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Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Stages

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Erik Erikson during his studies developed a theory describing eight psychosocial stages that a developing individual should go through. Starting in their first year of life these stages continue on through early childhood, adolescent years, all the way up to late adulthood. Each stage puts forth a new developmental crisis needing to be overcome by the individual before moving on to the next successfully. If the individual is unable to overcome the developmental task or successfully deal with it she or he will have problems in the following years that relate back to the unresolved task. The two developmental stages I am particularly interested in and going to take a closer look at is the fifth, identity vs. Identity confusion and the sixth stage, intimacy vs. Isolation. Erikson's fifth stage comes into play in the adolescent years from about the age of 10 to 20. During this stage individuals face finding out who they are, what they are, what they are all about, and where they are going in life (p.28). During this developmental stage adolescents experiment with different life styles trying to find direction in the way they want to go in life. If this is done successfully the adolescent will flourish and grow from their experiences, gain a deep internal understanding of their identity, and will have acquired a more positive outlook on life. On the other hand, those who do not establish this positive identity may alienate themselves from their social surroundings taking on an identity that will lead to negative consequences up into adulthood. As the adolescent gradually progresses positively or negatively from the fifth stage, intimacy vs. isolation, Erikson's sixth stage of psychosocial development starts to begin. This stage in Erikson's theory of development occurs when the individual is 20 to 30 years of age, in early adulthood. The young adult in this developmental stage has the task of seeking intimate relationships with other individuals. Erikson describes intimacy as finding oneself, yet loosing oneself in another (p.152). To be intimate with another individual can come in different forms, intimacy as a lover or forming close friendships are a couple examples. The effect of not being able to form these intimate bonds could be detrimental to their growth in the social world. Ultimately leading them to isolate themselves from society, friendships and love. Being promiscuous by having multiple partners and not being able to have long-lasting relationships are a couple of the negative effects on the individuals personality if the developmental task is not achieved. When looking at the overall theory of Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development, I am left to question whether or not these stages always follow the same order. Thinking back on my own psychosocial development throughout the years and that of others I have had the opportunity to see develop, I do feel that the stages may not follow the same order.



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