Erik H. Erikson had an idea that psychosocial development began at birth and that we went through eight different developmental stages in our lives, and each stage connected you to the next stage. Depending on how you did in each stage helped Erikson to decide how you would do in the next. In order to understand this we need to go back in time to when Erikson was a child and move forward, I do believe his childhood is what helped make him decide to become a psychoanalyst.
Erik Homburger Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany. His father is an unnamed Danish man, who left his mother before Erik was born. It never says rather or not his mother was married to this man or not. When Erik was three his mother married his pediatrician Dr. Theodor Homburger. Erik’s mother and stepfather never told him that Dr. Homburger was not his real father, so Erik grew up believing he was. Erik grew up Jewish looked like he was Danish, and was teased by other children for looking Nordic and being Jewish. It’s a wonder he didn’t lose it some where along his eight stages. Now lets move on to later in his life. His parents wanted him to study medicine but Erik wanted to an artist. After he graduated from high school Erik went to Europe. He took art classes while he was there.
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When he was 25 he applied for a teaching position at an experimental school for American students. Besides teaching art, he got a certificate in Montessori education and a certificate from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.
He married Joan Serson and had three children with her. When the Nazis came into power they moved to Boston. Erikson went to work at Harvard Medical School. He later taught at Yale and Berkley. This is a man who never got a college degree working in some of the most prestige’s University in America.
When Erik became an American citizen he changed his name to Erik Homburger Erikson. Now lets move on to his theories.
Erik Erikson as I said before, believes we go through eight stages in our lives from infancy through old adulthood. Each one of these stages helps prepare us for the next stage. If you don’t do so well in one of the stages you can still correct it in another stage. Depending on your family and friends.
The first stage is from birth to 1yr. of age. Erikson calls this trust vs. mistrust. In order to for an infant to feel trust he must be sure that his care taker will be there to take care of him. If he’s hungry he wants to know that he is going to get feed, if he’s hurt he wants to be comforted, he’s played with, talked to, etc. Without these reassurances the child learns mistrust. When he’s hungry he’s not fed, if he’s hurt he doesn’t get comforted, he’s ignored, etc. To have mixture of trust and mistrust is good. I know that mom may not come as soon as I cry, but I know mom will be there soon to take of me. With trust the child has hope, with mistrust the child becomes withdrawn.
The second stage is from the age’s 2-3 yrs. toddler stage. This stage is what Erikson calls autonomy vs. shame and doubt. In this stage in order for the child to reach autonomy we need to let him explore and manipulate things in his world. Let them investigate things. Toddlers want to know what everything is. They want to know what it does what it feels like, can it be moved, does it taste good, etc. You need to let them investigate, but you also don’t want them to get hurt, so you have to set some limits as to what they can do. You don’t want to limit them too much, because then they begin to doubt things. That you feel they aren’t capable of doing it so they must not be able to. If you get a good balance of both they develop the virtue of self-control and self-esteem.
Stage three is from the ages 3-6 the preschool stage. This stage is what Erikson calls initiative vs. guilt. In order for a child to learn initiative your child needs to learn responsibilities, learn new skills. Let them use their imagination and through their imagination help them to see if they can’t make some of come true. Children learn guilt through learning right from wrong. Through learning new responsibilities, new skills and the use of imagination, children learn what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. When a child does something they know they shouldn’t have done they feel guilty for about. If you have a good balance of initiative and guilt you have a child with virtue purpose in his life.
Stage four is from ages 7-12 the school age child. This stage is what Erikson calls industry vs. inferiority. At this stage we as children need to tame our imagination and become more involved in education and social skills that are required of us. I’m not saying to lose your imagination, just get under control. How boring life would be if we stopped imagining. A lot of things never would have been invented, like our nice handy computers with word processors. This is an important stage I feel. This is when children need to feel like they fit in. They have parents, friends, and teachers all telling them what to do. If your parents, teachers and friends praise and encourage them, they learn industry or the feeling of success. On the other hand if their parents or teachers are too harsh and their peers reject them, then they learn inferiority. Given a balance of both you have the virtue of competence.
Stage five is from ages 12-18 the adolescence. Erikson calls this ego-identity vs. role-confusion. In this stage you have to get to know who you are. That never ending question, “ Who am I?” needs to be answered in some way at this stage. You need to know who you are and how you fit in to the world around you. If we don’t come to some kind of a conclusion at this stage we have role-confusion. When adolescence is confronted with role-confusion, Erikson says he or she is suffering from an identity crisis. If you have the right amount of both you have the virtue of fidelity.
Stage six is when your in your 20’s, young adulthood. This is the stage Erikson describes as intimacy vs. isolation. Intimacy is the ability to love, to be close to others as friends, lovers, and predicating in society. To love is like being able to love someone enough to marry them. You’re not afraid of the commitment that goes with it. To be close to others is like having close friends that you would trust you’re with. Participating in society is getting involved in your community. On the other hand isolation is being afraid to try anything, because your afraid you might get hurt and you don’t want to take the chance. You shy away from love, friends, and community. If you get a right amount of each you have the virtue of love.
Stage seven late 20’s to the 50’s, middle adult. This the stage Erikson describes as generativity vs. self-absorption. Generativity is wanting to make sure that the world goes on. To make sure there is a future for children and their children and expecting nothing in return. Self-absorption is caring for no one. You look out for number one, which is you. You no longer want to be a useful part of society. If you manage a good balance of both you learn the virtue of caring.
Stage eight your 50’s and beyond, old adult. This stage Erikson describes as integrity vs. despair. Integrity is being able to come face to face with your life and all that you have done in it and being able to except it and can approach death without fear. Despair is just the opposite. Looking at your life and wondering what you could have done different to have made it better. Your not to thrilled about death, because you don’t think you are finished yet. You need to more. Someone who can approach death without fear has the strength Erikson calls wisdom. Erikson says, “healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death.”
Erik Erikson has accomplished a lot. If you look at his stages you can see he had to overcome certain parts along the way. Being told the man his mother married was his father, in fact he wasn’t. Being teased for looking Nordic and being Jewish. So he had to overcome obstacles himself. This is part of why he wanted to study psychosocial development. If you look over his stages you can see he is real close to how we are.
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