As a young child, he was learning everything an independent, curious, and analytical toddler would be learning. At one and a half years of age, in his second stage of child development, he was mastering his walking skills and beginning to work on control and management. By the time he turned four he was in his next stage of development, beginning to copy what he was learning from adults, and exploring new and interesting activities. He was given the opportunity of free play and improved his sense of self-esteem. This sense of imagination and creativity would help him transition to the next stage. Finally, in the fourth stage of child development, around age seven, he was beginning to question who he really was and what his purpose and role was. He was put into social situations and was given the opportunity to interact with other children. He was Erik Erikson, and little did he know may have once lived through his own stages of psychosocial development. In this paper, I will discuss Erikson’s psychosocial development theory. His credentials and research are important to support his theory, and it is interesting to know the facts about famous theorists. I will be concentrating on stages two, three, and four as they pertain to primarily early childhood students. I will also discuss what I observed in an actual classroom and compare and contrast what I found out related to the different stages. Finally, I will mention the controversy over Erik Erikson’s theory and the evidence to support and argue the facts. Erikson developed an important theory that has helped explain human development.
Erik Erikson was born in 1902 in Germany. He did not start his career as a psychologist; “…in fact, Erikson never graduated from high school” (Woolfolk, 2007, p. 67). Erikson’s heavy interest and influences for identity were developed through his own experiences during school (Van Wagner, 2007). “Erikson spent his childhood in Germany, his adolescence wandering through Italy, and his young adulthood in Austria” (Berger, 2005, p. 35). A meeting with Sigmund Freud in Vienna led Erikson to an
interest for studying psychoanalysis (Woolfolk, 2007). According to Van Wagner (2007), Erikson earned a certificate from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.
Along with psychologists such as Freud, Erikson believed that crises of adult life reflect unresolved conflicts of childhood. However, his stages differed “significantly from Freud’s in that they emphasized people’s relationships to their family and culture, not only to their sexual urges” (Berger, 2005, p. 36). Through his stages, Woolfolk (2007) suggests that “Erikson offered a framework for understanding the needs of young people in relation to the society in which they grow, learn and later make their contributions” (p. 67). Each of the developmental stages confronts a person with a new task or ability that must be mastered for the best possible and most successful development (Coon, 2006). Because of this mastery, Erikson firmly believed in a psychosocial dilemma that causes problems through each stage. “A psychosocial dilemma is a conflict between personal impulses and the social world” (Coon, 2006, p. 113). The process in which the individual resolves each developmental conflict will have an impact on their self-image and view of the world (Woolfolk, 2007). Erikson identified eight different stages in the life cycle for human development (Gerrig and Zimbardo, 2005). “Erikson’s psychosocial theory emphasized the emergence of self, the search for identity, the individual’s relationships with others, and the role of culture through life” (Woolfolk, 2007, p. 67). Erikson furthered his career by moving to the United States in 1933 and accepting a teaching position at the Harvard Medical School. As well as his new teaching position, he also developed his own private practice in child psychoanalysis (Van Wagner, 2007). After arriving in the United States, according...
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