Erik Erikson developed a progressive theory about the tasks required of a human being in the various stages of life. Erikson was a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst. He was the first child psychoanalyst to practice in Boston. I'd like to share a bit about his research in my post today. (Be warned that a bit of the terminology reflects the time in which it was developed - mid-twentieth century. However, the principles regarding human development are still valid regardless of terminology used or time period of redaction.)
Wikipedia describes Erikson's work as follows: "Erikson's research suggests that each individual must learn how to hold both extremes of each specific life-stage challenge in tension with one another, not rejecting one end of the tension or the other. Only when both extremes in a life-stage challenge are understood and accepted as both required and useful, can the optimal virtue for that stage surface. Thus, 'trust' and 'mis-trust' must both be understood and accepted, in order for realistic 'hope' to emerge as a viable solution at the first stage. Similarly, 'integrity' and 'despair' must both be understood and embraced, in order for actionable 'wisdom' to emerge as a viable solution at the last stage.
The Erikson life-stage 'virtues', in the order of the stages in which they may be acquired, are:
1. hope - Basic Trust vs. Mistrust - Infant stage. Does the child believe its caregivers to be reliable?
2. will - Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt - Toddler stage. Child needs to learn to explore the world. It is bad if the parent is too smothering or completely neglectful.
3. purpose - Initiative vs. Guilt - Kindergarten - Can the child plan or do things on his own, such as dress him or herself. If "guilty" about making his or her own choices, the child will not function well. Erikson has a positive outlook on this stage, saying that most guilt is quickly compensated by a sense of accomplishment.
4. competence - Industry vs. Inferiority - Around age 6 to puberty. Child comparing self worth to others (such as in a classroom environment). Child can recognize major disparities in personal abilities relative to other children. Erikson places some emphasis on the teacher, who should ensure that children do not feel inferior.
5. fidelity - Identity vs. Role Confusion - Teenager. Questioning of self. Who am I, how do I fit in? Where am I going in life? Erikson believes that if the parents allow the child to explore, they will conclude their own identity. However, if the parents continually push him/her to conform to their views, the teen will face identity confusion.
6. love (in intimate relationships, work and family) - Intimacy vs. Isolation - Young adult. Who do I want to be with or date, what am I going to do with my life? Will I settle down? This stage has begun to last longer as young adults choose to stay in school and not settle.
7. caring - Generativity vs. Stagnation - the Mid-life crisis. Measure accomplishments/failures. Am I satisfied or not? The need to assist the younger generation. Stagnation is the feeling of not having done anything to help the next generation.
8. wisdom - ...Integrity vs. Despair - old age. Some handle death well. Some can be bitter, unhappy, and/or dissatisfied with what they have accomplished or failed to accomplish within their life time. They reflect on the past, and either conclude at satisfaction or despair."
Healthy children will not fear life if their elders have integrity enough not to fear death.
~ Erik Erikson
Do not mistake a child for his symptom.
~ Erik Erikson
"In the best family situations, trial and error, on the part of the parents as well as the child, gradually build up the child's confidence that the world is neither a totally threatening nor a totally pleasurable place, but an ambiguous place, an arena of opposites: safety and danger, success and failure, comfort and pain, power and helplessness and elation as well as times of frustration and sorrow."
I would love to know what you think about Erikson's stages of psycho/social development. Hope you will share your thoughts with a comment.