esteem (Issawi & Dauphin, 2017).

For instance, getting praise for completing a challenging project or task can help build their confidence in their abilities and lead them to take on more challenging work.

Kids who perceive themselves as capable tend to be more inclined to undertake new challenges.

So, by experiencing a sense of achievement, their level of motivation is likely to escalate, and they may become more determined to pursue loftier objectives.

Equipping children with the right skills and a positive outlook will enable them to tackle more challenging tasks (Issawi & Dauphin, 2017).

In addition, a superior understanding of their industry can help kids recognize their talents, giving them the assurance needed for complex challenges. 

Having this knowledge at an early age is sure to support success in later years. As a result, such childer have better physical and mental health, better performance, and higher income levels in adulthood. 

Additionally, developing a sense of industry can foster a sense of social connection and collaboration with others. As children work together on projects or participate in group activities, they can create a sense of shared purpose and achievement.

Factors Causing Children to Fail at Industry vs. Inferiority Stage

Lack of a supportive environment, poor academic performance, bullying, and limited exposure to new activities can all be contributing factors for children not succeeding in the industry vs. inferiority stage (Erikson, 1963).

Here are some of the common causes: 

  • Lack of Supportive Environment: Without the necessary encouragement and support from influential caregivers, teachers, or parents, children may find it difficult to cultivate a sense of ambition. Without positive feedback, youngsters can start feeling inadequate and less confident, which complicates their attempts at mastering new tasks. 
  • Poor Academic Performance: When kids experience difficulties with mastering tasks or keeping up with their classmates, it can create a sense of inadequacy and lead to low self-esteem. Repeated academic failure may cause children to feel like they can’t achieve success. 
  • Bullying or Social Isolation: Bullying or social isolation can also contribute to children failing at this stage. When children feel ostracized or are constantly teased or bullied, they may develop a negative self-image, making it harder for them to develop a sense of industry. 
  • Lack of Autonomy: When young ones are not allowed to make decisions or undertake duties, it can restrict their growth of self-motivation. If a child senses that they have no control over simple decisions, it could lead to insecurity and hesitation when trying something new. 
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Unrealistic expectations can also make children feel like they are failing at this stage. When children are expected to excel in areas where they may not have natural talents or abilities, they may feel like they are constantly falling short.

Industry vs Inferiority Negative Outcomes

Failing to establish the capabilities and frame of mind required for success in the industry versus the inferiority stage can lead a child to experience serious issues, including decreased self-confidence, social troubles, and academic difficulties.

If children fail to cultivate a sense of hard work and ambition, it can lead to adverse psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem (Padhy, 2017).

They may start questioning their own capabilities and perceive themselves as unworthy of success.

Secondly, children not feeling included among their peers can engender many problems. For example, exclusion may cause an individual to feel isolated and unwanted, inevitably leading to decreased self-confidence.

Besides, a lack of industry can cause youth to fail academically. When children are not confident in their capabilities, they will likely challenge with understanding tasks and finishing assignments (Padhy, 2017).

So, not developing the necessary industry can lead to academic underperformance, which in turn will lead to students feeling like they are constantly failing. 

Overall, the failure to develop industry can have far-reaching consequences that can affect a child’s mental, social, and academic success. 

Other Stages in Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

StageAge RangeKey QuestionDescription
Trust vs. MistrustInfancy (0-18 months)“Can I trust the people around me?”The child develops a sense of trust in their caregivers if their needs are consistently met, or they develop mistrust if their needs are not met.
Autonomy vs. Shame and DoubtEarly Childhood (1-3 years)“Can I do things myself, or am I reliant on the help of others?”The child develops a sense of autonomy and control over their environment, or they develop shame and doubt about their abilities.
Initiative vs. GuiltPreschool (3-6 years)“Am I good or bad?”The child learns to take initiative and plan activities, or they feel guilty and anxious about their actions.
Industry vs. InferiorityChildhood (6-12 years)“How can I be good?”The child learns to feel competent and confident in their abilities through school, sports, and other activities, or they feel inferior and incompetent.
Identity vs. Role ConfusionAdolescence (12-18 years)“Who am I?”The teenager explores and develops their personal identity, or they experience confusion and uncertainty about their role in society.
Intimacy vs. IsolationYoung Adulthood (18-40 years)“Will I be loved, or will I be alone?”The young adult forms close relationships with others, or they experience feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Generativity vs. StagnationMiddle Adulthood (40-65 years)“How can I contribute to the world?”The adult develops a sense of purpose and meaning in life through work, family, and community involvement, or they feel stagnant and unproductive.
Integrity vs. DespairLate Adulthood (65+ years)“Did I live a meaningful life?”The older adult reflects on their life and experiences a sense of fulfillment and acceptance, or they feel despair and regret over missed opportunities.


The industry versus inferiority stage is incredibly important to a child’s development. It can shape their sense of self, as well as their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

During this stage, children develop their self-worth, competence, and skills necessary for future success.

Children who successfully navigate this stage develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and are motivated to continue learning and growing. 

On the other hand, those who receive criticism or are constantly told that they are not good enough may develop feelings of inferiority and a lack of self-esteem.

Parents, caregivers, and teachers can play a vital role in helping children succeed at the industry vs. inferiority stage by providing a supportive environment and recognizing their efforts and achievements.


Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. Vintage Digital.

Issawi, S., & Dauphin, B. (2017). Industry versus inferiority. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 1–4.

Orenstein, G. A., & Lewis, L. (2021). Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing.

Padhy, P. (2017). Industry and inferiority in school children enrolled through quota for weaker sections and disadvantaged groups: An Eriksonian perspective. IRA International Journal of Education and Multidisciplinary Studies (ISSN 2455-2526)7(3), 279.

Viktoriya Sus

Viktoriya Sus (MA)

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Viktoriya Sus is an academic writer specializing mainly in economics and business from Ukraine. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Lviv National University and has more than 6 years of experience writing for different clients. Viktoriya is passionate about researching the latest trends in economics and business. However, she also loves to explore different topics such as psychology, philosophy, and more.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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