Erik Erikson was a Germany psychologist whose work was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud. In his theory of development, he examined aspects of identity, which include personal identity (unique characteristics, which distinguish an individual from other people), ego identity (self), and cultural/social identity (roles entitled to an individual). He puts into consideration the effects of parental, societal, and external factors on the development of personality from birth to adult stage.
Erik Erikson argues that development of children follows a specific order. His main focus was on the process of socialization and its effects of children’s life. He formulated the theory of psychosocial development, which is made up of eight stages. According to Erick Erikson, everybody must pass through the eight stages. There are two possible results from each of the eight stages. He argues that the success of one stage depends on the previous one. Failure to complete one stage affects other development stages. Solutions to these problems can be sought later in life (Bee & Bjorklund, 2003).
According to Bee and Bjorklund (2003), the first stage occurs between birth and 18 months. He also referred to this stage as the oral sensory stage. During this stage, children have the tendency of putting everything in their mouth. The main focus is the care that the child gets from his or her parents, especially on touch and visual contact. Children develop confidence, trust, and optimism if they are not tended to properly. If children lead frustrated lives because their needs are not satisfied, they develop worthlessness, insecurity, and they lack trust for the world.
Early Childhood (2 to 3 years)
During this stage, children begin learning skills on their own. They learn how to feed, walk, talk, and toilet cleaning. Children learn right and wrong, new skills, and learn how to control their bodies. They learn to be autonomous and build self-esteem. Children who receive good care are confident and proud of themselves.During this stage, children may be stubborn, defiant, and experience temper tantrums. Inability to learn some skills creates a feeling of shame and low-esteem. Relationship between parents and children is very important (Bee & Bjorklund, 2003).
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
During this stage, children show the desire of imitating activities done by adults and take the initiative of creating plays. Children make stories using toy phones, miniature cars, and perform blueprint tests to determine what they believe to be the significance of an adult. Children begin using the term “why” in an effort to discover the world. Children start asserting power and control over the environment. He argues that children are heavily involved in “oedipal struggle,” which is solved through identification of social roles. Children who succeed in this stage develop a sense of purpose. If children get frustrated over natural goals and desires, the likelihood of experiencing guilt is high. Childs relationship with the basic family plays an important role (Bee & Bjorklund, 2003).
School Age/latency stage (6-12 years)
Bee and Bjorklund (2003) argue that children should cope with the new academic and social demands. Children can create, learn, and accomplish knowledge, and skills. At this stage, they develop a sense of industry. Children socialize with others and if unresolved feelings of inferiority and inadequacy are experienced among the peers, problems related to self-esteem and competence are likely to be experienced. Success results to development of a sense of competence. Although the role of parents is still recognized, child’s relationship with neighbors and schools is the most important.
Adolescence (12 to 18 years)
The development of an individual depends on what is done to the child until the fourth stage. From the fifth stage, individual’s development depends on what they do. Adults seek their identities, they negotiate with “social interactions”, and struggle with issues of morality to be able to differentiate right things from the wrong. Some adolescents have the tendency of withdrawing from their roles a process Erikson refers to “moratorium.” Unsuccessful students tend to experience upheaval and confusion of roles. Development of strong affiliation and devotion to friendship begins at this stage. The most important thing is relationship with peers (Bee & Bjorklund, 2003).
Young Adulthood (18-35 years)
During the early stages of an adult, individuals tend to have one or more companions and love. Some marry and settle down to bring up their own families. Individuals seek for relationships based on intimacy, failure to which a separation occurs. Individuals experience intimacy if they succeed in negotiations. The most important relationships are those between friends and spouses (Frick, 1991).
Middle-aged adult (35-65 years)
Frick (1991) shows that family, work, and career are the most important things at this stage. The most widely spread fears are considered meaninglessness and inactivity. During this stage, major changes like change of career, and children leaving the household are likely to take place. Some individuals will strive to achieve purpose. Relationships with other communities, church members, family, and work mates play a major role.
Late adult (65- death)
According to Frick (1991), the last stage involves reflection of individual’s achievements in life. Individuals who have led meaningful lives and contributed positively to the society examine their past deeds with a feeling of fulfillment and contentment (integrity). Unsuccessful past experiences may lead to a sense of despair. Failures are afraid of death.
Erik Erickson’s developmental stages are important to psychologists because they take them through the stages of development, which children go through from the time they born to death. Knowledge of these stages guides psychologists in determining sources of individuals’ problems. For instance, an individual’s behavior may be because he or she skipped or failed in a certain stage. This will help psychologists in finding the solution to the problem.
When dealing with clients I would like to deal with adolescents because during this stage, children are growing toward maturity, they begin differentiating right from wrong and are curious to know many things. This group is innovative and dealing with them will lead to expansion of knowledge and skills. Dealing with children at the infancy stage would be a difficult task. This is mainly because they cannot express themselves. It is difficult to know when they have problem and solving them may be a challenge (Frick, 1991).
Bee, H. & Bjorklund, B. (2003). The journey of adulthood. New York, NY: Prentice Hall.
Frick, W. (1991). Personality theories: journeys into self: an experiential workbook. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.