The Social Constructionist Perspective Suggests That Identities Are Constructed Through Language and Social Relations. Illustrate the Strengths and Weaknesses of This Statement with Examples of Research Studies from This and One Other Perspective.

Topics: Erik Erikson, Social constructionism, Informed consent Pages: 5 (1808 words) Published: July 26, 2012
For over a century now psychologists have been trying to understand how we as humans form our identities in everyday life. In the late nineteenth century William James created is theory on identity. Over the years this area of research has grown and researchers have found that understanding identity is not as easy as it seems and many theories have arisen from this. Two of these theories, of note are the social constructionist theory and the psychosocial theory by Erik Erikson and James Marcia. The social constructionist theory has evolved into what it is today with no real starting point. This is because the researchers in this area are of the view that our ideas are produced socially therefore how can one person actually create it. It is also because social constructionist views are used in various other disciplines as a result having a range of different perspectives. The main idea of the social constructionist theory is to see that the way we understand the world around us is not only natural but is also made from our interactions with other people in everyday life. Our identity is made as we just go about living our daily lives. This view leads to the thought that because identity is created through everyday life that because there are so many people in the world that there are so many ways of understanding one idea. Identities are made through the relationships we make and by the discourses that take place between people in everyday life. An example of a social constructionist study is the research carried out by Kenneth Gergen (a prominent social constructionist since the 1970s) in 1999. This study was about how Gergen struggled to let go of writing with a pen even when advances in technology had produced computers so he didn’t need to. Even when his work (professor of psychology) got rid of his secretary that typed his work up he still hand wrote everything. The study ends in Gergen talking about how the computer has changed his life for the better. This study showed that Gergen who from a young age had created his identity around writing all of his notes etc, this identity was made because his parents loved writing therefore from the social relations around him. What you can see from this study is that the identity to the pen and writing has been created over a long time. As you can see from Gergen’s example he grew up with the identity to the pen but changed it with the advance in technology. This is a strength of the social constructionist theory because it shows that major identity change can take place any time in life. This would not have happened according to the psychosocial theory because Erikson’s theory says that these major decisions are made during adolescence. This is the fifth stage of eight, in Erikson’s psychosocial theory which said that the main aim of this stage was to create your ego identity being the ‘secure feeling of who and what one is’ (Ann Pheonix 2007). In this fifth period major life issues have to be faced therefore making their ego identity. This notion is overemphasised as a new term is now being used which is the mid-life crisis. Social constructionists also believe that people have multiple, de-centred identities. Stuart Hall uses a useful example to show this. Clarence Thomas was chosen by President Bush to be a judge in the supreme court. Bush thought that the whites would vote for Thomas because he was a conservative and the blacks would vote for him because of his colour. Then an accusation of sexual harassment fell upon Thomas by a colleague of Thomas’ called Anita Hill who was a black female. Suddenly the public was split in its judgement. An example of this is that ‘black men were divided, depending on whether their sexism overrode their liberalism’ (Hall, 1992, pp 279-80). White men were split on the grounds of politics, sexism and racism. Hall concluded that even though people can be from the same group identity like gender, the identities they developed were still...
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