Review of Evidence for Erik Erikson's Identity Theory of Personality

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Review of Evidence for Erik Erikson's Identity Theory of Personality Sarah Gruning
Wichita State University

Review of Evidence for Erik Erikson's Identity Theory of Personality

The personality theory that I have chosen to focus on will be Identity Theory. It was developed by Erik Erikson in the nineteen hundreds. Erik Erikson believed that every individual goes through a certain number of stages to reach his or her full development or potential (Erikson, 1994). He theorized that a human being goes through eight different stages ranging from birth to death (Erikson, 1994). Identity Theory focuses on eight psychosocial stages of development, and an epigenetic principle of maturation (Schultz, 2008). The stages of development are crucial to each developmental stage in life, ranging from infancy to late adulthood (Erikson, 1994). Erikson was considered to be a Neo-Freudian, and he has been described as an "ego psychologist" in he past because he studied all the stages of development that span the entire lifespan (Schultz, 2008). Each of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development are marked by a conflict, which will result in either a positive outcome or a negative outcome depending on how the conflict is resolved. If it is not resolved in a positive way, then this is why we see certain people struggle in other stages of life (Dunkel, 2008). According to Erikson, social and historical factors affect how your ego identity forms, and that will affect the nature of your personality (Erikson, 1994). The epigenetic principle states that each stage in life is governed by genetic and hereditary factors that determine what you will accomplish in that particular stage (Erikson, 1994). Unlike Freud, Erikson was focused on social relationships rather than sexual drives (Schultz, 2008). In Identity theory, there must be a crisis that occurs as a turning point in each stage that allows a transition on to the next stage (Schultz, 2008). This theory also includes basic weaknesses that may arise instead of basic strengths in the case that something goes wrong in the stage crisis (Schultz, 2008). Adapting to the crisis in each stage may also be adaptive or maladaptive, which then leads to maldevelopment. Maladaptions can lead to neurotic behavior and various mental problems later in life (Schultz, 2008). Erikson concluded that both maladaptive behavior and basic weaknesses can be corrected through the use of psychotherapy (Erikson, 1994). Erikson's theory is very optimistic, because although there is a chance for negative outcomes in each stage, we are able to overcome it and find one that is positive through multiple ways (Schultz, 2008). The eight stages of development are as follows: Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. doubt and shame, Initiative vs. guilt, Industriousness vs. inferiority, Identity cohesion vs. role confusion, Intimacy vs. isolation, Generativity vs. stagnation, and Ego integrity vs. despair. These stages all have basic strengths that are interlinked with them and they are: Hope, Will, Purpose, Competence, Fidelity, Love, Care, and Wisdom. These are also referred to as “virtues” or the most favorable outcome of the stage (Schultz, 2008). The stages are much like Freud's in how they connect with different stages of life, but they go by different names and the durations are longer (Schultz, 2008). The Trust vs. Mistrust stage ranges from birth to one years of age and is when we are completely dependent on our caregivers. The Autonomy vs. doubt and shame ranges from two to three years of age, and is when we learn to explore our surroundings and are able to do some activities on our own (Erikson, 1994). The Initiative vs. guilt stage ranges from four to six years of age and is when we learn right from wrong, and are able to assess whether we are good or bad as children. Industriousness vs. inferiority ranges from ages seven to eleven, and is when we start to realize if we are...
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