We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Psychosocial Theory

The whole doc is available only for registered users
  • Pages: 25
  • Word count: 6196
  • Category: Theories

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

Examine the research that Erikson had done to test his theory as well as examine the research that other theorists did to strengthen or weaken his theory. A theory is a set of orderly ideas describing, explaining and predicting behavior (Woolfolk, 1987). It aims at giving meaning to what is observable and serves as a basis for improving lives. Works of Erikson have mostly tended to revolve around the views he put forward on adolescence as a stage in life as well as the attempts of individuals at this stage to discover their identity.

Many of his critics have described him as “ego psychologist” (Erikson, as cited in Marcia, 1980)) due to his emphasis of the ego in person as opposed to the id. Many have been keen to point at his association with Freud. Their argument being that his theory differs from that of Freud which only had five stages consisting of stage one through adolescence. On the contrary Erik’s theory, has eight different stages which are identifiable and last the entire life time.

Of all the theories advanced by Erik, it is the psychosocial development theory which has been widely been referred to, as well as criticized by other theorists (Marcia, 1980; Schultz & Schultz, 1987; Waterman, 1985; Cole, &Cole, 1989 ;). In the psychosocial development theory, every stage is associated with a conflict. Once every conflict is resolved successfully, then the result is a favorable outcome.

In 1958, Erikson reported that, from the 1st stage, each stage has out comes for example in the first stage, trust or mistrust produces a favorable outcome by bringing about the virtue of hope.
For the rest of stages i.e. stages 2-8 conflicts are resolved by:
• Toilet training for stage 2.
• Independence for stage 3.
• School for stage 4.
• Peer relationships for stage 5.
• Love relationships for stage 6.
• Parenting for stage 7.
• Acceptance of life for the final stage.

These stages are discussed in details in the following sections of this paper. For successful resolutions of the conflict, Erik assigned virtues (Erikson, 1968) for all the above eight stages as follows: The virtues are in order of stages1-8;
• Hope.
• Will.
• Purpose.
• Confidence.
• Fidelity.
• Love.
• Care
• Wisdom.

The psychosocial theory is similar to Freud’s but unlike Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, Erik’s theory goes the point of discussing the social experience in a whole lifetime. Another major stray from the Freud’s theory is that Freud’s theory states that development goes up to the age of 11 or 12 years. Erik differs in opinion and in his theory by asserting that development goes on for the whole life and 8 stages.

To support Erik’s theory, (Marcia, 1980) undertook an empirical study of identity crisis during adolescence. Marcia’s work on identity came up with distinguishable forms of identity. According to him, coherent self concept in adolescence is more likely to cause intimate attachments in early adulthood. This clearly supports Erik’s theory that it links resolution of crisis of early adulthood is linked to prior successful resolution of adolescence crisis.


Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was born in German and studied towards a career as a psychoanalyst theorist. As a young man he underwent emotionally turbulent moments. Upon migrating to the US in 1933 he joined teaching in the Harvard where he engaged in clinical practice therefore developing further his psychosocial theory. It is here where he incorporated into his theory the social, cultural and environmental impacts on development.

His famous work the psychosocial theory is contained in Child and Society (1950). Erik’s mother was married to a Doctor named Homburger. His identity crisis resulted from the fact that even though he was partly Jewish, his looks were Nordic .This resulted into identification crisis. He personally confessed in (Erikson, 1975) that, he once suffered fro an identity crisis. Erik was trained in psychoanalysis by Anna Freud between 1927 and 1933 before joining teaching at a Vienna private school (Erikson, 1975).

Erik emigrated to the U.S in 1933 where he undertook teaching at Harvard between 1933 and 1936 as well as from 1960 to 1970. It is while at Harvard that he undertook various clinical assignments from which he expanded and expounded the psychoanalytic theory to incorporate social cultural as well as environmental factors (Erikson, 1974). It is at this level that Erik started work on his best research work, Childhood and society (Sheehy, Gail. 1976). His visit to the USA in 1930s as well as his study of Sioux Indians shaped his understanding of influence of culture and on behavior.

It is in this work that he divided the human life cycle into 8 distinctive stages known as psychosocial stages of development (Erikson, 1959). The related psycho historical studies he conducted in 1958(Young man Luther) and in 1969(Gandhi’s Truth) gives an in-depth insight of personal development and social history. His works did not stop at this point for he was later to carry on works related to ethics in the modern world.

General Research by Erik.

As a teacher, psychoanalyst and clinician, Erikson made major contributions to sociology education and medicine. His discoveries about personality helped other disciplines dealing with youths and human beings in general. Erikson upheld the view that Ego Psychology and Ethos which is he defines as the influence of culture as well as genetics (epigenetic) were an important contribution to personality (Erikson, 1974).

He established that ego existed from birth and behavior is not defensive as advocated by other theorists. In his works he identified the external world as a major player in development. It is the psychosocial theory though, that many terms as his greatest of all his works. In the theory Erikson, proposed that the process of development takes place in an entire lifetime and is influenced by a number of factors such as:

• The society around someone.
• An individuals history
• Culture.
Summary of Erikson’s works.
• Identity and the Life Cycle.
• Insight and Responsibility.
• Dimensions of a New Identity.
• Life History and the Historical Moment.
• Childhood and Society.
• Young Man Luther.
• Identity in adolescence.
Erickson’s Psychosocial Theory of Development.

According to Erik’s theory of development, human beings undergo basic eight stages in life. Every stage is well demarcated and in each, there belongs distinctive ages when then it occurs. Also in each stage, human beings are faced with fundamental responsibilities associated with the different needs of each. Consequently, human beings complete a certain cycle by the time they retire in death (Erikson, 1959).

Erikson describes the 8 stages as:
1. Oral-sensory.

This stage ranges from birth to 12 up to 18 months. Critical conflict associated with this stage is trust and mistrust. At this stage the child must form or develops a strong trusting bond between it and the care giver. It is also during this stage that the bond is developed to either a trusting bond or a mistrusting one. According to Erik, the stage is crucial and greatly impacts on the future of the person and what feelings or attitudes they develop for the environment as well as the society in particular child development (Erikson, as noted in Waterman, 1985).

2. Muscular-Anal

This stage is said to take place between the ages of 18 months to 3 years old. The major conflict associated with this theory is autonomy as well as Shame associated with doubt the child may start developing. It is at this stage whereby the child dedicates much effort and time to development of physical skills such as walking and grasping as well as rectal spincter control (Erikson, E.H. 1950).

The major lesson involved at this stage for the child is the ability to control necessary to transition into the following stage. It is worthy noting that development of shame and doubt although it is not a physical development; it takes place at about the same time. Cole, and Cole, (1989) noted that by the time a child is 3 years old, “they have a feeling of insufficiency never experienced previously”. p.276.

3. Locomotor.

It is a stage of development taking place between 3 and 6 years. “Initiative and guilt” Erikson, (1950) p. 117 are the conflicts identifiable at this stage. Erikson, (1950) mentions that the child at this stage develops a very assertive attitude. On top of assertiveness, children start taking more initiatives on their own, they exhibit a forceful character not shown before, and it is this forceful expression which is the cause of guilt associated with this stage.

4. Latency.

This is a crucial stage as indicated in Erikson, (1950), he argues in his theory that, “from 6 to 12 yeas, the child now big enough and ready for teenage” p.197. Children usually become more industrious and may exhibit inferiority at school. It is during this stage when the child is naturally expected to deal with challenges of learning new skills. Failure to learn the new skills causes in the child “a sense of inferiority, a feeling of incompetence and ultimately failure”. P.199.

5. Adolescence.

According to Waterman, (1998), adolescence takes place between the ages of 12 and 18 for both boys and girls. It is during this time when one comes into contact with “real identity crisis as well as role confusion”; (Erikson 1964). Erikson confessed that he personally suffered from identity crisis big time. (Erikson as noted by Joseph, 1973).  Adolescence for teenagers is a period when they have to achieve a sense of identity in various scopes of life notably in:
• Occupation.
• Politics.
• Sex roles.
• Religion.

6. Young adult hood.

Stretching from 19 years up to 40 years, the major conflict in life at this stage involves intimacy and isolation meaning that young adults are crazy to enter into love relationships. It is during this stage that a young adult is required to develop intimate relationships with the opposite sex (Erickson, as noted by, Maddi, 1976). If this fails to take off, the young adult ends up suffering from feelings of isolation.

7. Middle adulthood.

Middle adult hood stretches from 40 to 65 years old. This stage is not as action packed as the preceding stages. The main activity here is that the adult is concerned with generating. Failure to generating leads to stagnation parenting. The key activity and role for this age brackets is usually to support and work towards supporting the next generation. Therefore much activity here is extrinsically motivated (A Way of Looking at Things, 1995)

8. Maturity.

This stage sets on from age 65 onwards and is a period of “ego integrity or utter despair” (Erikson, as noted in, Schultz & Schultz, 1987) p. 55. It is during this stage of one’s life that they take stock of their lives. Through reflection on the live lived, one’s achievements and accomplishment as well as failures, are reviewed (Erikson, 1975). At this stage in life, one accepts their life as one lived well and childhood goals achieved. When this is the case the person is said as having achieved ego integrity.

On the other hand, up on taking a closer view of ones life, if a person comes to a conclusion that his/her life was not lived to expectations, a feeling of despair sets in. Such a person is more likely to fear death than someone who feels that they accomplished their childhood dreams.

Ego Psychology.
On the ego aspect (Erikson, 1974). Erikson’s theory holds that:
• Ego is of utmost importance.
• Ego can adapt to situations and therefore promotes mental health.
• There is a part of ego capable of operating without depending on id and superego.
• Personality development is influenced by social as well as sexual factors.

One clear difference between Erikson’s theory of ego psychology and Freud’s is that his was comprehensive and discussed normal personality alongside neurotics (Engler, 1985). In addition, “Erikson’s theory incorporated society and culture” (Welchman, 2000) p 102, into the personality development theory, further differentiated his theory from Freud’s psychosexual theory.

Erikson de-emphasizes biological sexuality but gives prominence to psychosocial features of the conflicts experienced by the child in its interaction with the parents. In addition, Erikson views conflicts as very important since they influence learning.

Highlights of various stages.
1st stage.
The question of turning point as well as dependency leads to crisis of whether to trust or mistrust the adult. In turn trust arising from the visual contact helps the child to develop faith as well as proceed to the next stage successfully (Sheehy, 1976)

Stage II

During this stage the child learns to say no which is seen as a sign of primitive independence (Erikson, as noted in Sheehy, G. (1976)).
The child at this stage strives further to garner psychosocial independence from the environment and particularly the care givers.
Stage III.
According to (Erikson, 1959), the following activities/learning takes place during this stage:
• Playing.
• Story telling
• Disorganized groupings.
• Asking the question why?
All the above are indirect signs that the child is unconsciously preparing for adulthood tasks.
Stage IV.
This is about the time children go to school hence getting an opportunity to become more and more social. Up to this stage development, is dependent on what is done to the child but from this time onwards, developments revolves around what the individual is capable to do for him/her self (Erikson, 1964).

Stage V.
The individual’s key concerns at this are to identify with the world of adults as well as establishing role models. It is the stage whereby an individual is in the greatest risk of identity crisis (Erikson, 1958).
Stage VI.
At this stage one, “establishes satisfying relationships especially family and friendships” (Erikson, as noted by Richard, 1983). p. 45. During this period “One’s world may shrink” p.56. If stagnation occurs the stage is set for middle life crisis . The goal here is to mould kids into persons with good traits and provide a stable environment.

Stage VIII.
This is the last stage and with death approaching fast, one is presumed to be equipped with the wisdom to accept the inevitable (Erikson, 1975).
The epigenetic principle

This is Erik’s most famous work based on Freud’s theory of stages. Erik argues that Development functions by the epigenetic principle of development of human beings interlinked stages each determined by success of failure of the preceding stage. Erikson refers to development tasks by two terms. For instance stage one is made of trust and mistrust.

The rationale behind giving two names to tasks is that, like in the case of trust, naturally, one is expected to develop trust towards the parents as opposed to mistrust. On the contrary, there are situations which might demand that the child mistrusts the parents hence Erikson’s reasoning behind assigning two inverse names for each task. However, (Erikson, 1974) cautions that too much trust is not good and therefore there has to be a balance between mistrust and trust.

Another characteristic of the stages is that each is allocated optimal time in order to allow children to progress through stages at their own pace. With all stages managed well a virtue also referred to as a psychosocial strength is born and carried along into next stages assisting one to develop well. Failure to generate a virtue causes maladaptions or malignance (Erikson, 1968).

• Malignance is a condition which results into very little positive aspects and many negative aspects.
• Maladaptions is a condition characterized by more positive aspects than the negative.

While Freud attached too much importance to influence of parents on children, Erikson recommended that children too do influence parent’s development (Erikson, 1974)

The chart below summarizes the psychosocial development stages of Erikson.
Stage/Age Psychosocial crisis Significant relations Psychosocial modalities Psychosocial virtues Maladaptions & Malignances
I (0-1) —
infant trust vs. mistrust Mother to get, to give in return Weaning Sensory distortion — withdrawal
II (2-3) —
toddler autonomy vs. shame and doubt Parents to hold on, to let go Toilet Training impulsivity – compulsion
III (3-6) —
preschooler initiative vs. guilt Family to go after, to play Independence ruthlessness – inhibition
IV (7-12 or so) —
school-age child industry vs. inferiority neighborhood and school to complete, to make things together School Narrow virtuosity — inertia
V (12-18 or so) —
adolescence ego-identity vs. role-confusion peer groups, role models to be oneself, to share oneself Peer relationships fanaticism — repudiation
VI (the 20’s) —
young adult intimacy vs. isolation partners, friends to lose and find oneself in a
another Love relationships promiscuity — exclusivity
VII (late 20’s to 50’s) — middle adult generativity vs. self-absorption household, workmates to make be, to take care of Parenting for stage overextension — receptivity
VIII (50’s and beyond) – old adult integrity vs. despair mankind or “my kind” to be, through having been, to face not being Acceptance of life presumption — despair
Source: Erikson 1959.

Summary of Tasks.

The first stage. The task is to develop trust while at the same time retaining some level of mistrust. Trust comes about when parents accord the baby consistency and continuity (A Way of Looking at Things: 1995) therefore causing the newborn to experience a sense of safety in the new world. It is through trust that the child learns also to trust itself as well as care and love. Inadequate or unreliable parents can cause the infant to become mistrusting. This leads to it being suspicious of people around (Erikson, as noted in Welchman, 2000).

This stage is very crucial in development in that it is when the virtue of hope is generated (Erikson, 1950). Hope is very useful in people for it leads to patience even in face of difficulties and uncertainty and disappointments in adulthood life as it often happens in love relationships and careers (Welchman, 2000).

Stage two. At this stage, kids are supposed to minimize shame and doubt and are tasked with achieving autonomy to a certain level. Erikson, 1950 added that, since of autonomy is generated through care givers; these must allow the kids “to explore and discover the environment for themselves” p.67. According to Erikson, (1950) it is at this stage whereby parents and care givers must become firm but tolerant in order to strike the delicate balance.

A balance from parents causes the child to realize self-esteem and control later in life .Patience at this level also assists children to learn by themselves to do basic tasks (Erikson, 1950). Being harsh with the kid will lead to them giving up therefore loosing the sense of indepenendence. In addition parents and care givers should avoid laughing at the kid when they fail; mockery and cracking coerce jokes to the kid.

Lack of shame and doubt at this stage results into impulsiveness which is the associative maladaptive behavior (.Erikson, 1950). While the will power is the result of a balance of autonomy and shame and doubt. The strongest characteristic at this stage is the “can do” attitude present in kids which generates into determination in them (Erikson, 1950). p.86.

Stage three

Children at this stage are supposed to learn to take initiative while avoiding too much guilt feeling. As noted by Halland Lindzey (1978) “initiative is the positive response to world’s challenges, ability to take responsibility as well as being purposeful”. (p.49).

The key activity at this stage is play and it is important for the child to be as imaginative as possible as well as to fantasize. Therefore the child begins to imagine situations based regarding the future. Children at this stage have a guilty conscience, when they commit a mistake they are well aware of potential consequences including punishment. Taking an example of a two year old and a five year old, assume both drop their Dad’s cell phone in a pool of water. In the first case the 2 year old is not guilt of the mistake but definitely the 5 year old is. The intentions of the two are very different with the later having ill motives while the former may just be having fun or interacting with the surroundings. Therefore at this age moral judgment is present in children.

Like other tasks it is better to strike a balance between initiative and guilty so as to balance the maladaptive tendency referred to as ruthlessness by Erikson. Ruthless results from too much initiative but little guilt. For ruthless people they take initiates but do not mind hurting people so long as they achieve their objectives (Schultz & Schultz 1987).  At the end, they lack guilty or it is very dormant in them. On the other hand malignancy referred to as inhibition by Erikson results in cases of too much guilt. The solution is therefore striking a balance and therefore achieving psychosocial strength of purpose (Schultz & Schultz 1987).

Stage four. The task at this stage requires one to develop the capability for industry while at the same time avoiding an excessive exhibition of inferiority feelings. This is best done by children taming whatever good imaginations they may have and concentrating on learning the social skills offered by the society. The child’s social sphere is significantly big at this stage with peers and teachers coming on board. These have a role of caring accepting and encouraging the children.

Engler, 1985) adds that the society (teachers, peers and parents) should allow a broad chance of success to avoid imparting in the children a sense of discrimination whether on basis of sex or race. Like previously mentioned, too much of industry leads to a maladaptive tendency known as narrow virtuosity . Such is very common in children who are forced into doing things and not being given a chance to choose from a broad spectre of interests.

The malignancy associated with the tasks at this stage is referred to as inertia. Inertia is simply about suffering from inferiority complex; such people never try again once their first attempt results into failure. Achieving a balance between industry and inferiority results into humility which in turn generates the virtue called competency.

Stage five . This stage is what generated interest for development in Erikson. At this stage in personality development, ego is fully developed in adolescence leading one to convert life’s lessons into meaning compatible with the society’s expectations. At this stage role models and a clear communication path are very crucial. Also of importance to an adolescent are rites of passage which distinguish adulthood from childhood (Waterman, 1985).

Failure of the society to offer the above results into role confusion hence uncertainty. It is at this stage that one is more likely to suffer from identity crisis. To offer solution to those affected by identity crisis, Erikson suggested a remedy in form of psychosocial moratorium . Fanaticism is the resultant maladaptive tendency which implies over commitment to roles or subculture to the extent where one is not tolerant to views of others. Lack of identity on the hand the risk of over indulgence of various natures for example in religious cults or drug taking. Successful completion or transition from this stage is referred to as fidelity which implies the ability to coexist in a society in spite of the challenges involved.

Stage six. The emphasis here is intimacy as opposed to isolation (Maddi, 1976). At this stage, rarely is fear of commitment present and therefore people are in a better place to choose lovers as well as friends. This stage has is usually affected by the dynamic lifestyles which often make it impossible for people to be as intimate as necessary. For instance, career may force one to stay far away from childhood friends and therefore perfectly prevent the person from benefiting from intimacy (Maddi, 1976).

The resultant maladaptive tendency is promiscuity which implies the tendency of becoming intimate very freely and easily without giving much attention to it (Erikson, 1974). Exclusion is the resultant malignancy which refers to isolation of oneself from friendship and the larger community. Up on successfully going through this stage one develops mutual devotion which encompasses love to spouses as well as friends.

Stage seven. The major activity at this stage is bringing up children and the underlying task of generativity and stagnation. Generativity refers to “extension of love to the future” (Erikson, 1950) and the major concern is future generations. According to Erikson, 1950) this stage is characterized by generosity “with little expectation of reciprocation” Erikson, 1950. (p 91). To highlight the point by taking an example of parents, it can be noted that not many expect pay back for any investment they put in their children however big such an investment may be.

Stagnation refers to the situation where by one care for no one in the society. In such a state, one becomes unproductive to the community. The maladaptive tendency in this stage is referred to as overextension. Overextension according to Erikson (Erikson, 1950) is the tendency to be involved in so activities to the extent whereby the contribution does not yield the desired effects. On the other hand, rejectivity is the malignancy associated with this stage. This is due to too much generativity and too little stagnation (Erikson, 1950).

Joseph, (1973), states that the common question people ask themselves at around this time is “whom am I doing all this for” this results into middle life crisis with people more likely to separate or quit jobs at this stage. The other sign to watch for at this stage in men is the tendency to want to relive their past. Usually people imagine they can achieve what they lost out in terms of social life or earlier youthful dreams. Success at this stage brings about a caring attitude evident in the rest of ones life.

Stage eight. Erikson, as noted by Joseph, (1973) praises those who reach this stage by calling saying about it “a good thing to be in old age” (p.123). It is worthy mentioning here that, at this age ones contributions to the community may not be required as is the case in earlier stages. This may result into, detachment due to lack of involvement in regular life activities one had been used to especially job. Another characteristic experienced in this stage is a feeling of biological degeneration. Fear of disease also sets in as people become very vulnerable. In other words things which were not viewed as a threat suddenly become ones obstacles in life.

Of all the things taking place at this stage, it is the fear of death which is really dominant. Death suddenly becomes a reality especially in light of many dead relatives’ companions or acquaintances. People respond with being preoccupied with the past some times in despair assuming things were better in the past. Presumption is noted as the maladaptive tendency in this stage while disdain is the malignancy (Erikson, 1950). The wisdom featuring in this stage is exhibited by those who face death without fear and are prepared to pass on.

Criticism of Erik Erikson Theory.

Many of his critique argue that his theory presents challenges especially if applied to people suffering from role confusion. Erik’s belief of identity formation has also been questioned especially in regard to adults who are said to rediscover their inner strengths later in life and therefore end up developing a varied understanding of their lives as a result of the experience and changes they have undergone through out life (Richard, 1983).

Another question arising out of the belief is whether it is actually possible for an individual to keep on changing throughout their entire life. In addition, questions arise as to how comes that it is only Erik’s theory which seems to advocate for a lifelong change while almost all others seem to agree that psychological development ends at an earlier stage in life and it actually never goes on past teenage (Richard, 1983).

As if not lacking in controversies, other theorists have questioned why he actually came to agree with Freud on the subject of personality differences between sexes . The criticism arising from the personality differences between sexes is that the theory is seen by many to be more applicable for boys as opposed to girls (Richard, 1983). It is widely questioned by many modern personality theorists why Erikson paid more attention to infancy and childhood than he did for adulthood stage.

Critics of Erikson’s theory say that his theory is more applicable to boys than to girls, and that more attention is paid to infancy and childhood than to adult life, despite the claim to be a life-span theory. However, many have found Erikson’s theory to be useful as framework for analyzing developmental histories. Finally, Erikson was criticized for not carrying out statistical research for any of his theories something which makes it very hard to replicate and retest his findings for validation purposes (Richard, 1983). In spite of all the criticism, there is a general consensus that, Erikson provides invaluable background for researching and analyzing developmental history (Richard, 1983).

His is about the only personality theorist who held fact in each stage one is faced by challenges meaning that to move on to the next stage, the first crisis must be resolved. According, to Erikson, (1950) development takes place continuously since in each stage one is faced with new experiences which influence ones later experiences. Therefore it is the conglomeration of traits acquired through the developmental stages that determine whether one will possess more good traits than bad ones.

Contribution of Erik’s Psychosocial Theory.

• Explained why health problem in early phases of life had had difficulties at adult hood.
• Helped therapists and patients in identifying issues and skills needing attention.
• Offered guide to child rearing practices.
• Helped in teacher assessment.
General Overview.
Erik Erikson theory clearly promoted the stage approach to development. Characteristics of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory.
• Emphasis that development occurs in eight interlinked stages.
• That social experience is present throughout ones life.
• All stages in life are characterized by conflict.
• That successful resolution result into favorable outcome while unsuccessful resolution results into failure.
• Success or failure to solve conflicts in adolescence greatly influences how a person will solve conflicts in early adulthood.
• Emphasis on the importance of childhood in personality development.
• The outcome of a stage is not permanent but can be altered later in life
• People have a mixture of traits but it is only if the good traits are more than the bad ones that an individual is considered successful.
• Other works including Identity: Youth & Crisis (1968) and Vital Involvement in Old Age (1986). Which have been useful to the academia in psychosocial discipline.
• The proposition that adolescence in the society is a psychosocial moratorium.
• The contention that psychosocial features play a bigger role in conflicts than biological sexuality.
• He refers to each task in 2 terms e.g. Trust and mistrust.
• Each of these stages has an optimal time.
• That people develop in 8 predetermined stages in life also referred to as the epigenetic principle.
• Emphasis that a mutuality (interactions of generations) i.e. between parents and children.
• That a balance or lack of it between tasks may result to either Malignancy or maladaptiveness.
• While other personality theorists prefer phases and transitions, he preferred stages.
Opposing Theorists.

Jean Piaget Cognitive Development theory.

The theory states that children develop through understanding the world by participating actively in interactions with the environment. Through a study of 3 children, he noted that they learnt by assimilating or accommodating (Waterman 1998). He came up with cognitive development stages commonly referred to as Piaget’s Cognitive stages.
Development Stages According to Piaget.

• Sensori-motor
This takes place from birth to age 2 at which the child uses senses and motor abilities in their endeavor to understand the world.
• Preoperation
This takes place between the age of 2-7and it is during the stage at which the child uses symbolic language.
• Concrete Operations stage.
This is from ages 7 to 11 and characteristics include use of principles to solve problems. In ages 7-11; the child uses logical operations or principles
• Formal operations Stage.
This happens from age 11 and above. The emphasis here is a child’s ability to make use of logical operations as well as ability to use abstractions.
Proponents o Erik Erikson Theory.
Most research on Erikson’s work has a genesis in his view on adolescence and the attempted efforts into establishing identity

Sigmund and Anna Freud

Born in May 6, 1856 in Freiberg, he grew up as a brilliant child and attended a medical school. He later married to Martha Bernays with whom they set up a practice in neuropsychiatry (Waterman, 1998). He later died of cancer. He is attributed with popularizing the idea of conscious and unconscious mind.

The fundamental difference Freud and Erikson theories had is that Erikson did not support Freud’s description of personality based only on sexuality (Waterman, 1998). He asserted that personality continued to grow beyond age 12 and through out ones lifespan. According to Erikson’s theory the development in human being has already began by birth and it goes on for the entire lifetime. Further Erikson noted that each of the 8 stages in life was due to a psychosocial crisis which depends on ones physiological development and environmental demands.

Freud theory lays emphasis on sexual, sensual as well as pleasure needs of the individual which must be satisfied in life. These were referred to as life instincts and death instincts by Freud. Freud further stated that the above two resided in id. His work has with no doubt provoked much research in the field of development (Kit Welchman, 2000).

(Marcia, 1980) noted that, the contribution of Erikson to development theories have continued to serve as the frame work for many modern psychosocial theorists. Cole and Cole (1989) added that Erikson favored using famous men like Luther and Gandhi which although slow and very involving was responsible for his success in the several works he undertook.

Marcia’s research on development theory of adolescence identified 4 identity orientations to deal with the identity crisis advanced in Erikson’s theory.

• Foreclosure.
• Moratorium.
• Identity diffusion. and
• Identity achievement.

In his study on adolescents, Marca found out evidence of relation between adolescence and adulthood. This confirmed Erikson’s theory since it suggested that how one resolved crisis in adolescence determined their success o failure in adulthood. Therefore Erikson’s approach was given credence by Marcia’s work.

Marcia, (1980) supported the major element in Eriksson’s psychosocial stage theory that ego identity is developed through social interaction. Accordingly it changes as a result of new experiences and information acquired in day to day life. Marcia, (1980) further asserts that a sense of competence is also responsible for our feeling of mastery. Erikson believes that people in each stage experience conflicts which serve as pillars of development were equally supported by Marcia’s findings.

It is these conflicts which makes some one to develop or fail to develop certain psychological qualities. How one handles the conflict results to either personal growth or failure. In Erikson’s view, these conflicts are centered on either developing a psychological quality or failing to develop that quality. During these times, the potential for personal growth is high, but so is the potential for failure.


Erik Erikson Life can be said to have undergone all the eight stages he himself emphasized. His Psychosocial theory laid emphasis’s on development as a lifelong process with stages in which the child learns psychological conflict. Although Erikson’s theory is well articulated, critics have pointed amongst the things that, the timing can not be applicable in all cultures uniformly bearing in mind the issue of different life expectancy in different parts of the world as well as different historical periods. But for those slight discrepancies the theory can be referred to as a very good and important theory.

A Way of Looking at Things: (1995) Selected Papers 1930-1980 S.P. Schlien.
Cole, M. & Cole, S.R. (1989). The Development of Children. New York: W.H.
Freeman & Co.
Engler.B. (1985). Personality Theories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Erikson, E.H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E.H. (1958). Young Man Luther. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E.H. (1964). Insight and Responsibility. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E.H. (1974). Dimensions of a New Identity. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E.H. (1975). Life History and the Historical Moment. New York:
Hall, C.S and Lindzey.G, (1978). Theories of Personality. NY:
John Wiley and Sons
Joseph F. R. (1973). Introduction to Personality and Psychotherapy.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Maddi, S. R., (1976) Personality Theories. Homewood, IL: Dorsey.
Marcia, J.E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J.Andelson (Ed.), Handbook of
adolescent psychology. New York:
Richard.S. (1983).Erik Eriksson: An Introduction. New York: St. Martin’s.
Schultz D.P. & Schultz S.E. (1987). A History of Modern Psychology. Orlando,
FL: Harcourt-Brace.
Sheehy, G. (1976). Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. New York: E. P.
Waterman, A.S. (1985). Identity in the context of adolescent psychology.
Orlando, FL: Harcourt-Brace.
Waterman, A.S. (1998) Identity in adolescence: Progress and contents: (New
directions for child development, No.30). SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.
Welchman, K. (2000). Erik Erikson, His Life, Work, and Significance. New
Jersey: Simon and Schuster.
Woolfolk, A.E. (1987). Educational Psychology, (3rd Ed.). New Jersey: Simon
and Schuster.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59