Summarise the two different psychological approaches to identity. How has each been used to further our understanding of this concept?
Within the discipline of Psychology there has been much research focused upon the complex issue of Identity. Several approaches have been developed but this essay will discuss two of the more prominent theories - Psychosocial and Social Identity Theory - and explain how these have developed our understanding of the issue.
Erickson was the founder of Psychosocial Theory. He developed the term from the words psychological (mind) and social (external relationships). His theory, developed from field research, clinical studies and personal experiences, argues that identity is influenced by both personal and social factors - our identity is a bridge between what we see as our ‘core’ selves and the social context (as cited in Phoenix, 2007).
For Erickson, identity “involves the development of a stable, consistent and reliable sense of who we are and what we stand for in the world that makes sense for us and our community” (as cited in Phoenix, 2007, p53). He believed that it is important for our community to see us as the same person over time. However, Erickson doesn’t believe that (once achieved) our ‘core’ identity is fixed; rather the achievement of identity is a continuous, life-long, process affected by our life experiences and the ‘normative crisis’ between individual needs and social expectations, that are common to most people.
Erickson argued that there are 8 developmental stages, from infancy to old age. Each holds a ‘normative crisis’ that needs to be tackled, the outcome of which would influence the achievement of identity.
For Erikson, the most significant of these stages is Adolescence, during which young people have the opportunity to experiment with different responses to social expectations and ‘trying out’ a variety of roles; a period of time he terms ‘psychosocial moratorium’. Some...
References: Phoenix, A. (2007). Identities and Diversities. In D. Miell, A. Phoenix, & K. Thomas (Eds.), Mapping Psychology (2nd ed., pp43-95). Milton Keynes. The Open University.
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