ERIKSON’S THEORY 6
Erikson’stheory impact on educational psychologist
Eriksonwas a renowned psychologist greatly influenced by Freud. He wasFreud’s student and developed his theory during the post Freudianera. Being Freud’s student however, did not deter Erikson fromdiffering with Freud on certain concepts. For example while Freuddrew his fundamental point from biology, Erikson’s driving forcewas human behavior and personality formation through socialinteraction. Nevertheless, the impact of Freud on Erikson is evidentthroughout Erikson’s personality developmental theory. Eriksondeveloped a unique theory detailing of eight lifespan developmentalstages, explaining how each stage contributes to the formation ofpersonality.
Huitt2008 describes Erikson’s eight developmental stages in age, stageand expected resolutions. Infancy between 0-1 years is the firststage during which trust or mistrust is developed. During this stage,the expected resolution is that the child develops a belief that theworld is a safe place to meet his social and psychological needs.Toddlerhood is the second stage whereby autonomy vs. doubt comes upwith a child expected to control and develop a sense of free will ordevelop a sense of regret if self-control is inappropriately used.Early childhood brings initiative vs. guilt as a child learns tobegin action, exploration and imagine or alternatively feelremorseful for what they do. Middle childhood also referred to aselementary is school age as accomplishment vs. inferiority stages isexperienced. At this point, the child learns to do things correctlyas compared to other standard things. Adolescence or a stage ofidentity vs. role confusion comes with development of sense inrelationship to others. Internal desires and thoughts as a socialidentity focusing on personal identity, goals or possibilitiesdevelop. Young adulthood is a time when intimacy vs. isolation leadto development of an individual’s ability to love and receive loveas long-term commitments to relationships or isolation set in. Middleadulthood (generativity vs. stagnation) is a time when interests aredeveloped and guiding the next generation happens. Older adulthood isthe last stage with ego integrity vs. despair coming in. At thisstage, a sense of acceptance of live lived well and valuing people,relationships that one developed over their life is evident afterwhich one can rest peacefully. Failure to which, they despair and areafraid of death (Huitt, 2008).
Strengthsof the theory
Erikson’stheory acknowledges the fact that development continues at everystage of life greatly influencing who we become and why. The firststage of life for example where life begins a child learns to trustor mistrust people and develops personality traits that revealconfidence or fear. Erikson’s theory is strong in that it combinespsychological, social, historical and other factors that appeal tothe development of human beings through the eight stages. Hisviewpoints have greatly influenced educationalists, psychologists,sociologists, historians and other fields massively. The use ofidentity crisis for instance is a daily occurrence showing how muchhis viewpoint still remains relevant to date ingrained incontemporary thinking. Through extending the development stagesacross the lifespan, Erikson brought out a realistic view of howpeople’s personality and characteristics are developed (Erikson,1950).
Criticismsof the theory
ThoughErikson was Freud’s student, his differing thoughts with Freud hadhim criticized for attempting to water down Freudian theory(Carducci, 2006). His views on expansion of psychosocial stages andego roles are simply taking Freud’s proposed ideas and giving themeasily acceptable terms such as (social crisis instead of sexualconflict). Erikson’s use of the society to encourage thedevelopment of conformity rather than individuality is anothercriticized aspect. According to him, people should establish anidentity within the acceptable societal context. Another elementcriticized is on gender especially his agreement with Freud’spersonality differences between sexes based on lack or possession ofa penis. Critics feel that Erickson’s theory applies more to boysthan girls do.
Encounteringchildren struggling with psychological issues as an educationalpsychologist is unavoidable. Recently, Jean a kindergarten girlsvisited a counseling room in the company of her teacher Anna. Annawas tired of Jean’s constant aggression fighting and biting otherchildren for no reason. Jean most preferably got into fights withwere boys.
Thekindergarten child is aged five years. She is at the initiative vs.guilt stage where children begin making decisions primarily throughplay activities. However, this is no ordinary play. The applicationof Erickson’s psychosocial viewpoint using the known is a usefulapproach in identifying why the child behaves that way. Child playpsychotherapy can reveal many factors in a child. In this case, twodolls resembling a man and woman were given to the child. She wastaken to a different room as the psychologist observed her reactions.A few minutes into the session, the child started using the femaledoll to beat the male doll. The child became so aggressive that shetore the male doll into pieces.
Playtherapy is unique in that children can express their conscious orunconscious thoughts. For Erickson free play therapy is a specialform of free association during which children express with toys whatthey could not do or say leading to discovery of psychologicalissues. Play therapy is applicable while working with the child at asession that allows the child to express emotional conflict from asafe distance uninterrupted. From the observation, Jean had piled upemotional conflict issues resulting from domestic violence. Theconclusion that Jean had observed domestic violence for a long timeand was imitating it was drawn. The child also had internalbitterness towards men and no wonder she aggressively tore the maleand not the female doll into pieces. Following this observation, theconstant fighting trend of male children was clear. Further follow upto help the child deal with this issue meant calling her parents tohelp us understand the violence and aggression. Apparently, Jean’sparents had just separated following constant physical abuse and thusthe child was under her grandmother’s care.
Carducci,B. J. (2006). Thepsychology of personality.Oxford: Blackwell.
Erikson,E. (1950). Childhoodand society.New York: Norton.
Huitt,W. (2008). Socioemotional development. EducationalPsychology Interactive.Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.