The Developmental Stages of Erik Erikson Theory

Freud didn’t exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind, but he certainly was responsible for making it popular. The conscious mind is what you are aware of at any particular moment, your present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies, feelings, what you have. Working closely with the conscious mind is what Freud called the preconscious, what we might today call “available memory” anything that can easily be made conscious, the memories you are not at the moment thinking about but can readily bring to mind. Now no one has a problem with these two layers of mind. But Freud suggested that these are the smallest parts! The largest part by far is the unconscious. It includes all the things that are not easily available to awareness, including many things that have their origins there, such as our drives or instincts, and things that are put there because we can’t bear to look at them, such as the memories and emotions associated with trauma. According to Freud, the unconscious is the source of our motivations, whether they are simple desires for food or sex, neurotic compulsions, or the motives of an artist or scientist. And yet, we are often driven to deny or resist becoming conscious of these motives, and they are often available to us only in distinguished form. We will come back to this. Freudian psychological reality begins with the world, full of objects. Among them is a very special object, the organism. The organism is special in that it acts to survive and reproduced, and it is guided toward those ends by its needs – hunger, thirst, the avoidance of pain, and sex. A part – a very important part – of organism is the nervous system, which has one of its characteristics a sensitivity to the organism needs. At birth, that nervous system is little more than that of any other animal, an “it” or id. The nervous system, as id, translate the organism needs into motivational forces called, in German, triebe, which has been translation from need to wish is called the primary process. The id works in keeping with the pleasure principle, which can be understand as a demand to take care of needs immediately. Just picture the hungry infant, screaming itself blue. It doesn’t “know” what it wants in any adult sense; it just knows that it wants it and it wants it now. The infant, in the Freudian view, is pure or nearly pure id. And the id is nothing if not the psychic representative of biology.

Unfortunately. as the ego struggles to keep the id (and. There are two aspects to the superego: One is the conscience. It occasionally meets with objects that actually assist it in attaining goals. it meets with obstacles in the world. the conscious that is hooked up to the world through the senses. Freud felt it was the primary motivating force not only for adults but for children and even infants. functions according to the reality principle. such as the need for food. such as the image of juicy steak. until there’s come a point where you cant think of any else. This record of things to avoid and strategies to take become the superego. during the first year of a child’s life. The ego. it is not completed until about seven years of age. Luckily for the organism. the sex drive is the most important motivating force. and society often wants nothing better than to have you never satisfy your needs at all. Unfortunately these new wishes can easily conflict from the ones id. it begins to demand more and more of your attention. reason. and guilt. it keep tract of the reward and punishments meted out by the most influential objects in the world of the child – mom and dad. In particular. the superego represents society. the organism) happy. Around this little bit of consciousness. shame. It derives from rewards and positive models presented to the child. although a wish for food. it isn’t enough to satisfy the organism. You may noticed that. this time of social rather than biological origins. ultimately. When he introduced his ideas about infantile sexuality to the Viennese . to a considerable extent. which is an internalization of punishments and warnings. when you haven’t satisfied some need. The conscience and ego ideal communicate their requirements to the ego with feelings like pride. it never is completed. which says “take care of a need as soon as an appropriate object is found. And it keeps a record of these obstacles and aides. You see. This is the wish or drive breaking into consciousness. In fact. The need only get stronger and the wishes just keep coming. for Freud. some of the id becomes ego. might be enough to satisfy the id. in childhood a new set of needs and accompanying wishes. THE STAGES As I said earlier. unlike the id. In some people. However. “It represents reality and. there is that small portion of the mind we discussed before. It is as we acquired. some of the “it” becomes “I”. The other is called the ego ideal.

It appeared to Freud that the infant found its greatest pleasure in sucking. But Freud was not just taking about orgasm. PIAGET”S STAGES OF MORAL JUDGEMENT Theory Jean Piaget began his career as a biologist – specifically. Children younger than 10 or 11 years think about moral dilemmas one way: older children consider them differently. adults. he became interested in the nature of thought itself. Sexuality meant not only intercourse. In fact. They believed that rules are handed down by adults or by God and that one cannot change them. enjoy tactile experience such as caresses. Find relatively little work done in the area. especially at the breast. the mouth. at different times in our lives. Sucking and Biting are favorite activities. He or she understands that it is permissible to change rules if everyone agrees. B y three or four. but all pleasurable sensation from the skin. The older child’s view is more relativistic. Rules are not sacred and absolute but are devices which use to get along cooperatively. and of course.public of his day. Later theories would call these areas erogenous zones. The focus of pleasure is. As he delved deeper into the thought-processes of doing science. Freud had the making of a psychosexual stage theory. As we have seen. the child may have discovered the pleasure of touching or rubbing against his or her genitalia. much less in infants. It is true that the capacity for orgasm is there neurologically from birth. and so on. In these observations. children. babies have the penchant for bringing nearly everything in their environment to contact with their mouths. Freud noted that. in our sexual maturity. A bit later in life. of course. especially in the development of thinking. different parts of our skin give us greatest pleasure. he had the opportunity to give it a label. Piaget studied many aspects of moral judgment. . but most of his findings fit into a two stage theory. they were hardly prepared to talk about sexuality in adults. a malacologist! But his interest in science and the history of science soon overtook his interest in snails and clams. do we find our greatest pleasure in sexual intercourse. The Oral Stage last from birth to about 18 months. meaning the study of the development of knowledge. Only later. kisses. It is clear even to the most prudish among us that babies. He called it genetic epistemology. younger children regard rules as fixed and absolute. the child focuses on the anal pleasures of holding it in and letting go.

independent. the ages seem to be appropriate for the majority of people. In particular. appear to be learned. adventurous or cautious. and cultural (ethos) influences. only the first three of which share many features with Piaget’s stages. He uncovered six stages. and he did find stages that go well beyond Piaget’s. Although he was influenced by Freud. such as depression and war. such as feeling either competent or inferior. does not stop at this point. whereas older children base their judgment on intention on intentions. emotional. Based in part on his study of Sioux Indians on a reservation. leader or follower. however. the young child thinks that the first boy did worse. the young Childs hear about one boy who broke 15 cups trying to help his mother and another boy who broke only one cup trying to steal cookies. The world gets bigger as we go along and . Since adulthood covers a span of many years. based on the challenges and support we received in growing up. There are many more details to piaget’s work on normal judgment. This is just the beginning of formal operations. or dependent. he believed that the ego exists from birth and that behavior is not totally defensive. but he essentially found a series of changes that occurs between the ages of 10 and 12. Erikson became aware of the massive influenced of culture on behavior and placed more emphasis on the external world. younger base their moral judgments more on consequences. aggressive or passive. or unemotional. Erikson divided the stages of adulthood into the experiences of young adults. He felt the course of development is determined by the interaction of the body (genetic biological programming). Our personality traits come in opposites. The man who did a great deal to explore this concept is Erik Erikson. Many of these are inborn temperament traits. When. He organized life into eight stages that extend from birth to death (many developmental theories only cover childhood). Kohlberg therefore interviewed both children and adolescents about moral dilemmas. Erikson’s basic philosophy might be said to rest on two major themes: 1. which continue to develop at least until age 16. Intellectual development. for example. but other characteristics. one might expect thinking about moral issues to continue to develop throughout adolescence. middle aged adults and older adults. We think of ourselves as optimistic or pessimistic.At approximately the same time—10 or 11 years—children’s moral thinking undergoes other shifts. just when the child begins to enter the general stage of formal operations. mind (psychological). According. While the actual ages may vary considerably from one stage to another.

While the first point is fairly obvious. or whoever is our most significant and constant caregiver.Here we have the opportunity to build self-esteem and autonomy as we gain more control over our bodies and acquire new skills. True. Mistrust Basic strength: Drive and Hope Erikson also referred to infancy as the Oral Sensory Stage (as anyone might who watches a baby put everything in her mouth) where the major emphasis is on the mother’s positive and loving care for the child. Early Childhood: 18 months to 3 years Ego Development Outcome: Autonomy vs. Not only do we learn to walk. we may end up with a deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and a mistrust of the world in general. learning . talk and feed ourselves. 1. If we fail to experience trust and are constantly frustrated because our needs are not met. Courage. we are learning finer motor development as well as the much appreciated toilet training . Infancy: Birth to 18 months Ego Development Outcome: Trust vs. with a big emphasis on visual contact and touch. many studies of suicides and suicide attempts point to the importance of the early years in developing the basic belief that the world is trustworthy and that every individual has a right to be here. in many cases an individual who has to deal with horrendous circumstances as a child may be unable to negotiate later stages as easily as someone who didn’t have as many challenges early on. Failure is cumulative. we will learned to trust that life is basically Okay and have basic confidence in the future. we know that orphans who weren’t held or stroked as infants have an extremely hard time connecting with others when they become adults and have even died from lack of human contact. the most significance relationship is with the maternal parent. Shame Basic Strengths: Self.2. For example. Incidentally.control. we might take exception to the last. 2. If we pass successfully through this period of life. and will During this stage will learn to master skills for us. Not surprisingly.

he downplays biological sexuality in favor of the psychosocial features of conflict between child and parents. If were shamed in the process of toilet training or in learning other important skills. This is also a very social stage of development and if we experience and resolve feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers. Guilt Basic Strength: Purpose During this period we experience a desire to copy the adults around us and take initiative in creating play situations. we are capable of learning. he said that at this stage we usually become involved in the classic “Oedipal struggle” and resolve this struggle through “social role identification. however. The most significant relationships are with parents. creating and accomplishing numerous new skills and knowledge. We also begin to use the wonderful word for exploring the world—“WHY?” While Erikson was influenced by Freud. thus developing a sense of industry. The most significance relationship is with the basic family. we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self. And one of our schools during the “Terrible two’s” is our ability to use the powerful word “NO!” It may be pain for parents.right from wrong. playing out roles in a trial universe. that we can be very vulnerable. often called the latency. experimenting with the blue print for what we believe it means to be an adult. Inferiority Basic Strengths: Method and Competence During this stage.” If we’re frustrated over natural desires and goals. we may feel great shame and doubt of our capabilities and suffer low self-esteem as a result. 4.esteem. School Age: 6-12 years Ego Development Outcome: Industry vs. 3. Play Age: 3 to 5 Years Ego Development Outcome: Initiative vs. Nevertheless. (See Use of the Will from He Hit Me Back first!) It is also during this stage. . We make up stories with Barbie’s and Ken’s toy phones and miniature cars. but it develops important skills of the will. we may easily experience guilt.

we can also develop strong devotion to friends and causes. life is definitely getting more complex as we attempt to find our own identity. we can experience intimacy on a deep level. Parents are no longer to complete authorities they once were. 6. development mostly depends upon what is done to us. and grapple with moral issues. we will experience role confusion and upheaval. From here on out. Young Adulthood: 18 to 35 Ego Development Outcome: Intimacy and Solidarity vs. developments depends primarily upon what we do. Adolescence:12 to 18 Years Ego Development Outcome: Identity vs. Isolation Basic Strengths: Affiliation and Love In the initial stage of being adult we seek one or more companions and love. As we try to find mutually satisfying relationships. which are conflict free. And while adolescence is a stage at which we are neither a child nor an adult. It is no surprise that our most significant relationships are with peer groups. according to Erikson. . A significant task for us is to establish a philosophy of life and in this process we tend to think in terms of ideals. Our task is to discover who we are as individuals separate from our family of origin and as members of a wider society. 5. in this process many of us go into a period of withdrawing from responsibilities. The problem is that we don’t have much experience and find it easy to substitute ideals for experience. If negotiating this stage is successful. our most significance relationship is with the school and neighborhood. struggle with social interactions. we generally also begin to start a family. rather than reality.As the world expands a bit. although they are still important. However.” And if we are unsuccessful in navigating this stage. which is not. Role Confusion Basic Strengths: Devotion and Fidelity Up to this stage. though this age has been pushed back for many couples who today don’t start their families until their late thirties. which Erikson called a “monatorium. Unfortunately for those around us. primarily through marriage and friends.

If we don’t get through this stage successfully. we can feel superior to others. Our significant relationships are with marital partners and friends. in defense. Significant relationships are within the workplace.If we’re not successful. we may be face with major life changes—the mid-life crisis—and struggle with finding new meanings and purposes. a feeling Erikson calls integrity. As our children leave home or our relationships or goals change. Also.and stagnate. we can become self absorbed.” the role we’ve longer envied. so when were in this stage we often fear inactivity in meaninglessness. Middle Adulthood: 35 to 55 or 65 Ego Development Outcome: Generativity vs. isolation and distance from others may occur. which Erikson calls generativity. Erikson observed that middle-age is when we tend to be occupied with creative and meaningful work and with issues surrounding our family. And when we don’t find it easy to create satisfying relationships. our world can begin to shrink as. Despair Basic Strengths: Wisdom Erikson felt that much of life is preparing for the middle adulthood stage and the last stage is recovering from it. Perhaps that is because as older adults we can often look back on our lives with happiness and are content. feeling fulfilled with a deep sense that life has meaning and we’ve made a contribution to life. Self Absorption or Stagnation Basic Strengths: Production and Care Now work is most crucial. middle adulthood is when we can expect to “be in charge. Late Adulthood: 55 or 65 to death Ego Development Outcome: Integrity vs. the community and the family. 7. 8. The significant task is to perpetuate culture and transmit values of the culture through the family (taming the kids) and working to establish a stable environment. Our strength comes from a wisdom that the world is very large and we . Strength comes through care of others and production of something that contributes to the betterment of society.

On the other have a detached concern for the whole life. the community and family. wondering “Was the trip worth it?” Alternatively. The significant relationship is with all of mankind—“my kind.” According to the developmental stages of Erik Erikson the patient belongs to middle adulthood in which the significant relationship are within the workplace. accepting death as the completion of life. some adults may reach this stage and despair at their experiences and perceived failures. they may feel they have all the answers (not unlike going back to adolescence) and end with a strong dogmatism that only their view has been correct. They may fear death as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives. .

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