Updated August 12, 2022

Erik Erikson as a Famous Psychologist

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Erik Erikson was in June 2019, in Frankfurt, Germany. How he got an interest in psychological development? There are a number of experiences in his life which lead to him succeed in his research. His mother married another man who was physician Dr. Theodor Homberger. The real father of Erik was different man and he never saw his biological father throughout his life. After knowing the truth, he left with the confusion about who he really was. This experienced helped him in the identity formation. Another experience was that he was teasen school for being tall, Blue-eyed, Blonde, Nordic-looking boy. At grammar school, he was rejected because he was Jewish. These experienced helped in his interest in identity formation and continued to influence his work throughout his life. Erikson met Joan Serson, a Canadian dance instructor, who was also teacher in same school. Then he married with her. Talking about Erik Erikson’s education, then he never received a degree in medicine or psychology. When he was studying at the Das humanistische Gymnasiam, he was interested in history, Latin, and Art. His stepfather was a doctor and he wanted that Erikson go to medical school, but he went to art school.

Erik Erikson’s Life Path

After that he dropped out from the school and he spent his time to travelling Europe with his friend and finding his identity. One of his friends, Anna Freud sent him to invitation for teaching position at a progressive school, it was created by Dorothy Burlingham. Freud noticed that Erikson was very attached with the children so, she encouraged him to study psychoanalysis. After that, he received certificate from the Montessori Teachers Association and from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. Erikson worked with Burlingham and Freud at school for many years. Erikson then moved to United States in 1933 and was offered a teaching position at Harvard Medical School even he had not any degree. Erikson changed his name from Erik homberger to Erik H. Erikson. He continued his work in child psychology. He was also lecturer at the university of California at Berkeley, Yale, the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, Austen Riggs Center, and the Center for Advanced Studies of the Behavioural Sciences. He published many books on his research, including “childhood and Society” and “The life cycle completed.” His book “Gandhi’s truth” was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.

Erikson believed that childhood stage is vital in personality development. He said that the infant up-bringing and society’s behaviour towards child affect the children development. “Personality development is considered successful if the individual has the positive traits than negative traits.” According to Erikson, psychosocial definition is psycho means psychological needs of individual and society means conflicting with the needs of society. According to his theory, if every stage completes with all requirements then it leads “healthy personality and the acquisition of basic virtues.” Every stage should be complete successfully otherwise it leads unhealthy personality.

According to Yussen and Santrock (n.d., p.24), “Erikson postulate eight stages of development- sometimes its called Eight Ages of Man”. According to Yussen and Santrock (n.d., p.24-25), “Each one centers on a salient and distinct emotional concern stemming from biological pressure from within and sociocultural expectations from outside the person. These concerns, or conflicts, may be resolved in a positive and healthy manner or in a pessimistic way”.

Here are the eight stages of psychosocial development:

  • Trust vs. Mistrust: This is the first stage of Erikson’s theory. This stage starts with the birth and last from the 1 year or 18 months. In this phrase, an infant totally dependent on his or her mother for food, blanket and diaper changing. If mother discharges her child-related work, then the child automatically will enhance trust towards the world. An infant will think that they have a person around him who will take care of him or her. If the caregiver makes any mistake, then they may develop mistrust, doubt and this distrusting attitude that will follow the child throughout the life.
  • Anatomy vs. Shame and doubt: This is the second stage and it start from second year to third year. This stage will lead to the virtue of will. If parents encourage and support them in this stage, then children increase the confident level and security level toward the world. In this stage, child get the control over the bowels and bladders. If parents expectation and if they try to overcontrol, it gives negative impact and may develop shame on themselves and self-doubt level will raise.
  • Initiatives vs. Guilt: This is the third stage and it start from 3rd year to 6th year. Children try to take initiatives and want to make new experiment; may sometimes they quarrel with their parents. They feel love-hate for the parents of opposite sex. For overcoming this issue, they try to be engaging themselves in another activities. Children needs support of their parents.
  • Industry vs. Inferiority: This is the fourth stage of psychosocial development. In this stage children try to socialize with their family and their relatives. Children who can do work properly where there is a high value of productivity, they should learn the value of achievements.
  • Identity vs. Role confusion: This is fifth stage and children make clear path by asking themselves who am I? and where am I going? If the adolescents pass through this situation and come out with the perfect selection of role and the what society have knowledge about this, a child will be raised confidence level about themselves. If children are confused about the goal, they will never achieve anything.
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation: This is the sixth stage and it occurs on young adulthood. Early adulthood brings with a job and in this stage, they may be fall in love with the opposite sex and start the intimate relationship. It starts with the friendship and the basic feeling of intimate relationship. If a person does not have any friend or do not have any intimate relationship, then isolation happens.
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation: This is the seventh stage and called an adulthood. In this stage, adults take responsibility to their children. They try to be friendly with the children. Generativity means that adult put their efforts to make good shape of their next generation. Stagnation means that adults does not help their next generation, which is bad thing.
  • Ego integrity vs. Despair: This is the last stage and considered as maturity stage. In this last years, they think about their back life what they achieve. They share their experiences how they spent their life and feel satisfied. They also have some negative situation but from many ways they can develop good results.


  1. Yussen, S. R., & Santrock, J. W. (n.d.). Child development: An introduction (2nd ed.). Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company Publisher

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What kind of psychologist was Erik Erikson?
Erikson was a neo-Freudian psychologist who accepted many of the central tenets of Freudian theory but added his own ideas and beliefs. His theory of psychosocial development is centered on what is known as the epigenetic principle, which proposes that all people go through a series of eight stages.
What was Erik Erikson's approach to psychology?
Erikson believed that humans' personalities continued to develop past the age of five, and he believed that the development of personality depended directly on the resolution of existential crises like trust, autonomy, intimacy, individuality, integrity, and identity (which were viewed in traditional psychoanalytic
What was Erikson's most important contribution to human development?
Erikson's best-known work is his theory that each stage of life is associated with a specific psychological struggle , a struggle that contributes to a major aspect of personality.
When did Erik Erikson contribution to psychology?
Erikson moved his clinical practice to San Francisco in 1939 and became professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942. During the 1940s he produced the essays that were collected in Childhood and Society (1950), the first major exposition of his views on psychosocial development .
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