Summarise Two Different Psychological Approaches to Identity. How Has Each Been Used to Further Our Understanding of This Concept?

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Identity is a complex topic which is often studied by psychologists. In order to help them to understand identity, they have produced a number of different theories. This essay will summarise two of these theories. The first theory is Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory. This approach focuses on how the development of our identities is influenced by social factors. The second theory is Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory. This approach focuses on group identities (Phoenix, 2007). The essay will also explain how each of these approaches has been used to further our understanding of the identity of people with physical impairments. Erikson views identity as psychosocial and that the development of identity is a lifelong process. He broke down this process into eight stages, which started at birth and ended in old age. Each stage consists of conflicts or normative crises which the individual has to overcome. Erikson felt that the fifth stage, which is when young people make the transition from adolescence to adulthood, was the most important. This is a period of identity crisis when young people may experience conflict between who they are, and what society expects them to be. However during this time it is considered socially acceptable for young people try out a number of different identities for a while, without committing to them; as they start to question who they are, and who they will become in the future. Erikson referred to this time as a period of psychosocial moratorium. He felt that because young people are able to do this then they should have a clear sense of who they are by the end of the fifth stage. This is what Erikson referred to as achieving Ego Identity. It was observed however that some young people experienced role diffusion which is when young people are unable to achieve Ego identity (as sited in Phoenix, 2007). Unlike Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory, which concentrates on individual identities, Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory (SIT) concentrates on...
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