Erik Erikson

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The aim of this essay is to select a major theorist and discuss their contribution to the cognitive and social development in childhood. Erik Erikson was one of the most distinguished theorists of the 20th century. He discovered and developed psychosocial theory. He was also one of the first theorists to cover the entire lifespan of an individual. Erikson’s proposed eight psychosocial stages which he named “The Eight Ages of Man”, which range from birth to 65 years and onwards (O’Brien, 2008). Throughout this essay I will discuss stages one to four which occur during childhood 0-12 years old. Erik Erikson was born on June 15th 1902, in Frankfurt Germany. When Erikson finished school he left home and moved to Florence to pursue his interest in art and enrolled in Baden State Art School. A year later, he moved to Vienna where he became an art teacher in a psychoanalytic school for children run by Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud who was the daughter of Sigmund Freud. While in Vienna, he also took classes in the University of Vienna which led him to receive a certificate in the Montessori Method (Puckett and Diffily, 2004). This move changed his life and career. When Erikson met Anna Freud he became interested in psychology which led him to study psychoanalysis. He was influenced by the work of Freud and this turned his career towards the study of children and their development (Salkind, 2004). Erikson extended Freud’s theory by combining his primary assumptions and expanding on them, considering other factors that could influence development. Erikson’s theory highlights that an individual’s personality develops in stages from social and cultural experiences across the lifespan. Freud’s theory of personality development concentrates on sexual and aggressive impulses through different psychosexual stages (Keenan and Evans, 2009). Erikson's theory of psychosocial development helps us understand children's feelings and how their emotional and social lives affect their learning (Pound, 2011). Erikson’s theory describes that an individual’s personality develops at each of the eight psychosocial stages of life. Erikson suggested that at each stage there is a different sort of conflict or crises that arises between the individual and relationships with others. He believed that each crisis must be resolved successfully for the individual to be prepared for the next life crisis. A negative or positive outcome of how the crisis is resolved leads to the change and development of the individual (Shaffer, 2009). Erikson’s first psychosocial stage of life is called Trust versus Mistrust. This stage takes place from birth to one year. The basic idea of the first stage is for the infant to develop trust. This occurs when the child’s needs for warmth, food, sleep and nurturing are consistently met. The infant is completely dependent on the caregiver and relies on them to meet their needs. By providing the child with consistent care, the caregiver helps them to develop self-trust and the ability to trust others and their environment (Essa, 2010). In a case were the child’s needs are not adequately met, a sense of mistrust in themselves and others around them is developed. They then move through future stages with this sense of mistrust, seeing the world as threating place filled with unreliable or untrustworthy people. When working with children Erikson’s theory is still used in practice nowadays. Teachers working with infants take particular care to provide a predictable environment and consistent caregiving. Babies are completely dependent on adults to meet their needs. Therefore, it is very important that they are nurtured by admirable, positive adults who are affectionate and sensitive in response to the babies needs as soon as they occur. The infant can then start to develop a sense of trust in the world that will support their growth into the next stage (Gordon and Browne, 2010). The second stage of life is known as Autonomy versus...
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