Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

The Psychosocial Theory invented and proposed by Erik Erikson is recognized as one of the most influential ones in psychosocial development research. It provides invaluable insight into how individuals adopt different attitudes during different periods of their life and depending on their personal experiences and interactions (Walker and Miller 57). Essentially, Erikson created a framework which can be easily applied to different situations and determine which social phenomena affect a person’s development and how. This paper will focus on the case of my nephew, who is five years old and demonstrates certain psychosocial development issues, which Erikson’s theory can explain.

As it was stated earlier, Erikson’s theory concerns the process of psychosocial development of a person. Erikson outlined eight stages during the early life of a person and established various conflicts which accompany every period and need to be successfully overcome by the individual to acquire a certain psychological quality. Failure to do so will ultimately result in significant problems with development, which can have a lasting effect on the individual’s life. For example, during the fifth stage, individual begins to search for their identity which entails experimentation with occupations, interests, and hobbies (Dunkel and Harbke 59). Yet, if the person fails to develop an identity, they may experience role confusion and a lack of sense-of-self.

The current article’s focus concerns the case of my nephew and the process of his psychosocial development. At the moment, he experiences severe issues with socialization and finds it difficult to communicate with other people, including peers. Additionally, his behavior is passive, and he does not exhibit any initiative, preferring to play video games on a tablet. During the first years of his life, the child often cried and screamed even after being held in the arms and kissed. It is worth noting that the nephew’s parents are often busy at their jobs and work long hours and come home late at night when the child is asleep. The nephew spends most of his time together with his caregiver, who is also a family member.

The situation described above can be analyzed using Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory to determine certain aspects of the nephew’s development. Since the child is currently five years old, he already completed three stages, according to the framework, which are infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool. During the first stage, a child must develop a sense of trust, which is linked to the caretakers’ responses. It is possible to assume that the nephew might have failed to do it since his parents were not always near him. The opposite of trust is mistrust and the failure to gain the psychological strength of hope, which can lead to anxiety and can explain the nephew’s agitated behavior. The second stage had to foster autonomy, which, in the case of the nephew, was also undermined by the caregiver’s overprotective measures who did not allow him to act independently. Finally, during the third stage, the nephew had to develop initiative by exploring and asserting his control over the surroundings. Yet, it is possible that his curiosity was not satisfied, which actually led to his current reserved state and the potential sense of self-doubt, as described by Erikson.

The current paper focuses on the cases of a five-year-old boy who exhibits certain issues with his behavior, the causes of which can be identified using Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory. The approach itself implies that every person undergoes eight stages of psychosocial development, which ultimately have an influence on their whole life. In the case of the five-year-old, his passive conduct can be attributed to the failure to develop proper qualities during the first three stages. The child was often left alone, which led to his mistrust and anxiety, while after the caregiver began caring for him, they did not let him be independent and undermined his autonomy. Finally, during the third stage, the child failed to establish control over his environment, which possibly led to his lack of initiative.

Works Cited

Dunkel, Curtis., S. and Harbke, Colin. “A Review of Measures of Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development: Evidence for a General Factor.” Journal of Adult Development, vol. 24, no. 1, 2016, pp. 58–76.

Walker, Lorraine, and Miller, Shelagh. The Early Childhood Educator for Certificate III. McGraw-Hill, 2018.

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PsychologyWriting. "Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory." January 25, 2023.