Erik Erikson


Erik Erikson made a contribution to the field of psychology with his developmental theory. He is often compared to Sigmund because they both believed that humans developed in stages and later expanded upon his theory by stating that humans don't go through specific stages at a specific age and that generally people face life problems. Erikson also developed eight psychosocial stages in which humans develop through throughout their entire life span. Which was five more than Sigmund stated.

Background of Theorist

Erik Homberger Erikson was born in 1902 in Germany. He studied art and a variety of languages during his school years. However, he did not prefer the atmosphere that formal school produced, so instead of going to college with his age group he decided to travel around Europe and explore the world. On his journey he kept a diary of his experiences and the places he saw. Shortly after taking a year off to do this he returned back to germany and enrolled back in art school. After several years of learning about art, Erikson started to not only teach art but also other subjects. Shortly after he was then admitted into the Vienna Psychoanalytic institute. In 1933 he came to the U.S. and became Boston's first child analyst and then obtained a position at Harvard medical school. Later on, he also was offered positions at institutions including Yale, Berkeley, and then the Menninger Foundation.

With no surprise after being offered all these different jobs at different institutes Sigmund decided to return to California to the center for advanced study in the behavioral sciences which is where his passion was, in the sciences. While in California he worked at the Palo Alto and later the Mount Zion, which were all hospitals in San Francisco. While at these hospitals he worked as a clinician and psychiatric consultant. And a psychiatrist is a doctor who specialises in diseases which affect thought, emotion and behavior. Last but not least his young Jewish mother raised Erik by herself for a long time before marrying a physician, Dr. Theodor Homberger. For most of Erik's life he thought that Theodor was his biological father because the truth was concealed from him for many years. When he finally did learn the truth, he was left with a feeling of confusion about who he really was. This early experience helped spark his interest in the formation of identity.

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Synopsis of Theory

Erikson impacted psychological theories by using Sigmund Freud's original theory and simply expanded upon his theory of five stages of development. The main difference between Erikson's theory and Freud's is that Erikson believed that each person progressed through eight stages of development ( 3 more than Sigmund's ) Erikson also believed and emphasized that the environment played a major role in self- awareness, adjustment, human development, and identity.

Each of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development focuses on a central conflict. In his theory of development, children don't automatically complete each stage on a predetermined schedule or a specific age ingroup Instead he believes people face generalized challenges throughout life and at any age, and the ways in which people respond to these challenges determine whether they develop further or stagnate at a particular stage of development.Erikson’s eight stages and associated challenges also include:

  1. Infancy: basic trust vs. basic mistrust.
  2. Early childhood: autonomy vs. shame and doubt.
  3. Preschool years: initiative vs. guilt.
  4. School age: industry vs. inferiority.
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This was the stage between preschool years were Erkson believed that children began to develop a sense of initiative once they began to explore their environment and discover they're able to do things on their own.

The stage occurs during childhood between the ages of 6 and eleven. School and social interaction play an important role during this time of a childs life. Through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities. He also believed that a child compares itself to others during this phase and also develops a sense of confidence or inadequacy.

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The first stage is called Infancy and it says that a baby will either develop trust or mistrust based on his or her caregiver. So if a parent or guardian doesnt nurture its baby or show it love he says that the baby will grow to view the world as a dangerous place.

The second stage Autonomy and it says that during this stage children can either develop a sense of competence and independence or deep shame depending on how their potty training went. Because according to Erik this developmental stage is intimately related to toilet training.

The third stage Erikson discusses how if a parent or guardian makes a child feel guilty about making his or her own choices that the child will ultimately grow to develop a sense of guilt rather than initiative for making the choices they want.

Last but not least the fourth and last stage is called Industry vs Inferiority. During this stage Erikson says that parents play a huge part in a childs self esteem and how they view themselves later on. Erikson believed that if a parent were to compare its child to another in their presence that the child would ultimately develop feelings of inadequacy and not feeling like they were ever "good enough". Because according to Erikson this was the most important stage because it was also where a child also begins to subconsciously compare itself to others.

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He found that individuals found pleasure in exploring their environments around them an even greater pleasure when they discovered that they were able to do things on their own. He also believed that it was important for children to being asserting control and power over their environment at an early age.

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Erik Erikson video clip

Erik Erikson's 8 Stages of Development for Human Development Class at Belmont College