Discuss Eric Erikson from a biological perspective.

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Psychologist Erik Erikson created theories of child development based on psychosocial development. These theories were based on, but also significantly departed from, those of Sigmund Freud. Erikson posited eight stages, marked developmental milestones that correspond to chronological age and are marked by significant events, especially crises. By overcoming challenges, the healthy child moves on and is equipped to confront the next milestone, thereby advancing toward maturity. Adolescence, in particular, produces an identity crisis that the child must successfully negotiate; otherwise, unfinished business will impede healthy adult development. Erikson was influenced by anthropology as well, building on ideas that Margaret Mead put forward and conducting fieldwork with Native American cultures.

Although Erikson’s contributions were welcomed for their further attention to social and cultural factors, his theories were also criticized for their interpretation or neglect of biological factors. Feminist scholars in particular found Erikson’s continuance of Freud’s emphasis on males as the norm exclusionary and argue that Erickson inadequately accounts for female differences in development. Notable here was the emphasis on the penis and son-mother attachment and separation. While early feminist critics such as Carol Gilligan based their objections on and female biological “hard-wiring” differences, those who followed noted the paucity of research into such innate distinctions and encouraged further studies of both biological and social influences on gender.

Recent critiques have drawn further attention to the heteronormative character of the underlying assumptions. Furthermore, the idea of the norm and the stages beginning at birth ignores the prenatal factors, including genetics, that make all newborns different.

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