Saturday, 4 March 2017

Developmental Stages: Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson

Developmental Stages:

Gender is one very important aspect of our personality. But personality is much more than our notions of being male or female together with related attitudes and interests. It includes all of the abilities, predispositions, habits, and other qualities that make each of us different from every other person.

Much of Erik Erikson’s theory of personality development was inspired by Sigmund Freud. Unlike Freud, however, Erikson downplays the importance of sexuality and sexual conflicts in human development. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of the child’s social environment. The result is a theory of psycho-social rather than psycho-sexual development.
The major emphasis in Erikson’s theory is on the development of a healthy self-concept, or identity, to use his term. 

One of Erikson’s most important contributions to the study of human development is that he extended development beyond childhood.

According to Erikson, development does not end with childhood but spans the entire course of life. It can be described in terms of eight stages.

The first five stages span infancy, childhood, and adolescence; the last three describe adulthood.

Each stage involves a conflict, brought about mainly by a person’s need to adapt to the social environment. And because the demands of a given environment tend to be much the same for all individuals within that culture, we tend to go through the same stages at about the same ages—hence the notion of stages.

Trust versus Mistrust:

For infants to adapt to an initially complex and largely bewildering world, they have to develop a sense of trust in this world; although they are initially mistrustful because the world is strange and unfamiliar. Hence, the basic psycho-social conflict is trust versus mistrust.

Resolving the conflict results in a sense of competence and enables infants to continue to develop and grow.

According to Erikson, the most important person in a child’s life during this first stage is the mother or another primary caregiver. That is because successful resolution of the conflict between trust and mistrust depends largely on the infant’s relationship with this caregiver and on the gradual realization that the world is predictable, safe, and loving. According to Erikson, if the world is unpredictable and the caregiver is rejecting, the infant may grow up to be mistrustful and anxious.

Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt:

Initially, infants don’t deliberately act upon the world; instead, they react to it. For example, sucking is something that happens when stimulation is appropriate; it is not something that the infant deliberately decides to do.

But during the second year of life, children gradually begin to realize that they are the authors of their own actions. As a result, they begin to develop a sense of autonomy.

Now, it’s important for parents to encourage their attempts to explore and to provide opportunities for independence. Over-protectiveness can lead to doubt and uncertainty in dealing with the world.

Initiative versus Guilt:

By the age of 4 or 5, children have begun to develop a sense of autonomy, a sense that they are separate individuals. Now they must discover who they are. This discovery comes about largely as a result of children identifying with their parents.

Erikson assumed that children seek to discover who they are—and, in fact, become what they will be—largely by trying to be like their parents.

During this stage of development, children’s worlds expand dramatically, not only in a physical sense, but also through their use of language.

With their increasing ability to explore and know the world, children need to develop a sense of initiative with respect to their own behaviors. They are autonomous as well as responsible for initiating behavior.

The central process involved in resolving the initiative versus guilt conflict is one of the identification, so the parents and the family continue to be the most important influences in children’s development—although preschool teachers may now begin to assume an increasingly important role. Parents and teachers should encourage the young child’s sense of initiative and nurture a sense of responsibility.

Industry versus Inferiority:

The fourth developmental phase spans the elementary school years. Keeping in mind that each of Erikson’s stages reflects the principal social/cultural demands in the child’s life, this stage is naturally marked by children’s increasing need to interact with and be accepted by peers.

It now becomes vital that children receive assurance that their selves, their identities, are significant, worthwhile. During this stage, children often take advantage of opportunities to learn things that they think are important in their culture. It is as though, by so doing, they hope that they will become someone important. And successful resolution of this stage’s conflict depends largely on how significant agencies—especially schools and teachers—respond to children’s efforts.

Recognition and praise are crucial for developing a positive self-concept. If children’s work is continually demeaned, seldom praised, and rarely rewarded, the outcome may well be a lasting sense of inferiority.

Identity versus Identity Diffusion:

Adolescence brings with it an extremely critical, and sometimes very difficult, task: that of developing a strong sense of identity. The crisis implicit in this stage concerns a conflict between a strong sense of self and a vague uncertain self-concept.

The source of conflict is the almost overwhelming number of possibilities open to children. The conflict is made worse by the variety of models and the opposing values evident in society. In the absence of clear commitment to values, and perhaps to vocational goals as well, adolescents are in a state of identity diffusion.

Later in adolescence, children may experiment with a variety of identities. In this sense, Erikson explains, adolescence serves as a sort of “moratorium”—a period during which adolescents can try out different roles without a final commitment.

The crisis of adolescence is simply the conflict between the need to find an identity and the difficulties involved in doing so. And resolution of the crisis is implicit in the achievement of a relatively mature identity—which is not something that all adolescents manage to achieve by the time they are out of their teens.

Stages of Adulthood:

Erikson describes three additional psycho-social conflicts that occur during adulthood and old age; each requires new competencies and adjustments.

Intimacy and solidarity versus isolation: 

The first of the adult stages, intimacy and solidarity versus isolation, reflects most adults’ need for intimate relationships with others (as opposed to being isolated). Such relationships are especially important for those who seek marital and parental roles. For others, developmental tasks might be quite different.

Generativity versus self-absorption: 

The second adult stage, generativity versus self-absorption, describes individuals’ need to take on social, work related, and community responsibilities that will be beneficial to others (generative). The basic conflict here is between a tendency to remain pre-occupied with the self (as are adolescents, for example) and cultural demands that individuals contribute to society in various ways.

Integrity versus despair: 

The final adult stage in the human lifespan, integrity versus despair, has to do with facing the inevitability of our own death and realizing that life has meaning-that we should not despair even though the end of life is imminent.