TMA01 Part 1
Summarise two theories of identity and compare their usefulness for explaining the real--world issues discussed in chapter 1, ‘Identities and diversities’.
This essay will look at two theories of identity: psychosocial; tending to focus on the individual and Tajfel’s social identity theory; focusing on the effect of groups. Although different, both theories seem to link quite well for explaining real-world issues; in particular disability, which is mentioned throughout chapter one (Phoenix, 2002) and youth culture, which seems more than ever to be discussed in the media, usually from a negative view point.
Psychosocial identity theory is based on how an individual’s identity is shaped by their own development and experiences combined with their social surroundings. Phoenix refers to E. Erikson (Phoenix, 2002), who wrote about eight stages of development whereby an individual’s identity is built over their lifetime. He suggests that most of the time we are unaware of this and is only when something in our life goes wrong or changes that we become more aware of whom we are and therefore what our identity is. This seems to be why Erikson focuses mainly on adolescence, as this is when people tend to explore different possible paths that lead to certain friendships and life choices, he describes this stage as ‘psychosocial moratorium’ that will eventually lead us to shape who we are as adults. Erikson refers to this achievement as ego identity (Phoenix, 2002), where an individual feels comfortable with whom they are. As with anything or anyone in a stage of development, it is not always a smooth transition from one stage to another and the individual can sometimes be delayed or stuck on one stage; in reference to identity Erikson describes this as an identity crisis. Phoenix also refers to Marcia (Phoenix, 2002) who looked at Erikson’s development stages, particularly adolescence and suggested that people often go through different phases of their identity and how much active choice an individual has in this development.
Tajfel’s social identity theory (SIT) is referred to by Phoenix (2002); which looks at how people find their own identity, by finding an identity within a particular group, then using this group identity to avoid others, seeing themselves as the correct or superior group. Tajfel suggests this means, we (as a group) don’t explore diversity and therefore do not understand differences between people rather we just identify them as being different our own group, therefore wrong. Tajfel defines this identity as individuals recognising others as either part of their in-group i.e. believing they are part of the same group, or an out-group; identifying those who do not belong in their group. This idea suggests this is how prejudice arises, as people want to have a sense of belonging and will find that in a group. Phoenix (2002) shows how individuals will therefore want to increase positive opinion of their group as much as possible while highlighting the negatives of others, this shows how society as a whole is made up of categories and an individual is either placed or places themselves within a category depending on the characteristics they possess, either naturally (gender, race, etc) or a group they have placed themselves into (appearance, occupation, etc), the latter being described as social mobility.
The first real-world issue to be discussed is how we understand identities of those with physical impairments. Phoenix (2002) refers to people having campaigned for those without a disability to not refer to or think or people with a disability as ‘the disabled’. This suggests that there is as tendency for people who have a disability to only be known as or grouped with others solely based on their physical impairment, regardless of any other social category they may fit into. In reference to Erikson and Marcia (Phoenix, 2002), psychosocial identity theory could suggest that those with...
References: DSE212. (2002) Introduction to research methods, From Exploring Psychological Research Methods (1st edition), pp. 1-42, The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Phoenix, A. (2002) Identities and Diversities, From mapping Psychology, Book 1 (2nd edition), pp. 43-97, The Open University, Milton Keynes.
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