Equivalence Principle


ERIKSON'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY. The German-born American psychoanalyst Erik Homburger Erikson (1902-1994) attempted to revive the structure of psychoanalysis after the death of Sigmund Freud in 1939. Erikson considered himself to be a Freudian psychoanalyst in spite of some opinions that he fell outside the Freudian tradition. Erikson helped to establish the theoretical approach called ego psychology, along with the Austrian-born American psychoanalyst Heinz Hartmann (1894-1970), the German psychologist Ernst Kris (1901-1957), and the Hungarian-born American psychologist David Rapaport (1911-1960). The theme of ego psychology is that the "ego" is capable of functioning autonomously and is not confined to internal conflicts with the "id" and the "superego" as in Freudian doctrine. Erikson's major contributions to contemporary psychoanalytic theory include a psychosocial theory of development and psychohistorical analyses of famous persons. According to Erikson's theoretical approach, the term psychosocial refers to the stages of an individual's life from birth to death and focuses on the social/environmental influences that interact with the physical and psychological growth of the person. Erikson's psychosocial theory, which describes "stages" of development, supplements S. Freud's psychosexual stage of development theory, J. Piaget's cognitive stage development theory, and H. S. Sullivan's interpersonal stage development theory. The notion of "stage" in developmental theories refers to the more or less clearly defined ages at which new forms of behavior appear in response to new maturational and social variables. Erikson coined the term identity crisis and posited that development proceeds in eight consecutive stages, where the first four stages occur during infancy and childhood, the fifth stage occurs during adolescence, and the final three stages occur during adulthood up to old age. Each stage contributes to an individual's whole personality in an epigenetic sense (i.e., overall development unfolds via interaction with the environment), but different people may have different timetables for entering and progressive through each stage (cf., psychosocial moratorium - denotes a "time-out" from life during which a person may retain a "fluid identity," such as young adults taking time out to travel before settling into more fixed identities constrained by relationships and work responsibilities). Erikson asserted that each of the eight stages is characterized by a specific psychological conflict that seeks resolution. The eight stages are: basic trust versus basic mistrust - infancy period, when very young children develop attitudes of trust or mistrust concerning people; autonomy versus shame/ doubt - early childhood, when the child grows older and, in its attempt to gain control over muscles and bones, develops attitudes of autonomy, independence, and success, or of shame, doubt, and failure; initiative versus guilt - occurs during preschool age, when the child is about four years old and is seeking behavior roles to imitate; if she learns the socially acceptable behaviors, then initiative is required, but if there is failure, a sense of lasting guilt develops; industry versus inferiority -when the child begins school, he attempts to master the world in certain social ways, and success is characterized by industry or competence, whereas failure is associated with the development of inferiority feelings; identity versus identity confusion/diffusion - when the young adult approaches adolescence and puberty, she must decide "who she is" and "where she is going" (Erikson's role confusion hypothesis states that role confusion arises from an individual's failure to establish a sense of identity during this fifth stage); at this stage, also, decisions concerning sexual identity, occupation, and adult life-plans generally are made; intimacy versus isolation -during young adulthood, when the person has "found himself' and knows where he's going, then intimacy with another person is possible; however, if adolescence has passed without proper role identity and resolution, isolation from others may be the result; generativity versus stagnation - while in middle or full adulthood, the person must choose to continue her mental growth, health, creativity, and productivity or else risk the chance of stagnation and loss of growth; integrity versus despair -this last stage is a "crisis of old age or maturity" that challenges a person to choose between maintaining feelings of worth and integrity that have been built up or to yield to opposing feelings of despair and resignation where one senses that life has been a futile waste of time and energy. Also, according to Erikson's psychosocial theory, each individual's personality may be viewed as the result of an encounter between the person's needs and the society's needs at, or during, a particular chronological or historical time frame ("epoch") wherein each person develops a unique psychohistory. Erikson defines psycho-history as "the study of individual and collective life with the combined methods of psychoanalysis and history." His interest in psychoanalyzing famous historical personages include Martin Luther, William James, and Thomas Jefferson. Evaluations by psychologists of Erikson's theoretical approach often indicate a positive attitude toward the face validity of his formulations, which are a rich source of hypotheses that may be tested, eventually, and also indicate a preference for Erik-son's psychosocial stage theory over Freud's psychosexual stage theory. Some psychologists feel that Erikson has done for personality-development theory what Piaget has done for cognitive/intellectual development theory. On the other hand, however, Erikson has been criticized for "watering down" Freudian theory, for creating an overly optimistic view of the concept of ego and of human beings (just as Freud has been criticized for his overly pessimistic view of people), and for the poor quality of the empirical foundations (i.e., personal/subjective observation method) of his theory. Erikson's theory, taken as a heuristic scheme, has had a marked impact on contemporary developmental psychology, especially the psychology of adolescence, and investigations of adolescent identity formation have started to move in the direction of testing specific predictions based on his theory. See also DEVELOPMENTAL THEORY; FREUD'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY; PERSONALITY THEORIES; PIAGET'S THEORY OF DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES; PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY; SULLIVAN'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY. REFERENCES

Erikson, E. H. (1950/1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton. Erikson, E. H. (1958). Young man Luther.

New York: Norton. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton. Erikson, E. H. (1974). Dimensions of a new identity. New York: Norton. Erikson, E. H. (1975). Life history and the historical moment. New York: Norton.


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