Explain Erikson's view of an identity crisis.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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According to Erik Erikson, the main thing that adolescents are trying to do in their lives is to find their true identity.  Erikson believed that adolescents try to figure out what they believe, what their goals are, and how they relate to their peers, their families, and other figures like teachers.

Erikson argued that adolescents typically try out a number of identities.  They may try to exhibit one identity when with their friends and another while with their parents, for example.  What is important, though, is that they should eventually create a unified idea of who they are so that they can form a solid identity.

To Erikson, an identity crisis is often a key point in an adolescent’s development.  During an identity crisis, the adolescent has to determine what is really important to them.  They have to determine who they truly are.  If they can successfully navigate their identity crisis, the adolescent can reach “identity achievement.”  At this point, the adolescent has managed to find his or her true identity.

Thus, to Erikson, an identity crisis is an important part of adolescent development, one in which the adolescent comes to decide who he or she truly is.

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