American Intercontinental University

Aspects of Psychology Unit 5 GP American InterContinental University March 11, 2012 Abstract This paper discusses the Erickson theory of human development. It includes a description of the different parts of the theory as well as TV characters that fit into the various life stages. There are also reviews of three different case studies done on different parts of the Erickson theory. Aspects of Psychology Unit 5 GP Erickson’s theory of life stages and development helps us understand how each of us develops throughout our lives.

It explains theories starting from birth and continuing on into life. It helps us to understand why people respond the way they do when presented with certain stimuli or put in certain situations. It explains attributes and possible factors that contributed to developing those attributes in people whether they are good attributes or bad. Human development is a complex and ever changing thing and the better we can understand it the better we will be able to respond to it and improve. Trust Vs Mistrust (birth – 2 years) starts with infancy until the age of two.

If an infant grows knowing that he can trust a person because of them caring for his well being, attending to him and loving him, he will be full of happiness and very healthy. But if he doesn’t gain a sense of trust because of being ignored or treated badly by his parents, he will show a lack of interest in things around him and he will also have poor health. (Erikson,E. 2010). A character that represents this stage of life is Stewie Griffin; Stewie has mistrust for his parents and everyone in general. He is always left to do whatever he wants with little input from his parents and his father is rarely home.

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She regularly wanders off and gets into things she is not supposed to. She also tries new things without her parents being there to supervise because she would rather do it herself. Initiate Vs Guilt (3-6 years) this is when she starts to do something and will not stop until it’s done. On the other hand if there is guilt within her she will not look for challenges and will mostly likely not express who she is. (Erikson,E. 2010). A character that represents this stage of life is Lisa Simpson. Lisa is always striving to be the best; she has to get straight A’s in school or else she gets depressed and withdraws.

She loves to play the saxophone despite her father being annoyed by it and is always looking for a challenge. Industry Vs Inferiority (6-12 years) at this stage he has a sense of industry he will show much interest in his school work and the duties he has at home, and he will show a responsible attitude towards things. If he has a sense of inferiority the opposite type of behavior would be shown, because he will feel like he isn’t capable of completing the given task. (Erikson,E. 2010). Bart Simpson is a character that fits this stage of life.

He feels inferior and so he does things he knows are wrong on purpose because he believes if he tries to succeed in good things he will fail. When he does try he often gets discouraged before he can complete the task and reverts to destructive behavior. Identity vs Role Confusion (12-18 years) states that if he knows where he is going in life or at least he knows what he wants to be when he gets older he will tend to have a high level of self esteem. (Erikson,E. 2010). However if he has a sense of role confusion he will not have any long term goals with no sense of direction and suffer from low self esteem.

Chris Griffin is in this stage of life. He suffering from role confusion and has no idea what he wants to do or even what he should do with his life. He even dressed up in women’s clothes at one point to see what it was like. He has a very low self esteem and lets himself be manipulated by others. Intimacy Vs Isolation (18 and on) at this point the stage of adulthood may be delayed until the adolescent is able to find himself. (Erikson,E. 2010). Even if the young adult is the adult age they may not reach adulthood until they are able to gather a sense of identity.

If the adult has a sense of intimacy he will form close bonds with other people by making friends, and having romantic relationships with those of the opposite sex that sometimes leads into marriage. An adult with a sense of isolation will find it hard to make new friends and form relationship. (Erikson,E. 2010). They have a problem with understanding what a person may be thinking or feeling. They tend to spend most of their time alone and by themselves. Peter Griffin fits into this stage of life. Although he is grown and has a family he is still very immature and has not found himself.

He has an easy time making friends and an easier time making a fool of himself. He often has to make stuff up to his wife because he has either misunderstood her or done something to embarrass her. Generativity Vs Self-Absorption (adult) is when an adult has a trait of generatively they are able to work productively which is built up over the years, and they may have a tendency of helping others. An adult with a sense of self- absorption is more self centered and care only of themselves. (Erikson,E. 2010). A character that fits into this stage is Homer Simpson.

Although he sometimes does things to help others he is often very self centered and not interested in things that don’t directly benefit him. He regularly gets into trouble for doing things for his own benefit at the expense of others such as a auto dialer he set up to call everyone in town to ask them to send him a dollar. Integrity Vs Despair (old age) is when a person is content with dying, which means they can face death without being afraid and by having a peace of mind because they feel as if they have live a fulfilled life.

A person with a trait of despair feels as if they wasted their life, and hasn’t been able to do what all they wanted to do. (Erikson,E. 2010). Abe Simpson fits into this stage of life. He is content with what he has done throughout his life and is ready to go anytime. He often says “if God wants me God can have me. ” He has served his country in war and lived a long and productive life. Erik Homburger Erikson said “It is human to have a long childhood; it is civilized to have an even longer childhood. Long childhood makes a technical and mental virtuoso out of man, but it also leaves a life-long residue of immaturity in him”.

He believed that the ego exists from birth and that behavior is not totally defensive. Erikson became aware of the massive influence of culture on behavior and placed more emphasis on the external world such as depression and wars (Intro to Psych, 2012). He organized life into eight stages from birth to death. His philosophy is based on two general themes. The world keeps getting bigger and failure is cumulative. We as humans have personality traits that have opposites. We think of ourselves as aggressive or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, a leader or a follower and independent or dependent for example.

Many of these are inborn temperament traits, but other characteristics, such as feeling either inferior or competent appear to be learned, based on the experiences we have and how we are raised and the support we received growing up. A child who is not nurtured will more than likely not be a nurturing adult. A child who is shown a lot of love will probably show much love as an adult. In the study titled Reexamining Gender Issues in Erikson’s Stages of Identity and Intimacy, it seems that there are biased opinions on the intimacy and identity stages of Erikson’s theory in relation to women.

According to several feminist viewpoints, the developmental tasks affiliated with identity and intimacy is different in women than in men. Researchers agree that women develop these stages differently based on the importance of their relationships. Some researchers believe that Erikson’s depiction of the advancement from identity to intimacy holds a virile bias; focusing on separation from instead of connection to, others (Horst, 1995). C. Gilligan, an author from Harvard University, feels that Erikson’s theory regarding Identity and Intimacy do not correctly portray female development.

She believes that those two theories are fused into one, because women develop their identity through the connections they have with others. Erikson does state that the cycle of identity and intimacy is different in women; the female identity lies dormant until she meets the man that she will marry, and whose status will define her. This theory does reflect on the fact that female development is affected by their relationships with other. Gilligan did not necessarily dispute this claim; the basis for her argument was that Erikson did not go into enough detail regarding women’s experiences in these stages of development.

Several other authors and researchers agree with Gilligan’s assessment of Erikson’s theory, stating that he did not base his findings with regard to gender diversities (Horst, 1995). In this study, Elisabeth Horst evaluates these critiques, stating that they are based on a serious misinterpretation of Erikson’s Theory. I feel that Horst’s evaluation strengthens Erikson’s theory, specifically the Identity and Intimacy stages. She states that at the time Erikson developed his theory; the life cycle theory, the epigenetic chart, and many findings on identity ere already developed and focused on masculine experience. His findings on gender differences came as an afterthought, or a modification to his original findings. Horst states that Erikson’s perception of women’s identity being found through marriage suggests that he opposes sexism, and proposes the female look at different perspectives in development. She feels that as long as people recognize sex differences, without them being overemphasized or underemphasized, development can flourish and role confusion can be eliminated.

This is imperative in healthy development of identity and intimacy (Horst, 1995). I agree with Horst’s findings; Erikson does identify with sex differences to an extent, yet his theory is generalized to discuss basic theories of development. Having a sense of identity is to know where you are going in life and having goals to enable us to have higher self esteem. Having a sense of intimacy is developing relationships and forming connections with others to allow us to fully establish our identity, and adapt to our emotions.

Regardless of pointing out sex differences, these stages do address critical parts of development accurately, in both men and women. In this current on-going study of integrating Biological, Behavioral, and Social Levels of Analysis in Early Child Development they are conducting studies of child salivary cortisol in a controlled development. In doing this they are taking a biological look at the social and behavior differences and changes within the early stages of life proving the existence of chemical changes within the body according to cultural, social, or behavioral surroundings in everyday life.

Within this study they are looking into the autonomy vs. shame and guilt stage or Erik Erickson’s theory. Sethre-Hofstad, Stansbury, and Rice reported that in the context of a child’s introduction to a novel and / or a potentially challenging task, individual differences in maternal sensitivity predicted the degree of attunement in mother and child’s cortisol responsiveness (Granger, ; Kivlighan, 2003). These studies clearly illustrate that social forces moderate the expression of bio-behavioral relationships in children (Granger, ; Kivlighan, 2003).

From a biological and chemical standpoint this strengthens Erik Erickson theory. The reason is besides being able to examine a child and study reactions and even the knowledge of the child which was passed from his mother or any other social parent there is also evidence within their cortisol showing differences in the subjects behavior or social patterns. If unsure of something or nervous of a situation he should not enter the levels are much lower than if the situation makes him relaxed which is brought on by his social life and what he has been around while with his parents.

I agree with this study and am glad that it continues giving us insight to another form of tests to show differences in a child’s social and even cultural background. Being able to do this test or study can tell a lot about a person individually and what habits and even surroundings they see at home. Several of Erikson’s theories for human growth and development can be identified in the study that examines “Relationships Among Paternal Involvement and Young Children’s Perceived Self-Competence and Behavioral Problems”.

The study examines a child’s behavior based on the involvement in their life from both parents which is stage 5 of Erikson’s psychosocial. Identity vs. Confusion is actually a child’s learning stage, which is the time that they began to develop a sense of self identity, it is also the time where they need proper encouragement and reinforcement because without it they could get confuse about the direction they would like to go (Cherry). The study concluded that the mothers who had high involvement from their children’s fathers saw a more positive behavior in their children but the fathers indicated otherwise.

The study also associated that the children with fathers that where highly involved showed an increase in feelings about being accepted by their parents, which plays a role in their self competence and self esteem (Rex E. Culp ; 5 Stephanie Schadle, 2000). This particular study actually strengthens Erickson’s theories, because his study featured children at an early age which is considered their learning stage. This meant that they were developing self identity (Stage 5) which would cause a change in behaviors and it is also the time for proper guidance.

Once the change in behavior was made they began to developed their identity which may cause them to act differently with one or both parents. That is the process that prepares them for the next stage (Cherry). I must say that I only agree with parts of the conclusion of the study itself. I agree that the feelings of being accepted are stronger with a child that is involved with both parents because they may feel that they have two sets of expectations to live up to and get confused about which direction to go in with a fear of disappointing one or both parents.

This may also interfere with their ability to develop their self identity. I don’t agree about the changes in behaviors being more positive with the mother than the father because even the study recorded that after spending more time with the child the father appeared frustrated. The father’s behavior could’ve had an effect on the child’s behavior or he could have stated that because of his experienced frustration.

Either way I just see the father as having the more authoritative tone and demeanor so I think the child more responsive and generally better behaved than they would be with their mother, but my theory is only base on personal experience. These studies of the different life stages should help in deciding on appropriate advertizing for the family oriented theme park that will be affective for their target audience. It will allow them to cater to the different interests and ideas of people in the stages of life they are making the advertisements for.

By knowing how people tick and what motivates them it makes the job of effective advertizing much easier. These studies help us to understand what is important to different people based largely on their stage in life. References Cherry, K. (n. d. ). About. com Psychology. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from About. com Psychology: http://psychology. about. com/od/branchesofpsycholog1/a/positive-psychology. htm Cherry, K. (2012). Psychosocial Stages-The Eight Psychosocial Stages. Retrieved from. http://psychology. about. com/od/psychosocialtheories/tp/psychosocial-stages. tm Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development. (2010). Retrieved from. http://nursing-resource. com/erik-eriksons-stages-of-psychological-development/ Granger, D.. , & Kivlighan, K. (2003). Integrating Biological, Behavioral, and Social Levels of Analysis in Early Child Development: Progress, Problems, and Prospects. Child Development, 74(4), 1058-1063. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Horst, E. A. (1995). Reexamining Gender Issues in Erikson’s Stages of Identity and Intimacy. Retrieved on March 8, 2012 from

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