Early Professional Life
Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1902. The circumstances of his childhood created the foundation for his interest in identity. He was raised in a Jewish family, but because he was the byproduct of an extra-marital affair by his mother with a Danish man, he looked anything but the typical Jewish boy. He struggled with his identity throughout his youth, and after meeting Anna Freud while studying in Vienna, decided to pursue the field of psychoanalysis. He learned about child development through the Montessori method as well as studying at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. 1933, Erikson left Germany and relocated to the United States. He settled in Boston and took a position at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He became the first practicing child psychoanalyst in the Boston area, and also served at Psychological Clinic, Judge Baker Guidance Center, and Harvard’s Medical School.
Erikson began his career at Yale in 1936, with the Institute of Human Relations. He also served as a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. Shortly after, he relocated again to California, following his observance of Sioux children. He worked with the Institute of Child Welfare in California, and served on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. He continued studying Native American children and worked closely with the Yurok tribe. Erikson stayed in California until 1950, after the publication of his book, Childhood and Society. He returned to Massachusetts and continued to focus his attention on emotionally challenged youth. Erikson finished his professional career with a final stint as a professor at Harvard.
Contribution to Psychology
Erikson impacted psychological theories by expanding upon Freud’s original five stages of development. He believed that each person progressed through eight, and ultimately nine (added by his widow), stages of development throughout their lives. Erikson’s theories were founded on the premise that environment played a major role in self-awareness, adjustment, human development, and identity. His belief in the Life Cycle later won him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. He was selected for the Jefferson Lecture and recognized for his achievement in the area of humanities.
The conflict and virtues of the Life Cycle developed by Erikson are:
1. Hope: This is the conflict between trust and mistrust and occurs in the first year of life.
2. Will: Autonomy versus doubt and shame happens during the toddler years.
3. Purpose: Guilt versus initiative happens when a child is capable of completing their own tasks, but struggles with the guilt of being able to do so during years four through six.
4. Competence: Inferiority and industry wage war against each other during pre-adolescence, from age seven to 13.
5. Fidelity: Role diffusion is pitted against identity from the age of adolescence through young adulthood. People question their sense of identity, direction and purpose.
6. Love: Intimacy and isolation spar during the first half of life. People question if they want a partner and to settle down, or should they continue down their current path. They explore their career paths and ultimate life choices.
7. Caring: Generativity versus stagnation during the early forties and can last well into the sixties. This stage begins as the mid-life crisis during which time people assess their own accomplishments and determine their current level of life satisfaction.
8. Wisdom: Ego integrity versus despair is a common conflict during latter years, usually from the mid 60’s on. As people reflect upon their lives, they may feel regret and failure, resulting in despair, or recognize their accomplishments.
Erikson was best known for his impact on psychology through his theory on social development and his lengthy teaching career at prestigious institutions.
Quote by Erik Erikson