Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory spurs understanding in the development of personality in a sequence predetermined through eight stages, from childhood to adulthood. The stages exhibit different psychosocial crisis that determines the positive or negative outcome that forms a person’s personality development. He introduced the theory in the 1960s.
The theory provides eight plots that enhance individual development. These stages are influenced by psychological, biological, and social factors that measure up throughout a lifetime. The human stages of development improve due to growth and, while it improves, the stages are defined by positive and negative psychosocial tendencies.
However, individuals can either enhance their virtue and virility or develop poorly depending on the factors around their growth. Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory was founded based on Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual development which draws parallels from infant stages with expansive inclusion of social dynamic influences and the extension of psychosocial development into adulthood. Carrey N. (2010).
Erik Erikson concludes that infancy is a very important phase in personality development. He recognizes the innate scheme of one’s development to shape individual culture. The stages he developed are not permanent: each stage bases development on previous and subsequent stages. However, each stage is filtered with the psychosocial crisis which enhances the development. This makes it demand the attention of parents and society in child development.
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory holds that the ego is of utmost importance. He believes that the ego helps the individual to operate independently while empowering him to adjust to all situations. The ego, therefore, promotes mental health. He also recognizes the impact of sexual and social factors in personality development.
His theory was broad. It incorporates society and culture and how they shape an individual’s psychosocial development. He was criticized because he had no scientific statistics, nonetheless, his work was comprehensive. The eight stages of development propounded by Erik Erikson are elucidated below.
Basic Trust versus Mistrust: this occurs between 1 – 2 years old infants. Infants question if the world is safe and if it can be trusted. They acquire the possibility of trust in the future if they could at such age. However, when fear is experienced, doubt and mistrust set in. The key to development in this stage is the mother.
The child draws his conception of the world as uncertain. The infant, therefore, looks towards primary caregivers for consistency of care and stability. When care is consistent, the feeling of reliability and trust becomes evident. This guarantees security even amidst threats. In the same vein, if care isn’t consistent, anxiety and mistrust develop. This will arouse a lack of confidence and despair in their ability and capability to exert influence.
Autonomy versus Shame: this stage occurs between ages 2 – 4. Children concern themselves with a sense of independence and development in personal control of physiological skills. The child’s physical development is germane and he begins to discover his skills to wear clothes, play with toys, have friends, independently. This clarifies the autonomy; the child begins to identify this independence.
If children are encouraged, it increases confidence which enhances independence. If they are scolded and controlled, on the contrary, they feel inadequate, devoid of self-esteem. They conclude on their need to depend on others.
Initiative versus Guilt: this occurs between ages 4 – 5 years. In pre-school; children take up new initiatives. They try out new things and learn basic principles. They question the objectivity of the activities they do; right or wrong. When encouraged, the interests will be followed up and enhanced but, if otherwise, children experience guilt and are held back.
Bee (1992) characterizes this stage to be “a time of vigor action and behaviors” that parents may deem aggressive. Children begin interaction with society and secure opportunities to explore an interpersonal relationship. What they do and the outcome enhances their social development.
Industry versus Inferiority: between ages 5 – 12, interests and uniqueness are discovered. Teachers take important roles and peer influences a child’s esteem too. The child discovers gaining approval and pride by demonstrating exceptional competences. If the child’s initiative is reinforced, s/he feels competent to achieve goals and if the child’s effort isn’t acknowledged, doubts and inferiority complex sets in.
Identity versus Role Confusion: between ages 12 – 18 years, life from infancy to adulthood becomes a prospect. The child begins to express more independence and care about developing future careers and relationships. The child learns what being an adult is and he re-examines his identity to discover himself. What a child wants to do is reintegrated into the self. Erik recognizes that a child, at this stage, may feel uncomfortable with his body until he grows into it.
Excelling in this stage will lead to virtues of fidelity, commitment, and acceptance due to the experiment of different identities. Failure in this stage will lead to sadness and the feeling of inadequacy.
Intimacy versus Isolation: between ages 18 – 40 years, major conflict includes creating intimacy and personal relationship with people. People begin to explore relationships and increase long-term commitment. This can enhance the success of a happy relationship. On the negative side, ignoring and avoiding relationship and commitment leads to solitude, isolation, and perhaps, depression. Avoiding relationships is, however, a result of a deficiency in the previous stages, especially, childhood stages.
Generativity versus Stagnation: this occurs between ages 40 – 65 years. At this period, people are concerned about achievements and their contributions to the development of the family, work, and society. Success, in this stage, leads to the feeling of contentment and fulfillment while failure to contribute arouses the feeling of stagnancy and unproductivity. This precedes societal isolation and disconnection.
Ego Integrity versus Despair: between age 65 till death, people contemplate on accomplishments and develop integrity at living a successful life. People reflect on their lives and those who haven’t achieved goals feel bitterness and despair.
At this stage, productivity ameliorates. Individuals are most times retired. When they feel they’ve lived an unproductive life, they despair. When others reflect and they feel accomplished, it encourages a sense of completeness and closure. They submit to death without fear when it comes.
Erikson re-conceptualized the primacy of the middle and late adulthood period. This negates the popular culture of the later period of civilization which believes the irrelevance of such stages. Many people also identify with these stages of psychosocial development. The theory successfully attaches the critical stages and traits of development throughout a lifespan.
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