Erik Erikson

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Erik Erikson
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Erikson was born on June 15, 1902 in Germany, and he died in 1994. His father is a Danish man who left his mother even before he was born. His mother is Karla Abrahamsen, was a young Jewish woman who raised him alone in the first three years of his life. Later, his mother married a German doctor, Theodore Homburger. They moved to Karlsruhe in southern Germany. During his childhood to his early adulthood, he was Erik Homburger, and his parents kept the details of his birth a secret. (1) His own life history is one that he feels had a distinct bearing to the development of his own outlook. He apparently went through a lot of conflicts, confusion and crises that later he was to write about. He referred to his own life history in some of his writings.(2)

By 1933, he migrated to the United States and officially changed his name to Erik Erickson from Erik Homburger. He worked at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge Massachusetts and made reseach at Yale, Harvard and University of California. (kaplan) It was during this time when he did his famous study about the modern life among the Lakota and the Yurok. (1) By 1950, he was able to publish his book Childhood and Society wherein he presented his psychosocial theory of development that discussed the crucial steps in an individual’s relationship with the social world, as seen on the interplay between biology and society. (3)

Erikson drew more on the Freudian psychology, but he contributed more in elaborating and expanding the structure of psychoanalysis that was laid down by Freud. Erikson concentrated in children’s development beyond puberty and concluded that human personality is not determined only by childhood experiences but also by those of adulthood. (3) Much of Erikson’s work is focused on the formation of individual identity, the operation of consciousness in a well-adjusted person, and societal influences on child development. He is quite astray from more traditional Freudians by placing a significantly greater importance to development after the first few years of life. (5) Though some critics may claim that Erikson’s elaboration significantly deviated from the spirit of psychoanalysis and that his theory fell out of Freudian tradition, he still felt that his views are in agreement with the basic doctrine of psychoanalysis of Freud, he even preferred to be called a post-Freudian. (2)

The Epigenetic Principle

His formulations were based on the concept of epigenesis, a term he borrowed from embryology. For Erikson, development functions by the epigenetic principle, it means that individuals develop through a predetermined unfolding of personalities in eight stages. His epigenetic principle holds that development takes place in sequential, clearly defined stages , and that each stage must be adequately resolved for a smooth flow of development. According to epigenetic model, if successful resolution of a particular stage does not occur, all subsequent stages reflect the failure in the form of physical, cognitive, social or emotional maladjustment. (3)

The Psychosocial Theory of Development

It is important to have a clear understanding what is meant by psychosocial when used in conjunction with development. It means specifically that the stages of a person’s life from birth to death are formed by social influences interacting with a physically and psychologically maturing organism. (2)

In his theory, he presented his conception of eight stages of ego development across the life cycle. Each stage of development, are with their respective developmental tasks, which he termed as crises, which are needed to be resolved to attain growth and development of specific virtues. (3) Crisis refers no to a “threat of catastrophe, but to a turning point, a crucial period of increased vulnerability and heightened potential, and therefore, the ontogenic source of generational strength and...
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