it.Mutual recognition and mutual trustworthiness are the earliestand most undifferentiated experiences of what will subsequently form identity (Muuss, Velder, & Porton, 1996). The concept of’psychosocial reciprocity’ as suggested in the words mutual recognition and mutualtrustworthiness permeates Erikson’s theory and underlines the gravity ofsocial relationships in development (Muuss, Velder, & Porton, 1996).
Similar to the opposing forces which arepresented in each stage, Erikson establishes a basic strength, contrasted by a corepathology, that emerges following a successful conflict resolution. In thefirst stage, the opposing qualities are hope and withdrawal. In the secondstage, autonomy versus shame and doubt, Erikson builds upon Freud’s anal stagein a number of ways. First, he extends the control and independence yearned forby the child beyond just toilet training, to various physical ventures such aswalking. Second, the development of the ego is reiterated here as in otherstages, while Freud’s developmental psychology is centred around the idimpulses. And third, Erikson acknowledges the treatment of these challengesfrom various cultural perspectives with the reference to the Lakota Sioux tribe(Fleming, 2009). The psychosocial conflict of the third stage, ages 3 ½ to 6years old, is initiative versus guilt, where a tension builds between thechild’s entrance into the wider environment by way of activity and explorationor an incapacitation by fear and guilt.
An intrusive manipulation of objects,namely toys, is observed in this stage, which can be perceived by parents ascuriosity or destructiveness. The way in which they react will inform theinfant’s conflict resolution. Muuss notes that during this stage of development,gender differences originate because of the role that anatomy plays in oedipaland Electra conflicts (Muuss, Velder, & Porton, 1996).
A sufficientdifferentiation of genders is lacking here in Erikson’s theory, like Freudbefore him, where a focus on male development is apparent (Stewart & Lykes,1985). Per Freud, the primary school years are identified by a movement fromlibidinal energy emphasised on bodily zones during a period of sexual latencyto the outside neighbourhood and school environment. By contrast, Eriksonconsiders these years, stage four in his model, as anticipatory of later life,with the practice of skills and completion of tasks. Industry is described asthe apprenticeship of life, and is countered by inferiority. Horney (1973)notes the discrepancy on elaboration between genders here, arguing that thechoices of spheres of competence a girl assumes her later life will entail willgreatly impact her expression of industriousness (Stewart & Lykes, 1985). Adolescence,beginning in stage five (puberty to 18 years old), is outlined as the crucial erawherein the primary psychosocial objective is to establish a personal identity and evade the hazardsof role diffusion and identity confusion (Erikson, 1950). Eriksonsuggests fidelity is the essence of identity.
He focuses here on the synthesis of who theadolescent is and who they will be in the future, both socially andvocationally. Placing emphasis on career domain, Erikson states, “In general,it is the inability to settle on an occupational identity which disturbs mostyoung people” (Erikson, 1968: 135). In the journey to adulthood, twin identityquestions appear: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my place in this world?’ (McAdams,Josselson, & Lieblich, 2006).
Erikson (1963) would argue that identity hasbeen formed only when the adolescent can examine their personal qualities andcombine these attributes for expression available in their world. However, roleconfusion arises if the individual is incapable of this process. Studiesconducted based on the identity formation theory indicates that the mostextensive progress in identity development appear during the college years(Waterman, 1985), however, many do not attend college or have the opportunityto explore further identity domains (Sokol, 2009). Stage six encompasses awider breadth of years (end of adolescence to 35 years) than prior stages andis primarily concerned with integrating one’s identity with that of anotherwhile maintaining a sense of individuality. Stage six, marked by intimacyversus isolation, involves the close establishment of one to another. However,”the giving of oneself to another, which is the mark of true intimacy, cannotoccur until one has a self to give” (Constantinople quoted in Muuss, 1975: 67),meaning, by this point, both parties must have formed a stable ego identity forsuccess in partnership (Schultz & Schultz, 2005).
Following the period ofadolescence, Erikson does not offer a comparatively detailed discussionregarding the identity’s process in later adult life (Kroger, 2007). Theseventh stage of Erikson’s model is adulthood, a period in which individualsassume their place in society, characterised by the psychosexual mode ofprocreativity and the psychosocial crisis of generativity versus stagnation. Erikson’sdescriptions of the difficulties this stage poses, “stagnation, boredom, andinterpersonal impoverishment” (Erikson, 1968: 138), are akin to Jung’sillustration of the midlife crisis (Schultz & Schultz, 2005). The finalstage of Erikson’s ‘Eight Ages of Man’, arbitrarily marked as the age 60 untildeath, confronts the individual with a choice of ego integrity or despair.These attitudes inform the evaluation of one’s life. inevitable questionarises at the culmination of Erikson’s stages: must an individual succeed inacquiring the basic strength or positive quality of each respective stage inorder to progress to later stages and ultimately accomplish integrity, the pinnacleexperience of the human life cycle? While Erikson acknowledges that everyindividual may not succeed in achieving basic strengths at every level, hemaintains that everyone holds the potential to do so.
While partiallydeterministic in his theory, Erikson illustrates that nothing in our biologicalforce demands us to suffer conflict or anxiety. His theory grants optimismbecause while each stage of psychosocial development is based around a crisis,the possibility of a positive outcome is always present, even at a later stageof development (Louw, 2002). Furthermore, the expansion of Freud’s theory meansthat later stages of life also impact development, meaning we are not solelyproducts of our childhood experience (Schultz & Schultz, 2005).