Various theorists make suggestions how people change and develop, physically and emotionally during their lives. At the same time, many distinguish the features and influence of the adolescence period. The theory of the stages of psychological development proposed by the psychologist Erikson notes that adolescents form their identity, determining their life in the future. An interview was conducted with a young woman to study her teenage experience and assess compliance with Erikson’s ideas.
Adolescence changes the life of an individual and provides new challenges. The way a person copes with problems, various events, and people met affect their future. Theorists studied the features of the adolescence period and its impact, including Erik Erikson, who proposed the stages of psychological development. While each person’s experience is unique, many patterns manifest themselves, proving the effects of adolescence on adulthood life.
Erikson’s Theory of Stages of Psychosocial Development
Many researchers and theorists have made their assumptions about the psychological and cognitive changes throughout the lifespan. Ego psychologist Erikson proposed the theory of stages of psychosocial development, which included eight stages of psychological growth from infancy to maturity (Côté, 2019). The central concept in Erickson’s theory is ego identity – the sense of self that a person develops under the influence of various factors such as culture and communication with others and in the process of self-understanding. At the same time, the ego is responsible for individuals’ cognitive, behavioral, and emotional control (Côté, 2019). Supporting the sustainability of the ego identity is an essential condition for successful functioning in adulthood. A critically important period of identity development is the individual’s adolescence. It corresponds to the fifth stage, called Identity vs. Role Confusion, and covers the age of 13-19 years (Maree, 2021). Some important events and considerations affect the person at each stage.
An interview was conducted to apply Erikson’s theory and understand the features of adolescent development. The interviewee is a young woman, 25 years old, an American, working as a library assistant. The woman is the only child in the small family. She grew up surrounded by the care of both parents. The interviewee notes that she has a small circle of friends and is interested in studying literature, art, and psychology. The interview took place in the form of a videoconference. Before the conversation, the participant was informed about the discussion’s goals, further answers’ use, the ability not to respond, and the preservation of confidentiality.
The transition from childhood to adulthood is accompanied by significant changes in the lives of individuals. The interview confirmed some challenges adolescents face in their physical, cognitive, and psychological development. For example, the interviewee noted the embarrassment that accompanied the physical changes. Among other changes, a young woman talked about the emergence of new ideas and interests, like concern for the environment or discussion of themes in literary pieces. Following Erikson, identity unites an individual’s experience, beliefs, and values, creating a particular self-image (Côté, 2019). Therefore, it is important for adolescents to search for their interests.
Finally, emotional changes were very intense – the interviewee recalled the emergence of her first romantic interests at the age of 13, the feeling of disagreement with her parents, and the desire to become more independent. Within the framework of Erickson’s theory, an important task at the age of 13-18 is to balance the support of influential adults and the ability to independently perform complex tasks for adolescents (Maree, 2021). Significant others involve a teenager in various roles, which provides an opportunity to develop an identity. The successful completion of this stage of development contributes to a sustainable feeling of self.
According to the interviewee, she was very susceptible to various influences. She was sure that everything that happened to her in the past and all the people she met affected her. Her words correlate with Erickson’s theory because it considers interaction with society and its institutions is the primary source of ego, which is reflected in the personality (Asvaroğlu & Olkanlı, 2021). The woman communicated a little with her peers, and she would like her to have another circle of friends who shared her interests more. She also expressed regret for the excessive overprotection of her parents, which was an additional obstacle in her development of social life. These factors had a powerful impact on her life and current position in adulthood.
It is worth noting that the interviewee has a solid ability for self-reflection, which simplified the interview task. Considering the woman’s interview from the perspective of Erikson’s theory, the effect of adolescent experience on identity is noticeable. If the teenager does not have enough opportunities for research and independence development, role confusion and a sense of uncertainty may arise. Strong identity supports high self-esteem and independence, helps identify interests, and develops strengths. Confusion, on the contrary, reduces adolescents’ self-confidence and leads to difficulties in finding their place in life (Côté, 2019). Due to overprotection and inactive social life in the past, the interviewee feels insecure. Accordingly, the girl had little opportunity to strengthen her identity and confidence while being an adolescent. Thus, from the perspective of Erikson’s theory, the experience of adolescence forms an identity that significantly determines the entire adult life.
Thus, adolescence and events occurring during this period are critical for adult life. Erikson’s theory of the development stages states that identity is formed during adolescence, which affects self-esteem and the determination of own place in life. The interview confirmed that a lack of independence and social activity could cause problems with self-determination. Therefore, it is critical to balance supporting adolescents and providing them with opportunities for independence.
Asvaroğlu, S., & Olkanlı, F. (2021). Enforced isolation: How does it affect the psychosocial and physical development of children? The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 30(1), 21-33. Web.
Côté, J. E. (2019). Eriksonian theory. The Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development, 1-10. Web.
Maree, J. G. (2021). The psychosocial development theory of Erik Erikson: Critical overview. Early Child Development and Care, 191(7-8), 1107-1121. Web.