Summarise two different psychological approaches to identity. How has each been used to further our understanding of this concept?
Identity comprises individual and social elements, with most theories stemming from the notion that ‘knowing who we are requires that we know who we are not,’ adhering to simultaneous influences on the body through social/psychological as well as physical/biological means; a common theme of ‘embodiment’.
Psychosocial theory, defined as an interaction of the biological, psychological and societal systems, can be examined for patterns of continuity and change. It considers that all identities are social. Erikson, the first to acknowledge the Psychosocial, categorized the process where the shape of a persons identity formulates from the community in which they live, consisting of a ‘conscious state of individual uniqueness with the unconscious striving for continuity reinforced by a solidarity with group ideals.’ Thus his ‘Ego Psychology’ differentiated from Heinz Hertman and Freud interpretations. It attempts to classify human development throughout a lifespan, focussing on alterations in ego development reflected through self-understanding, identity formation, social relationships and worldview. Erikson came to a powerful realisation that identity is taken for granted when life is going well and consequently we become unselfconscious. He did not consider that identity never changed, but that development of a core identity involved various positive and negative, individual and social factors. These ‘negative crises’ would be typical of most people. Erikson proposed the ‘Eight Stages of Development’, following the epigenetic principle, comprising periods of growth, recognition and function between the individual and their social environment. He considered the psychomoratorium of Stage 5 (Identity versus Role confusion) to be crucial, where various life decisions are confronted and ‘ego identity’ must be achieved. He defined...
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