Erik Erikson & Post-Freudian Theory Term Paper

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guilt stage, that occurs in the preschool years, where the child is about 31/2 to 51/2 years old. During this stage the child learns: (1) to imagine, to broaden his skills through active play of all sorts, including fantasy (2) to cooperate with others (3) to lead as well as to follow (Wagner, 2007). Immobilized by guilt, he is: (1) fearful (2) hangs on the fringes of groups (3) continues to depend unduly on adults and (4) is restricted both in the development of play skills and in imagination (Wagner, 2007). During these years, the preschool aged child begins to assert his power and control over the world. Children that are successful at this stage feel capable and are able to lead others. In this stage exploration is very important, and the well-adjusted and treated child begins to explore his surroundings without any feelings of fear or uncertainty. This stage builds on the previous one because the child uses the skills such as confidence and independence in the application of being able to securely explore the world around him.

Erikson's for the stage is described as the industry vs. The inferiority or competence stage. Erikson believes that the fourth psychosocial crisis is handled, for better or worse, during what he calls the "school age," presumably up to and possibly including some of junior high school. In this stage the child learns to master the more formal skills of life: (1) relating with peers according to rules (2) progressing from free play to play that may be elaborately structured by rules and may demand formal teamwork, such as baseball and (3) mastering social studies, reading, arithmetic (Wagner, 2007). In this stage, through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities. Children who are encouraged and commended by parents and teachers develop a feeling of competence and belief in their skills.

Also at this stage, homework is a necessity, and the need for self-discipline increases yearly. The child who, because of his successive and successful resolutions of earlier psychosocial crisis, is trusting, autonomous, and full of initiative will learn easily enough to be industrious (Wagner, 2007). However, the mistrusting child will doubt the future, and this shame and guilt ridden child will experience defeat and inferiority. In this stage school and school processes are important events because the child needs to cope with new social and academic demands that did not exist prior. If the child is able to socially interact with others well, the child has adjusted well to this stage. However, if the child has difficulty in meeting the new academic demands, such as learning basic things in school, the child emerges with shame and guilt and feels inferior to others in his school classroom.

Erikson's fifth stage is the learning identity vs. diffusion stage that occurs in adolescence, where the child is about 13 or 14 years old until they are around 20 years old. This stage differs greatly from the prior four stages, where the well taken care of and nurtured child adapts quickly to each stage and emerges as a capable child after each stage. In this fifth stage, even the well-adjusted of adolescent experiences some role identity diffusion, such as delinquency, rebellion and insecurity or doubts. According to Erikson, during successful early adolescence, mature time perspective is developed; the young person acquires self-certainty as opposed to self-consciousness and self-doubt (Erikson, 1950). The adolescent comes to experiment with different, although usually constructive, roles rather than adopting a negative behavior, such as delinquent acts.

In Erikson's fifth stage, the adolescent anticipates achievement, and accomplishments. In later adolescence, clear sexual identity, such as manhood or womanhood, is established. The adolescent seeks leadership (someone to inspire him), and gradually develops a set of ideals (socially congruent and desirable, in the case of the successful adolescent) (Wagner, 2007). Erikson believes that, in our culture, adolescence affords a "psychosocial moratorium," particularly for middle - and upper-class American children (Wagner, 2007). They do not yet have to "play for keeps," but can experiment, trying various roles, and thus hopefully find the one most suitable for them (Wagner, 2007). In this stage social relationships with others are very important events, because teenagers need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. In this stage, success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while at the same time failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self

Erikson's sixth stage is called the learning intimacy vs. isolation stage, which occurs when the young adult is capable of experiencing true intimacy, such as a strong friendship or successful marriage. This stage covers the period of early adulthood when people are exploring personal relationships. According to Erikson, this stage was very important because it was vital that people develop close, committed relationships with other people. In addition, those who are successful at this step will develop relationships that are committed and secure. Since each step built on skills learned in previous steps, Erikson believed that those with a poor sense of self tended to have less committed relationships and were more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression. In this stage, relationships are important events, and social relationships learned during the preceding stage are built on to form lasting close relationships such as a best friend or husband or wife.

In Erikson's seventh stage, the learning vs. self-absorption stage, the individual's life-capabilities such as marriage, parenthood and productive work roles are included. This stage of development follows early adulthood where individuals focus on their work careers and family life. According to Erikson, those who are successful during this stage will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home and community. On the other hand, those who fail to attain this skill will feel unproductive and uninvolved in the world. At this stage, adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people (Wagner, 2007). Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world (Wagner, 2007).

Finally, Erikson's eighth stage, the integrity vs. despair stage occurs at the time the mature adult develops the peak of adjustment; integrity. In this stage the adult is able to trust, is independent and dares the new. In this stage the individual works hard, has found a well-defined role in life, and has developed a self-concept with which he is happy (Wagner, 2007). This individual is capable of being intimate without strain, guilt, regret, or lack of realism; and he is proud of what he creates, such as his children, his work, or his hobbies. (Wagner, 2007). If one or more of the earlier psychosocial crises have not been resolved, he may view himself and his life with disgust and despair (Wagner, 2007). This is the stage where reflection on one's life occurs, and older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.

Discussion of Erikson's Stages of Human Development & Conclusion

Erikson's work has been widely hailed as providing valuable insights to the field of psychology and the study of human development and personality. Psychology is both an applied and academic field that studies the human mind and behavior. Research in psychology seeks to understand and explain thought, emotion, and behavior. Applications of psychology include mental health treatment, performance enhancement, self-help, ergonomics, and many other areas affecting health and daily life. Erikson's work contributed greatly to early psychology, which evolved out of both philosophy and biology. Both Freud's and Erikson's work incorporate aspects of both philosophy and biology; Erikson's work contains a further step than Freud's because he actually studied children and tested them, unlike Freud. Research that has followed both Freud's and Erikson's theories of personality development state that these stages are plausible and insightful descriptions of how personality develops, but are descriptions only. This is because humans possess only a rudimentary and tentative knowledge of just what sort of environment results. However, successfully assisting the child through the various stages and the positive learning that should accompany them is a complex and difficult task, as any worried parent or teacher knows.

Research in the area of child development continues to ask these questions, in search of an answer. Erikson's stages of development can best be described as theories of socialization, or the process that results when the human grows from an infant through childhood and finally into an adult. Erikson's research on human development and personality successfully built on the early philosophy of Freud. Since present-day psychologists prefer to use more objective scientific methods to understand, explain, and predict human behavior, the psychological studies of the future will be more highly structured, beginning with a hypothesis that is then empirically tested. Future research…

Sources Used in Document:


Cole, M. & Cole, S.R. (1989). The Development of Children. New York:

W.H. Freeman & Co.

Erikson, E.H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.

Erikson, E.H. (1975). Life History and the Historical Moment. New York:

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