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Erickson’s Psychosocial Theory Essay

Erick Erickson is a well known theorist. He was a student of Freud and was greatly influenced by his work. Erikson’s theory is known as one of the best theories of personality in psychology. While he accepted Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, he felt that it was incomplete. It did not recognize social and cultural influences

It did not recognize development changes beyond adolescence
It did not put enough emphasis on ego development

This theory focused primarily on development of neurotic and maladaptive behavior and did not give enough consideration to healthy development. Erikson believed that personality developed in a series of eight stages. He argues that development occurs across a whole lifespan. He developed his theory based on the basis that cognitive and social development occurs at the same time. Erickson believed that during development people go through a series of psychosocial crises. These crises identify a conflict between two personality conflicts. Erickson developed detailed definitions of these psychosocial stages and the crises associated with each one. Each stage builds on the preceding one and prepares the individual for the next (Martin & Fabes 2009). The 1st stage is trust versus mistrust (Main Question: “Is the world a trustworthy place?). This stage focuses on infants needs being met by parents. Infants depend on their guardians for food and comfort.

Their understanding of society comes from their interactions with their guardian. If a child is exposed to consistent positive interactions, and dependable care, the infant will build trust. If the parents fail to provide and meet the basic needs the child will feel a sense of mistrust. Stage 2 is Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt (Toddlers 2 to 3 years). Main Question: “Can I do things myself or must I always rely on others?” As children gain control over their body and motor skills they begin to claim possessions and develop a sense of independency. However, parents still provide a key role of security from which the child can venture out to assert their will. When parents’ are patient and encouraging it helps promote autonomy. Otherwise, they are likely to impose the child with a sense of doubt which decreases their willingness to try new tasks. Stage 3 is Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool, 3 to 6 years).Main Question: “Am I good or am I bad?” At this stage, children want to begin and complete their own actions for a purpose. They are learning how well they can do things.

They are also learning that, just because they are able to do things, does not mean it is a good idea to do it. Guilt is a new emotion at this time. Children are beginning to learn that some behaviors may make them feel unhappy about themselves. They are beginning to develop sense of right and wrong. Stage 4 is Industry vs. Inferiority (6-12). Main Question: Can I make it in this world? At this stage children begin to develop a sense of pride in their achievements. This is a crucial time for teachers because they play an increased role in the child’s development. When children are encouraged and reinforced for their initiative, they begin to feel industrious and their confidence is increased. If this initiative is not encouraged or controlled by parents or teacher, then the child will feel inferior and doubt their abilities. Stage 5 is Identity vs. Confusion (early teen). Main Question: Who am I? What can I? During this stage there is a transition from childhood to adulthood, which is very important.

This is when the child becomes more independent, and begins to look at the future in terms of career, relationships, families, housing, etc. They explore and begin to form their own identity based on the outcome of their experiences. The sense of who they are can be hindered, which causes confusion about themselves and their place in the world. Stage 6 is Intimacy vs. Isolation. Main Question: Can I love? During this stage it is the period of early adulthood when people are exploring their personal relationships. Erikson believed it was important for people to develop close and committed relationships with others. Those who are successful at this stage will develop secure relationships. Erikson believed that a strong sense of personal identity was important to developing intimate relationships.

Stage 7 is Generativity vs. Stagnation (middle adulthood). Main question: Can I make my life count? During establish this stage is when adults careers. They settle down within a relationship and begin to develop a family of their own. There is a sense of giving back to society through raising children, working, and being involved in community activities and organizations. When adults fail to achieve these objectives, they lack self worth and feel unproductive. Stage 8 is Ego Integrity vs. Despair. Main question: Am I happy with the way that I have lived my life? This is the final stage of development in which adults grow older and become seniors.

They tend to slow down in general. During this time they think about their accomplishments and are able to develop honesty about our achievements. This is when it is decided how productive one has been and if life goals have been accomplished (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson%27s_stages_of_psychosocial_development). Critique: Erickson was one of the first psychologists to become aware of the influence of culture on behavior. His theory focused on three key points:


Erickson acknowledged cultural differences and contributed significantly to the study of adolescence and how they formed their identities. He felt that we should look at life in its entirety. He believed that development expanded through adulthood and that there were crises that adults encountered. His theory conflicts Freud’s in the fact that his emphasis was on the role of the ego rather than the id. This makes Erickson’s theory more positively oriented than Freud. Erickson’s theory is geared toward a positive outcome. However, many theorists doubted Erickson’s academic integrity. There is also very little research that has been conducted on childhood and adult psychosocial crises. It has been noted that many of Erickson’s theoretical propositions are difficult to test. Some were even impossible (Martin & Fabes, 2009).

It has also been argued that Erickson’s theory is more applicable to boys rather than girls. “There is debate as to whether people only search for identity during the adolescent years or if one stage needs to happen before other stages can be completed” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson%27s_stages_of_psychosocial_development). Reflection: Out of all theorists that I have studied, Erickson is by far my favorite. After exploring Erickson’s stages of development, I agree that his theory does describe the changes in one’s life. I do feel that we face a crises/conflict in each stage. Although I cannot remember my early stages of development, I have experienced them with my children and as a teacher I have witnessed these crises. At this time I have a child in each stage of development.

I know my infant depends on me and I feel that if I do not meet his needs he will develop a sense of mistrust. I also have a child that worries about fitting in and constantly worries about relationships with friends. I feel that I am currently in the middle adulthood stage. I have settled down. I have a family, and I have started a career. Erickson stages of development are especially useful for teachers. Teachers as do parents, play a key role in helping or hindering children in their personality development.

Erickson viewed development as a reflection of relationships with parents and family within the broader context of society (Brewer, 2006 p.21). Teachers that follow Erickson’s belief will develop programs that allow children the opportunity to build trust and bonds. School age children are dealing with the demands of learning new skills, fitting in with their classmates and accomplishing goals (Morrison, 2007p. 125). I believe that Erickson’s stages of development will be beneficial in assisting teachers with observing and responding to their students needs.

Morrison, G. (2007). Early childhood education today (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Merrill/Prentice Hall. Brewer, J. (2006). Introduction to Early Childhood Education: Preschool Through Primary Grades (6th ed.). Boston, New York: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, Martin, C., & Fabes, R. (2009). Discovering child development (2nd ed.). Boston, NewYork: Houghton Mifflin Company. http://info.psu.edu.sa/psu/maths/Erikson%27s%20Theory%20of%20Psychosocial%20Development%20%282%29.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson%27s_stages_of_psychosocial_development

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