Erik Erikson was born in Germany in1902 as Erik Homburger. ,. His biological father had left before Erik was born,and his mother married Homburger, an M.D. who treated her during her pregnancy.Erikson's identity crises began at an early age, because although he was partJewish (indeed it seems likely his mother as well as his step-father wereJewish), he looked Nordic, and so had troubles fitting in with eitherculture.
The Epigenetic Psychosexual StagesErikson believed that childhood is very important in personality development.He accepted many of Freud's theories, including the id, ego, and superego, andFreud's theory of infantile sexuality. But Erikson rejected Freud's attempt todescribe personality solely on the basis of sexuality, and, unlike Freud, feltthat personality continued to develop beyond five years of age.
All of the stages in Erikson's epigenetic theory are present at birth, butunfold according to an innate plan, with each stage building on the precedingstages, and paving the way for subsequent stages. Each stage is characterizedby a psychosocial crisis, which is based on physiological development, but alsoon demands put on the individual by parents and/or society. Ideally, the crisisin each stage should be resolved by the ego in that stage, in order fordevelopment to proceed correctly. The outcome of one stage is not permanent,but can be altered by later experiences. Everyone has a mixture of the traitsattained at each stage, but personality development is considered successful ifthe individual has more of the "good" traits than the "bad" traits.
Ego PsychologyErikson's theory of ego psychology holds certain tenets that differentiate histheory from Freud's. Some of these include:
Erikson's theory was more comprehensive than Freud's, and included informationabout "normal" personality as well as neurotics. He also broadened the scope ofpersonality to incorporate society and culture, not just sexuality. Criticismsof his theories, in addition to the factors discussed in class, have noted thathe did no statistical research to generate his theories, and it is very hard totest his theories in order to validate them.
- The ego is of utmost importance.
- Part of the ego is able to operate independently of the id and the superego.
- The ego is a powerful agent that can adapt to situations, thereby promoting
- mental health.
- Social and sexual factors both play a role in personality development.
cf. Coles, Robert. (1970). Erik H. Erikson: The growthof his work. Boston: Little, Brown.