Erik Erikson

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Erik Homburger Erikson (June 15, 1902May 12, 1994) was a German developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on social development of human beings, and for coining the phrase identity crisis.

Contents

[edit] Biography

Erikson's lifelong interest in psychological aspects of identity may be traced to his childhood. He was born as a result of his mother's extramarital affair and the circumstances of his birth were concealed from him in his childhood. His mother, Karla Abrahamsen came from a prominent Jewish family in Copenhagen [1], which traced its origin to the northern German lands [2]. Her father, Josef, was a merchant in dried goods; her mother Henrietta died when Karla was only 15. Karla's older brothers Einar, Nicolai, and Axel were active in local Jewish charity and helped maintain a free soup kitchen for indigent Jewish immigrants from Russia [3].

Since Karla Abrahamsen was officially married to a Jewish stockbroker Waldemar Isidor Salomonsen at the time, her son, born in Germany, was registered as Erik Salomonsen. There is no more information about his biological father, exept that he was a Dane and his given name probably was Erik. Following her son's birth, Karla studied for a nurse, moved to Karlsruhe and in 1904 married a Jewish pediatrician Theodor Homburger. In 1909 Erik Salomonsen became Erik Homburger and in 1911 he was officially adopted by his stepfather.

The development of identity seems to have been one of his greatest concerns in Erikson's own life as well as in his theory. During his childhood and early adulthood he was known as Erik Homburger, and his parents kept the details of his birth a secret. He was a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy who was raised in the Jewish religion. At temple school, the kids teased him for being Nordic; at grammar school, they teased him for being Jewish.

Erikson's greatest innovation was to postulate not five stages of development, as Sigmund Freud had done with his psychosexual stages, but eight. Erikson elaborated Freud's genital stage into adolescence, and added three stages of adulthood. His widow Joan Serson Erikson, before her death, elaborated on his model, adding a ninth stage (old age) to it, taking into consideration the increasing life expectancy in Western cultures.

Erikson is also credited with being one of the originators of Ego psychology, which stressed the role of the ego as being more than a servant of the id. According to Erikson, the environment in which a child lived was crucial to providing growth, adjustment, a source of self awareness and identity.

In 1950 Erikson left the University of California at Berkeley when professors there were asked to sign loyalty oaths<ref>C. George Boeree, Erik Erikson, 1902 - 1994 page at Shippensburg University</ref> He spent ten years working and teaching at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and ten years more back at Harvard.

[edit] Erikson's theory of personality

Although Erikson always insisted that he was a Freudian, subsequent authors have described him as an "ego psychologist," insofar as, in contrast to the stress laid in orthodox Freudianism on the id, Erikson emphasised the ego. Perhaps the most conspicuous way in which his theory differs from that of Freud is that, in contrast to Freud's list of stages that take development up through adolescence, Erikson lists eight stages of development, spanning the entire lifespan. Each of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development are marked by a conflict, for which successful resolution will result in a favourable outcome, for example, trust vs. mistrust, and by an important event that this conflict resolves itself around, for example, weaning.

  1. Stage One Oral-Sensory: from birth to one, trust vs. mistrust, feeding;
  2. Stage Two Muscular-Anal: 1-3 years, autonomy vs.doubt, toilet training;
  3. Stage Three Locomotor: 3-6 years, initiative vs.inadequacy, independence;
  4. Stage Four Latency: 6-12 years, industry vs.inferiority, school;
  5. Stage Five Adolescence: 12-18 years, identity vs.confusion, peer relationships;
  6. Stage Six Young Adulthood: 18-40 years, intimacy vs.isolation, love relationships;
  7. Stage Seven Middle Adulthood: 40-65 years, generativity vs.stagnation, parenting;
  8. Stage Eight Maturity: 65 years until death, integrity vs.despair, acceptance of one's life.

Favourable outcomes of each stage are sometimes known as "virtues", a term used, in the context of Eriksonian work, as it is applied to medicines, meaning "potencies." For example, the virtue that would emerge from successful resolution of the eighth stage is that of wisdom.

The virtues, in the order of the stages in which they may be acquired, are hope, will, purpose, confidence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom.

Ego Identity Versus Role Confusion- Ego identity enables each person to have a sense of individuality, or as Erikson would say, "Ego identity, then, in its subjective aspect, is the awareness of the fact that there is a self-sameness and continuity to the ego's synthesizing methods and a continuity of one's meaning for others" (1963) Role Confusion however, is, according to Barbara Engler in her book personality theories, "The inability to conceive of oneself as a productive member of one's own society"(158). This inability to conceive of oneself as a productive member is a great danger, it can occur during adolescence when looking for an occupation.

[edit] Critique of Erikson

Most empirical research into Erikson has stemmed around his views on adolescence and attempts to establish identity. James Marcia's work has distinguished different forms of identity, and there is some empirical evidence that those people who form the most coherent self-concept in adolescence are those who are most able to make intimate attachments in early adulthood. This supports Eriksonian theory, in that it suggests that those best equipped to resolve the crisis of early adulthood are those who have most successfully resolved the crisis of adolescence.

His theoretical approach was studied and supported, particularly regarding adolecscence, by James E. Marcia<ref>Marcia, J. E., (1966), Development and validation of ego identity status, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 3, pp. 551-58</ref>.

[edit] Works

[edit] Major works

  • Childhood and Society (1950)
  • Young Man Luther. A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (1958)
  • Gandhi's Truth: On the Origin of Militant Nonviolence (1969)
  • Adulthood (edited book, 1978)
  • Vital Involvement in Old Age (with J.M. Erikson and H. Kivnick, 1986)
  • The Life Cycle Completed (with J.M. Erikson, 1987)

[edit] Collections

  • Identity and the Life Cycle. Selected Papers (1959)
  • A Way of Looking at Things: Selected Papers 1930-1980 (Editor: S.P. Schlien, 1995)
  • The Erik Erikson Reader (Editor: Robert Coles, 2001)

[edit] Related works

  • Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson (Lawrence J. Friedman, 1999)
  • Erik Erikson, His Life, Work, and Significance (Kit Welchman, 2000)
  • "Everybody Rides the Carousel" (documentary film) (Hubley, 1976)

[edit] References

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Erik Erikson

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