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Erik Erikson was a Twentieth Century German-born
neo Freudian psychoanalyst. According to Thomas (2005), Erikson was heavily
influenced by Sigmund Freud and while he accepted Freud’s theories to be
essentially correct (such as the ego and the Oedipal complex), he deviated from
Freud’s psychosexual theory by placing more emphasis on external influences
than Freud’s sexual instincts and basically ignored Freud’s theory regarding
the unconscious (p. 86). He believed that Freud’s work was incomplete because
“Freud had focused only on neurotic personalities and, in consequence, had
neglected to define the nature of healthy personalities or to trace their
pattern of development” (Thomas, 2005, p. 87).

Freud focused his attention on an
individual’s id, “the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that is completely
unconscious and is the source of psychic energy derived from instinctual needs
and drives” (Id, n. d.). On the other hand, Erikson stressed the importance, development,
and external factors that influenced the development of a person’s ego, “the
psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator
between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception
of and adaptation to reality” (Ego, n. d.). Robinson, Demetre, and Litman
(2017) described how Erikson developed the belief that whenever individuals experienced
“a major personal crisis…curiosity would be stimulated about themselves and
the world as they seek solutions to their crisis and explore new ways of living”
(p. 426)

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The theory that Erikson conceptualized was
that as a person ages, he would experience eight different stages that would each
deal with a specific crisis and would require resolution. Erikson believed that
as the individual successfully met each challenge, the he would then be enabled
to develop a vigorous personality that would be supportive of a mentally
healthy person. Furthermore, Erikson also thought that “the social environment…does
have a significant effect on the nature of the crisis arising at each stage and
on the success with which the child and adolescent will master the stage”
(Thomas, 2005, p. 88).The primary strength of Erikson’s are
within his well-defined eight stages of psychosocial development because of its
duo emphasis on rational and adaptive nature as well as the interaction of
biological and social influences on the individual. Researchers have discovered
that his theory works as a psychological guide that spans all cultures and all
periods of time (Robinson, et al., 2017, p. 426). His work has also had an impact
upon psychohistory, “the analysis of the psychological development of
individuals by the use of what they have written and said and by reports of
their actions” (Thomas, 2005, p. 102).

Erikson’s eight stages of development of
psychosocial development could also been seen as a weakness. According to
Thomas (2005), other theorists have found “a variety of illustrations that
suggest that psychological crisis could come in a…different order than…suggested
by Erikson” (p. 103). An example of this weakness would by potty training. Some
children train early (within a year) and others may take more than three years
to develop the skill, thereby negating the Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt time frame
of 18 months to three years.

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