Erik Erikson and Psychosocial Theory

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Introduction: Erik Erikson - Biography
Erik Erikson is a developmental psychologist who is well-known for his two theories about Stages of Psychosocial development and Identity Crisis. He was born on June 15, 1902, in Frankfurt, Germany. His Jewish mother raised him by herself for a while before getting married to his step father, Dr. Theodor Homberger. In fact, he never knew about the identity of his real father until he grew up and found out by himself. This early confusing experience created his first notion about identity. The concept of identity in human development became more important to him when he was discriminated against at school for his Jewish background and Nordic tall, blonde, blue-eyed appearance. After finishing high school, Erikson earned a certificate from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in psychoanalysis. He then taught at a school which was established by Dorothy Burlingham. She was a friend of Anna Freud, a reputed psychologist and also the youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud who created the Psychosexual Theory. Thanks to this relationship, Erikson later had chances to learn and work with the Freuds on some projects and even became Anna Freud’s patient in her work on child psychoanalysis. The opportunities also helped him to shape and develop his career as a psychologist. Erikson met Joan Serson, a dance instructor when they were both teaching at the same school. They got married in 1930 and had three children. They moved to the United States in 1933 when Erikson started working at Havard Medical School. It was at this time, he also replaced his original name, which was Erik Homberger, with the name Erik H. Erikson, probably to hide his origin. During his teaching career, he was an instructor of psychology at several schools around the US. He also published some books on his theories and researches. His book, Gandhi's Truth won the Pulitzer Prize and a national Book Award. In comparison with Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory, Erikson’s psychology research focused more on the impact of environment, society and culture on the formation of human characteristics. He also emphasized the development of personality throughout an individual’s lifespan. Beginning in 1938, he did more research on children by studying specific groups of people around the country: “He found a marked difference between Sioux children, who were reared on tales of game hunting, and the more restrictive childhood of the Yurok, who were prepared for an arduous way of life.” (New York Times, 1994, p.3). He enjoyed working with people in lower classes of the society. Indeed, he spent most of his life time to traveling, researching and publishing his work in the books Childhood and Society (1950), Ego Development and Historical Chance (1975), Young Man Luther (1958), Gandhi's Truth (1969), Insight and Responsibility (1964) and Identity: Youth and Crisis (1968). During his retirement, he still kept working with the support of his wife to publish two more important study: The Life Cycle Completed (1982) and Vital Involvement in Old Age (1986). Erik H. Erikson died on May 12, 1994, after a brief illness. His son, Kai T. Erikson, is now also a remarkable sociologist.

Psychosocial Theory – Stages of Development
“Life is a series of lessons and challenges which help us to grow. Erikson's wonderful theory helps to tell us why.” (Chapman, 2006, p. 1) Erikson’s Psychosocial theory describes the changes in human mentality and personality in eight stages of life, from the first year to late adulthood. In this theory, Erikson shows his strong belief in the impact of environment, particularly society, on each stage of personal development. Each stage is built on a conflict between two sides, such as Trust vs. Mistrust. People may fall on one of the two sides or struggle in the middle. In 1950, Erikson introduced his eight stages theory of human development in his book Childhood and Society, under the title The Eight Ages of Man. As he used...
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