|By: Angela Winters|
Sigmund Freud is probably the most familiar name that comes to mind when one thinks of famous psychologists. His basic foundation theories of instinct, phallic symbol obsession and oedipal complexes are prevalent in almost every artistic aspect of our culture. However, it was a friend and fellow psychoanalyst of Freudís, Erik Erickson, who created one of the major theories that open a window to the development of everything that makes us who we are on the inside. It is referred to as Ericksonís Theory of Human Development and it simplifies the complex topic of human personality.
First, letís talk about the man himself. Erik Homberger was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1902. The conditions under which he began life give a great deal of insight into his obsession with identity. He was challenged with it from the stat. His parents werenít married and his Danish father left before Erik was born. His Jewish mother married Erikís pediatrician when he was three. Erik had Nordic features; he was tall, blond and had blue eyes. Neither the Jewish children at temple nor the German children at school accepted him.
As he grew up, psychology and art began to interest Erik and led him to various institutes including one where he was psychoanalyzed by Anna Freud, wife of Sigmund. Both later became close friends to Erickson. When the Nazis came to power, Erik moved to Boston where he studied child psychoanalysis and was influenced by many psychologists and anthropologists Mead, but many famous psychologists and anthropologists.
He is considered a Freudian ego-psychologist, meaning he takes the basic foundation of Freudís theories, but veers away by focus on social and cultural orientation. Ericksonís theory closely ties personality growth with parental and societal values. His 1950 book, Childhood and Society, is considered a classic in its field.
There are eight stages of human development, each focusing on a different conflict that we need to solve in order to development successfully into the next stage of our lives. The idea is that if we donít resolve each stage or we choose the wrong of two choices, our ability to deal with the consecutive stages is impaired and the failure will return to us at some point later in life.
Stage One: Oral Sensory
Stage Two: Muscular Anal
Stage Three: Locomotor
Stage Four: Latency
Stage Five: Adolescence
Stage Six: Young Adulthood
Stage Seven: Middle Adulthood
Stage Eight: Maturity
When you read through the stages, itís impossible not to identify them as youíve experienced them or as you see your children experiencing them. However, Ericksonís theory is not without critics. Many say that it is too focused on infancy and childhood and isnít very helpful for later in life. Others say it really applies to boys and not girls using Ericksonís belief (Freudian) that boys and girls naturally develop different personalities.
In general, Ericksonís Theory of Human Development is widely accepted and plays a major role in all human and psychological development studies and theories. The best advice is to use the theory as a framework or map for understanding and identifying what issues/conflicts unresolved lead to current behavior and preparing for the stages to come.
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