Erikson's Eight Stages of Development Research Paper Starter

Erikson's Eight Stages of Development

Socialization is the process through which people learn to become functional members of society. While some researchers have argued that this process is limited to the childhood years, others have suggested that socialization is a continuous process that stretches over a person's lifetime. Although some of the theorists in the field of social psychology are both psychologists and sociologists, most are trained within the field of psychology. Regardless of the field of study, all of the scholars view the individual as their point of reference and focus on how a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by others in ways that shape identity and individuality; and how people develop the appropriate cognitive, personal, and social skills they need to function as productive members their societies. One of these social scientists is the theorist Erik Erikson, who perhaps more than any other social psychologist, worked to understand personal and social identity.

Social Psychology

Social psychology deals primarily with socialization and face-to-face and small group social interaction. Socialization is the process through which people learn to become functional members of society. While some researchers have argued that this process is limited to the childhood years, others have suggested that socialization is a continuous process that stretches over a person's lifetime. Although some of the theorists in the field of social psychology are both psychologists and sociologists, most are trained within the field of psychology. Regardless of the field of study, all of the scholars view the individual as their point of reference and focus on how a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are affected by others in ways that shape identity and individuality, and how people develop the appropriate cognitive, personal, and social skills they need to function as productive members their societies. One of these social scientists is the theorist Erik Erikson, who perhaps more than any other social psychologist, worked to understand personal and social identity.

The word "identity" stems from the Latin idem, which evokes sameness and continuity. Identity primarily became a focus for psychological scholarship in the twentieth century, developing, first, from Freud's theory of identification and, second, from Erikson's work on the connections between the individual and his or her community. Where Freud emphasized identity as a relatively continuous inner core of psychic structure (somewhat stable, fixed, and immutable), Erikson emphasized the processual nature of identity: as emerging through interactions between the individual and his or her immediate cultural and emotional environment. Consequently, although Erikson drew from Freud, he is viewed as a neo-Freudian who saw development as stretching beyond childhood (the age of 5, which is where Freud saw development ending) across the life course (or as Erikson put it, life cycle; 1980).

Identity

A number of psychoanalysts -- such as Alfred Adler, Erick Fromm, Karen Horney and Carl Jung -- departed from Freud's approach to the unconscious and the development of identity. Although they retained his emphasis on the unconscious as a driving force in human behaviors, emotions, and cognitions, they differed in the emphasis they placed on its immutability, the significance of childhood, and the importance of social and cultural influences.

The Swiss psychologist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung argued that the unconscious was considerably broader in scope and impact than Freud believed and that there were universal elements that were consistent across cultural groups and historical periods. He disagreed with Freud about the importance of sexuality, placed emphasis on the significance of spirituality in human development, and developed a theory built on the idea of the collective unconscious (Storr, 1991). Jung's analytic psychology argues how we inherit "primordial images" from our ancestors, that are, in effect, an unconscious representation of our pasts.

Alfred Adler, best known for his work on inferiority, parenting, and birth order, was also considered a neo-Freudian who pioneered individual psychology, a predictive approach to child conduct that foreshadowed what is known today as psychosomatic therapy (Brachfield, 1999). He argued that humans are born with an inherent sense of inferiority and that development is based on a struggle for superiority, which may at times threaten to overwhelm and create an inferiority complex.

Finally, Karen Horney, one of the first German women to enter medical school, was one of the founding members of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. She questioned the universality of the Oedipus complex and began to explore the influence of social and cultural factors on the development of identity, particularly female identity. Arguing against the idea that there are biologically rooted psychological differences between men and women, she provided the first full critique of Freud's theory of female psychology (Humm, 1989) and argued that all men resent women (countering Freud's emphasis on penis envy with the notion of womb envy). This resentment expresses itself in phallocentric thinking, in the devaluation of motherhood, and more generally, in misogyny (Horney, 1967).

Freud emphasized the importance of the penis to psychosexual development and its contribution to masculinity as an active identity associated with sexual aggression. Horney challenged Freud on the importance of the penis, and, like other critics of Freud, argued that its importance was more cultural than biological, that it stood as a symbol of power and control rather than as the material basis for power and control. However, she did not challenge Freudian notions about male superiority that are implied by emphasis on the penis. In contrast, other neo-Freudians, such as Erik Erikson, argued that female bodily experience was radically distinct from male bodily experience. Therefore, the psychological development of women should be understood in its own terms, rather than in comparison to the psychological development of men (Golobok & Fivush, 1994).

Erik Erikson

Erikson was a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst who initially followed and then departed in significant ways from the work of Sigmund Freud. Unlike Freud, Erikson did not have a medical degree, and indeed, when he immigrated to the US in the 1930s, he did not have an academic degree at all (Weiland, 1993). Nonetheless, his work on human development is among the most powerful and important of the twentieth century.

First, while he accepted Freudian concepts such as the ego and the development of the self through various stages, he rejected the notion of universal drives and, rather, drawing on the work of anthropologists such as Franz Boas and Margaret Mead, emphasized the significance of the role of culture and society in the development of self. Second, he generated a theory that...

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