Unlike famous psychology expert and colleague Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, another contributor to the world renowned research book entitled Theories of Personality, disregards psychosexual stages of development in his blueprint of the brain. This is despite the fact that much of his ideas were directly influenced and affected by Freud with a nearly identical structure to the foundation. As Freud focuses more on the Id (primal or reptilian) component of the human persona, Erikson feels that the ego, the highest level of conscious thought, is the primary driver for people’s behavior. Moreover, he places a significant emphasis on the role that society and surrounding culture plays in affecting the way the ego deals with internal conflicts; ignoring the clash between id and superego that Freud so heavily stressed his arguments upon.

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Theories of Personality: Erik Erikson
What is the overall purpose/direction behind personality?
Erikson believes that “the ego develops as it successfully resolves crises that are distinctly social in nature” (McLeod, 2008). Such examples involve the establishment of trust in other social beings, creating one’s own unique sense of identity and the role it plays in society, and finally, assisting the succeeding generation in preparations for future events (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). While Erikson’s theories are easily differentiable from that of Freud’s, he does extend several of the theories proposed by the Austrian psychologist; including creative characteristics and adaptation strategies of the ego (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). All this, whilst claiming the human personality is an ever-changing entity that continues to develop and evolve over an entire given lifespan (Hall, Lindzey, 1970).

Discussion of Theory Concepts
An alternative approach to the psychosexual development model and as another way to distance himself from Freud’s theories is Erikson’s “lifespan model of development” proposed in a series of five particular stages, extending to a grand total of eight; 2 of which begin at childhood and end at the 18 year mark; the rest of which extend to the beginning of adulthood until far towards the end of a person’s life (McLeod, 2008). The most critical stage of human development, Erikson argues, is the period of adolescence. Using a commonly shared idea amongst the psychologists responsible for the composition of Theories of Personality, Erikson strongly agrees and adheres to something known as the epigenic principle (Hall, Lindzey, 1970).
This principle claims that all personalities are developed in an order that is preset; with successors building upon each stage that arrived previously (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). The outcome includes an integrated and vast set of abilities and skills for life that all function as one within a given individual. As previously stated, Erikson ignores the methods in which sexuality drives development; instead focusing primarily in which children communicate and how this ability to socialize affects the way in which they view themselves.

Role of Society and Individual Differences
With each stage in development of personality comes a crisis or particular new encounter of a problem that is to be faced and dealt with, according to Erikson. Each of these dilemmas are a product of conflict that results between the psychosocial needs of the given individual and the needs of the surrounding society (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). Like Freud’s theory, the “successful completion of each stage results in a healthy personality and the acquisition of basic virtues” (McLeod, 2008). These powerful characteristics that are acquired allow the mind to be able to easily handle future crises that are similar in nature. The first of eight stages within Erikson’s lifespan model of development involves the matter trust versus mistrust; the initial conflict a developing mind faces. If a child finds proper care in their guardian when sought after that is consistent and reliable, a sense of trust will be developed that carries far into the rest of their lives and into new relationships; allowing themselves to feel a sense of security even upon the possibility of a threat (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). Successful completion of this stage allows the person to achieve the virtue known as hope (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). The second stage involves the matters of autonomy vs. shame and doubt. As a child begins to develop and understand the capabilities of their growing body, they must be encouraged to behave independently and supported if faced with failure (Hall, Lindzey, 1970). This is a process called “self control without a loss of self-esteem”; ultimately leading to the acquisition of the will virtue (McLeod, 2008). Between ages three to five the child will be faced with initiative versus guilt. If they are allowed to create their own playful experiences, they will over time develop a strong sense of self-initiative. Conversely, if they are criticized, they will develop a sense of guilt. Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, and Ego Integrity vs. Despair are all subsequent conflicts that all focus on the primary objective of understanding a human’s sense of self and the role they play in the socio-economical aspect of the world (McLeod, 2008).

  • Hall, C. S., & Lindzey, G. (1970). Theories of Personality. New York: Wiley.
  • McLeod, S. (2008). Erik Erikson. Simply Psychology. Retrieved August 17, 2016 from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html