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The erik erikson theory of development

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2585 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Erik Erikson theory of development stipulates the physical, psychological as well as emotional milestones and how they relate to specific developmental tasks in each stage. The personality traits exhibited by individuals are inborn temperament traits while others are learned by a person as he or she develops in regard to the challenges as well as support received in the course of development. Erik Erikson is credited due to the exemplification of the concept of personality development since he believed that the existence of the ego has its roots from birth and behavior exhibited by an individual is not completely defensive (Crandell et al, 2009). Studies advanced by Erik Erikson indicated that the development course of an individual is determined by a three fold interaction between the genetic biological programming of the body, psychological influences as well as ethos or cultural influences. Erik Erikson’s developmental theory stipulates eight stages extending from infancy to adulthood in which different developmental milestones are explained.

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The first stage from birth to about 18months is referred to as infancy where the Ego development outcome is known as Trust vs. Mistrust. This is the oral sensory stage where major emphasis is laid on the child’s mother ability to provide loving care to the child. Through visual contact as well as touch a child is able to trust that life is satisfactory and considerable confidence in the future is achieved. On the contrary, when a child fails to achieve trust and consistent frustrations befall on a person, a deep seated feeling of worthlessness may develop as well as a pronounced mistrust of life in general. Basically during my infancy I was accorded the right treatment which gave me the belief that the world we live in is trustworthy and that every individual has an outmost right to live here.

The early childhood stage is from 18 months and extends up to 3 years. The Ego development outcome during this stage refers to Autonomy vs. Shame. The basic strengths which a child ought to develop is will, courage as well as self control. Individuals at this stage learn to master important life skills for themselves. Children not only learn to feed, walk, talk, toilet train but they develop fine motor skills. As the developing child continues to gain control over their bodies through acquisition of new skills and differentiating the right from the wrong, feelings of autonomy and high self esteem are realized. During this period, children largely refuse to undertake the tasks stipulated by the most significant and/ constant caregiver that vital skills of will are developed. However, during this period children tend to be massively vulnerable. This is because children who are unable to learn important skills as well as fail in toilet training experience massive shame and doubt thereby resulting to low self esteem. Relationships with ones parents are very significant.

During the Play age from 3 to 5 years a desire to imitate adults is established as well as an inborn want to take the initiative in coming up with ideas during plays. Playing is paramount during this stage as children are involved in playing out roles as well as experimenting in the ideas they believe in. The ego development outcome at this stage is referred to as Initiative vs. Guilt while the basic strength exhibited is purpose. According to Erikson, the child largely struggles with the oedipal struggle as he tries to establish his gender through use of social role identification formalities (Berger, 2004). A child frustrated in regard to natural desires and goals experiences guilty feelings. The school age period between 6 to 12 years is referred to as latency and the ego development outcome attached to it is industry vs. inferiority. The child’s ability to learn and acquire new skills as well as knowledge and develop massive accomplishments helps a child develop a sense of industry. This is a largely social stage during the development where basic strengths of method and competence are made manifest. In case a child experiences inadequacy and inferiority in the midst of his peers competences as well as self esteem problems results. The most important relationships during this period are those found in the school as well as the neighborhood. Gender influences are exhibited during development especially in communication styles, aggression as well as social relationships. Many sociolinguists agree that females largely prefer private talks which are geared towards forming relationships. Since I grew up in an environment with males as all my siblings are boys, my communication was primarily based on report talk with such verbal performances as lecturing information, joking as well as story telling. The kind of plays undertaken by children is based of gender and cultural influences. For instance the boys’ plays have a leader who directs the course of action and the losers as well as winners are identified. Girls on the other hand girls play in pairs and turn taking is more evident. According to Erikson, the above developmental stages largely depend on what is done to an individual.

From adolescence stage which begins from 12 to 18 years, Identity vs. Role confusion is the developmental outcome which seeks to be achieved. Development largely depends on what an individual does. Adolescence is an indeed complex stage in which an individual is neither a child nor adult therefore individuals struggle to forge their identity in social interactions as well as establishing moral issues which to adhere to. Erikson states that individuals are expected to discover who they are. If this is not done adequately, the concerned individuals experience role confusion as well as upheaval. A period known as moratorium is witnessed by individuals who opt to withdraw from responsibilities. Adolescents identify most with their peers and due to lack of experience individuals tend to think in terms of ideals rather than reality hence the reason why massive conflicts are always witnessed during this stage (Berger, 2004). In young adulthood, between 18 and 35 years, the basic strengths to be achieved are affiliation and love. According to Erikson, during the initial stages of becoming adults, individuals largely seek for love and companionship. Through marriage and establishing friendships, individuals seek to acquire mutually satisfying relationships. Individuals who negotiate through this stage successfully get to experience intimacy at the deepest level possible while those that fail isolation and distance from other people result. In my case, I married in the year 1999 and experienced deep intimacy. The significant relationships are those established with friends as well as marital partners.

Middle Adulthood sets in from age 35 to 55 or 65. The ego development outcome involves generativity vs. stagnation. According to Erikson, during this stage individuals are largely occupied with their careers as well as creative works while at the same time involved in family obligations. Individuals expect to be in charge of their affairs. The basic strengths to demonstrate are protection and care. This is achieved through undertaking the significant task of perpetuating culture as well as transmitting values to the lives of the children. The parents should tame their children through providing a stable environment in which the children grow up in. According to Erikson, Generativity is achieved when an individual demonstrates care of other people especially children thereby resulting to production of something which significantly contributes to the betterment of the society (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2008). This is the stage where ones children gradually leave home. This move largely results to major life changes thus resulting to mid life crises. Self absorption and stagnation is experienced by people who fail to go through this stage successfully. During this period, relationships which matter the most are those existing in the workplace, family and the community at large.

Late adulthood which is witnessed from 55 or 65 years up-to death requires comprehensible demonstration of the vital strength in wisdom. According to Erikson, the ego development outcome at this stage is integrity vs. despair. Since individuals have spent substantial amount of time preparing their lives during middle adulthood, late adulthood presents an opportunity to recover from the challenges of life. As older adults, individuals have an opportunity to look at their lives with happiness as well as contentment. Recognition of the contribution made by an individual in life is what brings satisfaction and Erikson refers to it as integrity (Berk, 2004). Contrary, there are individuals who get to this stage and exhibit feelings of despair owing to the misgivings and perceived failures they have witnessed in their lives. Kohlberg’s theory of moral development compares significantly with Erikson’s developmental theory since the moral milestones achieved by an individual throughout his lifetime are stipulated.

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According to Kohlberg, moral reasoning is what determines the ethical behavior to be achieved by an individual. While expanding on Piaget’s work, Kohlberg established that moral development is primarily concerned with the need to demonstrate justice and continues throughout the life of an individual (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2008). Through analyzing moral reasoning displayed by individuals in such cases as Heinz dilemma, Kohlberg managed to classify the actions and morals of various individuals into six distinct stages. The levels advanced by Kohlberg are classified into Pre-conventional, conventional as well as post-conventional with each level having two other stages. The pre-conventional stage is commonly exhibited by children although there are instances when even adults get to associate with this stage. The morality of an action is determined by the direct consequences exhibited by a particular action. Since a child has not fully conceptualized the societal conventions in regard to what actions are right or wrong, he or she focus on the kind or rewards or punishments a particular action is likely to elicit. The obedience and punishment orientation makes an individual to focus on the punishment advanced thus if the punishment is bad, the action is equally bad. This view is largely egocentric. Stage two in pre- conventional level is driven by self interest concerns whereby an individual seeks to determine the benefit he or she will derive from an activity. Thus, concern for other people’s interests is not as a result of respect or loyalty. The conventional level is typically demonstrated by adolescents as well as adults. People who reason in conventional ways base the morality of action in regard to the societal views as well as expectations. Conventional morality thus requires an individual to make a deliberate move to accept the societal conventional in regard to what is right or wrong. Thus an individual follows the stipulated societal laws and guidelines without considering the consequences of the actions. In stage three referred to as interpersonal accord and conformity motivated an individual seeks to fill social roles available in his society thus the emphasis lies in trying to live up to the expectations of the society. Thus stage three reasoning constitutes judging the morality of an action by considering the kind of effect that an individual’s relationship will demonstrate. When respect and gratitude sets in, people feel the need to fit in social roles since they want to be liked by other members of society owing to the good behaviors they demonstrate. According to Kohlberg, stage two of conventional morality is authority and social order obedience motivated. The importance of obeying the stipulated laws, social conventions as well as dictums lies in the massive need to maintain a society which is functioning well (Lerner & Weiner, 2003). Thus society needs transcend individual approval when making any moral reasoning. It is a central ideal which is present in the society which makes people want to follow the stipulated rules and regulations. Majority of the active members of the society remain in this stage of moral judgment.

The post conventional level of moral development is known as the principled level. According to Kohlberg, it is the realization that individuals are separate from society which makes individual perspectives to be considered before making decisions. People in this stage make decisions owing to the abstract personal principles they uphold. In stage one of post conventional level known as social contract driven, the world is considered to hold varied rights, values as well as opinions which must be respected by all people in the society. In this stage, laws are not considered as rigid dictums rather rules are considered as social contracts which need be changed in order to address the good on all people in the society. Various decisions as well as inevitable compromises come into interplay when such actions are being undertaken. The final stage is universal ethical principle motivated and it encompasses abstract reasoning during moral reasoning processes. The validity of laws is based only on their ability to uphold justice thus laws without an obligation to justice need be fully disobeyed. Since decisions are not arrived at hypothetically, a completely absolute method need be developed to come up with such conclusions. Kohlberg emphasizes the fact that the individuals, who have reached this level of moral development, put themselves in another person’s situation if at all they believed the truth of another person’s action (Lerner & Weiner, 2003). The consensus which results from such an action is the decision undertaken. Thus individuals act not because an action is legal, instrumental, or expected but rather because the action is right. It is quite difficult to determine individuals who operate in this level.

The cultural background of an individual plays a major role in determining the moral milestones achieved during the development process. Since culture encompasses the total community’s social, economic as well as political structures which shape the total outlook of an individual. It is the culture which determines the sensibilities, attitudes, skills as well as dispositions which in turn make an individual morally mature in all spheres of life. In case a cultural setting lays much emphasis on punishment, individuals will primarily remain in the pre- conventional stage of moral authority where actions are determined by the kind of punishment which will be accorded. Differences in sex exhibit different moral development of women and men. Women typically remain at stage three of moral development since they primarily encompass interpersonal feelings during decision making process. Men are largely stationed at stage five and six since they reflect mostly on abstract perceptions of societal organization during decision making process (Lerner & Weiner, 2003). This can be further explained by the fact that women do not undertake their responsibilities in regard to the conventionally accepted norms but rather on their own individual insights in regard to care and responsibilities of their children.


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