Application of Erikson’s Post-Freudian Theory
Application of Erikson’s Post-Freudian Theory
Erik Erikson’s’ views make significant contributions to the field of psychology; this is particularly in the understanding of personality development and related factors. An understanding of his own study of personal development creates an understanding of development of his psychology (Fleming, 2004). Most of Erikson’s psychology work became evident in the post-Freudian era. It was between the 1930s and 1950s; being one of Freud’s students, most of his work exhibit the influence of Freudian views and theories; this was mainly in the field of personality development. However, dissimilar from Freud’s focus on innate influences on personality development, Erikson expanded his views. He gave a person’s social environment a vital role in determining his/her psychological development (Ramkumar, 2002). He created a view that every person goes through many qualitative and distinct stages in life; they begin at birth and end at death. He viewed each stage as a source of conflict which the person needs to resolve before productively making a transition to the next stage. Though some people resolve the conflict, others fail, and that influences their pattern of psychological development. The inability to resolve a conflict at any stage may affect later life and stages.
According to Erikson’s views every stage addresses a predominant issue; however, the stages are not rigid. Issues in one stage often interact with those from previous or succeeding stages (Richards, 2008). Issues from various stages overlap; the manner in which a person deals with issues from one stage determines how he will resolve later issues. An individual understanding of each stage determines how to resolve issues, and its application to actual life experiences. The stages include; infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood, and old age. The conflicts, at each stage, involve a syntonic and dystonic element; these are harmonious and disruptive respectively. The conflicts include; trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame, initiative versus guilt, industry versus inferiority, identity versus role confusion, intimacy versus isolation, generosity versus stagnation, and integrity versus despair (Baker, 2013).
Erikson’s post-Freudian theories focused majorly on the ego and how social influences affect a person’s personality development. His work showed a continuation of Freud’s works on psychoanalysis; this was despite the work’s distinct nature. The development of his theoretical issues has its basis on the role of the ego, rather than the id in personality development. He views the ego as the center of personality development; this view influences several psychological studies even today. Being the center of personality, the ego creates a unified sense of self. It entails three interrelated sections; these include the body ego, ego identity and ego ideal. There are major changes in the ego during the stages of development; it mainly occurs at adolescence stages (FEIST, 2014).
Erikson’s life depicts how he developed an interest in psychoanalysis and personality development. Born in 1902 in Germany to a Jewish mother; the absence of his biological father during early years of life contributed to his crisis challenges. During his school years, neither Gentiles nor Jews accepted him; he left home at 18 years in pursuit of an artistic life; this occurred in an effort to discover his self-identity. He later became a school teacher in Vienna; there he met Anna Freud. These events marked the start of his interest in psychoanalysis and development of personality theories (Perry, 2014).
Erikson developed a postulation of eight stages of psychosocial development. Though he spent years learning under Freud, his views exhibited a different perspective; he set himself apart from Freud’s views through a focus on ego and social influences. His theories explained people’s progress as an extension of Freud’s works in psychoanalysis (FEIST, 2014). Marking the eight stages of development are conflicts that require resolution by the person. The stages discussed below include; infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood, and old age.
The infancy stage occurs during a child’s first year of life. It is between the ages of zero and one; the stage is synonymous to Freud’s first stage of psychosexual development; this is the oral stage. Erikson expanded Freud’s views beyond the mouth; he includes other sensory organs such as the ears and eyes. The conflict a person faces at this stage is trust versus mistrust. Trust emerges from the constant meeting of the child’s needs (Ramkumar, 2002). A child who trusts the father and mother to meet his/her needs develops a basic sense of trust. The trust he/she develops transfers also to his/her view of the world. It helps the child in developing acceptance of boundaries and limits.
- Early childhood
The stage occurs between the second and third years of life according to FEIST (2014). It compares to Freud’s anal stage of psychosexual development. It involves the mastery of body functions such as holding, walking and urinating. At the stage, there is a conflict of autonomy versus shame (Cosweb, 2014). A child willingly explores the world; he/she feeling things around using senses. The willingness to explore the environment exhibits a sense of autonomy; it is necessary in the child’s growth and development. The inability to develop a sense of freedom and self-direction results in; the development of a sense of shame and doubt. It prevents a health acceptance of limits; small crises result in the child’s devastation.
- Play age
The children experience the stage between the third and fifth years of life. It relates to Freud’s phallic phase. It depicts children’s interest in genital and loco-motor activities. The conflict occurs between initiative and guilt; children, at the stage, make decisions and execute them through play activities. Imagination helps the child in developing a sense of purpose. The child develops control of the body and executes motor activities; he/she also engages in language and fantasy activities (McLeod, 2008).
It is a stage occurring at 6 and 12 years; this is similar to the latency stage in psychosexual development. It involves the psychosocial growth beyond the family boundaries. The child develops a focus on academic work and gains competency in various areas of activity. The child receives praise for his successful works; this serves as a motivational factor for future efforts. The praise may also have a negative impact; it results in the value of one’s own achievements only. A focus on one’s achievements results in comparison and inferiority when he/she does not succeed in other areas. He/she views the aspects of his/her life that are not very successful as inferior. A balance between the child’s feelings of industry and inferiority must exist.
It occurs at the onset of puberty; this is roughly between the age of 12 and 19 years. Characteristics of this stage are efforts to discover a person’s identity, values and place in the world. It exhibits the struggle to acquire ego identity; psychosexual growth and psychosocial latency develop; thus, limited social growth may show (Rogers, Rose & Small, 2008). A conflict of identity versus role confusion emerges; a person’s maturation and view of the world influence how they resolve the conflict. Identity occurs through the ability to exercise choices. The resolution results in fidelity and faith; in an ideological view of the world and future one believes in his/her own self-image. The inability to resolve the conflict, on the other hand, results in role repudiation; this is the inability to unite one’s various self-images; it occurs through defiance and rebellion.
- Young adulthood
The young adulthood stage occurs between the age of 18 and 30; it involves the acquisition of intimacy and development of relationships. A mutual trust develops between partners in a stable relationship. The conflict experienced at this stage is intimacy versus isolation (Elkind, 2014). Intimacy involves the ability to share with and feel care for another person without the anxiety of losing oneself. The inability to achieve a balance results in feelings of exclusivity and inability to show love for another person. The achievement of a balance ensures the development of a good marriage or enduring and genuine friendship.
The stage of adulthood occurs between the age of 31 and 60 years; it involves a conflict between Generativity and stagnation. The resolution of the crisis results in care; Erikson described this as the ability to show concern and provide for persons and products one values in his/her lifetime. It also involves concern for people beyond one’s family; for instance, the poor, orphans or disabled people (Social Scientist, 2014). The inability to resolve the conflict results in self-absorption; also known as rejectivity; this is the rejection to care for certain individuals and groups.
- Old age
It is the last stage of psychosocial development; this occurs from around the age of 60 to death. It is a productive time for the person and the society he or she exists in; characterized by a conflict in integrity versus despair. People look back at their lives and decide whether they led a fulfilling or disappointing life. Integrity results from the person’s ability to look back and be proud of their life and accomplishments made (McLeod, 2008). There is a sense of fulfilment associated with knowing one faced challenges and life’s experiences successfully. Despair results from feelings of regret over the mistakes or choices one made throughout his/her lifetime. A happy old age requires the resolution of the conflict; the person must accept the life he/she lived. Focus should be on making the last moments of life worthwhile.
Application of stages of psychosocial development
Use of Erikson’s theoretical views by psychologists and other professionals occurred throughout the years. It forms an elaborate and more comprehensive view of life span development; in most cases considered an improvement of Freud’s works on psychoanalysis (Smith, 2007). Erikson’s analysis of stage-wise developments and conflicts provides a basis for exploring and controlling human development. It is essential due to the coverage of life from birth to old age. In order to comprehend the importance and relevance of Erikson’s theories and views, it is necessary to analyze the application of stage by stage factors. A person’s social experiences throughout life influence his/her development of psychologically healthy traits and strengths (Perry, 20014).
- Infancy stage
The stage represents the need for the development of trust and mistrust by the child. It depicts the connection between quality of care given to a child and the degree to which he/she develops a balance between trust and mistrust. For the child to develop psychologically in future he/she must learn birth trust and mistrust; the syntonic and dystonic elements respectively. A balance helps a child in showing trust to caretakers and the world as a whole (Feist & Feist, 2012). The resolution results in the emergence of; basic trust, hope, and basic strengths of infancy. The inability to resolve the crisis has severe consequences; the child fails to develop hope retracts from the world; he/she becomes fearful and suspicious of new experiences. The child does not learn to distinguish between non-threatening and threatening expressions. The development of balance between trust and mistrust is necessary in later stages of development.
- Early Childhood Stage
The stage depicts the necessity of allowing a child’s independent growth. It highlights the need to let children touch and experience their environment using the five senses. Caretakers learn how to contribute to the development of autonomy and self-direction within the child. The child’s activities should not be restricted; restriction results in feelings of shame and doubt. Thus, helping a child create a balance between the autonomy and shame results; basic strengths and development of free will. Parents must thus recognize the child’s need to practice the skills of freedom and self-direction at his/her own pace (UEN, 2014). An understanding of Erikson’s views will guide the caretaker in helping the child deal with feelings such as jealousy and anger instead of condemning them.
- Play Age
This stage centers on initiative versus guilt. A child’s imagination helps with development and execution of a purpose through play activities. The child must be encouraged to develop a sense of initiative through experiences encouraging physical activities and decision making. Caretakers learn the dangers of disregarding a child’s activities as senseless or futile; this may result in the development of guilt. Thus, the creation of productive activities at the stage encourages skills in leading, following and cooperating (Sunny Press, 2014). The development of a balance between initiative and imposed restriction ensures the child acts with purpose and set goals. The underdevelopment of a sense of purpose results in inhibitions; thus, children’s initiatives must be encouraged.
At this stage, a child’s efforts must be encouraged with praises and motivation. The child must also be guided in realizing that he/she cannot succeed at all times. A balance must exist between his/her feeling of industry and inferiority; despite the fact that the child needs to work hard, he/she must also develop some sense of inferiority. A caretaker must not only focus on affirming certain aptitudes in children that may result in restriction of other areas of exploration.
An adolescent must develop a sense of identity; knowing oneself and his/her place in the world (Schwartz, 2013). Though the development of identity is crucial, feelings of some identity confusion are normal at this stage. The child must be guided in developing his/her own identity through trial and error. The resolution at this stage influences the development of future adult roles. Identity occurs through one’s ability to consider all the things he/she learns about him/herself; thus, integration of knowledge into a whole. It creates a continuous connection between one’s past, present and future experiences and challenges (Feist & Feist, 2012). The establishment of an identity requires the influence of good role models. Those in the child’s environment must thus strive to be good role models the child can emulate. If not helped, the child will find himself/herself preoccupied with conformity and vanity about physical appearances, feelings of failure and efforts to please others (UEN, 2014).
- Young Adulthood
The stage depicts efforts in establishing a balance between intimacy and isolation. The achievement of balance helps in ensuring a quality and long lasting relationship with a partner; this occurs through one’s ability to love and care for another person. Young people who are successful at this stage accept themselves and view themselves as worthwhile people. It helps in explaining the consequences of one’s inability to establish close and personal relations; feelings of loneliness and isolation emerge (Baker, 2013). Thus, we understand without the development of love expressed through sexual passion, commitment, competition, cooperation and friendship, the trait of exclusivity became dominant. Exclusivity involves selectiveness of activities and people one resonating to their identity. It causes inability to; work with others, have healthy competition and compromise.
It is the second-last stage of psychosocial development. It provides an understanding of consequences of resolving the conflict of Generativity versus stagnation. It highlights the need of working hard and ensuring one’s achievements also benefit others in the society. The failure to develop Generativity shows through self-absorption and concern only for personal needs. The stage depicts the ability to spread life, innovative ideas and products in an attempt to improve the world. The achievement of balance not only facilitates the development of care, but also prepares a person for the conflict in the final stage; it influences the development of wisdom at old age (Plaut, 2014).
- Old age
The last stage has a conflict of integrity versus despair; when old people look back at the lives they led, dissatisfaction by some with their accomplishments arises. Other people see a past full of failures and develop despair. An analysis of the stage presents the importance of resolving crises at every stage of development; the resolution of conflicts results in the acquisition of wisdom. Erikson describes wisdom as the detached and informed concern with life as the face of death approaches. It involves the acceptance that life is at its end and death is inevitable and unchangeable. Thus, one focuses on making his/her last days of life worthwhile. The stage marks the end of Erikson’s stages of development in relation to social experiences.
Erikson’s views provide a new way of analyzing human development. His theories generate research and have high internal consistency (IVCC, 2014). However, there are some criticisms in regard to his work. Criticized as being vague and subjective are his prosaic and artistic ways of addressing factors in human development. He accepted the shortcoming and attributed it to his approach in research; he did work from an artistic rather than scientific methodological perspective.
Subsequently, perception of his work is predominantly masculine. He wrote in a male voice; this depicted a masculine perspective in his developmental stages (Fleming, 2004). For instance, Douvan and Anderson, in their book The Adolescent Experience, showed that though Erikson’s views are applicable for boys’ development, they are not for girls. It based its argument on the suggestion that girls postpone identity consolidation until after marriage, unlike their male counterparts (Elkind, 2014).
Erikson’s views and theories on personality depict the influences of his predecessor Sigmund Freud. Having studied under Freud, Erikson’s views further Freud’s works on psychosexual development. However, his distinct analysis of personality development focuses on the role of the ego and social interactions in determining a person’s personality. It occurs through a discussion of the eight main stages of development (Business Balls, 2014). They include; infancy, early childhood, play age, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood and old age. Each stage depicts the resolution of a conflict between elements. The study shows consequences of the achievement of balance and failure to achieve balance between the elements. It addresses the relevance of discussed factors in life; today. It depicts the applications of Erikson’s views in an understanding of personality development. Through reference to Erikson’s works, caretakers and other people can describe, understand and influence the development of personality throughout stages in life. An analysis of the limitations of Erikson’s views also provides a gap to be filled by further studies and theoretical approaches in the field of psychoanalysis and psychology as a whole (Marlowe & Canestrari, 2006).
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