Erik Homberger Erikson was born
on June 15, 1902
in Frankfurt, Germany
to his Jewish
mother Karla Abrahamsen and to his biological father, who was an
man. Erikson’s biological father
abandoned him before he was born, so his mother went on to marry Dr.
Homberger, who was Erikson’s pediatrician.
They then moved to Karlsruhe in southern
Germany (Boeree, 1997).
During his school years, Erikson
studied art and many
languages instead of chemistry and biology.
Erikson never liked formal schooling, so he
decided against going to
college (Sharkey, 1997). When Eriskon
graduated high school, he was interested in becoming an artist. Around 1920, he decided to travel Europe but
he had to sleep under bridges (Boeree, 1997).
After he traveled around Europe for a year, he
made the decision to
enroll in an art school back in Germany.
Erikson stayed at the art school for several
years, so he began to teach
art and other subjects to the American children who came to Vienna
for Freudian training (Sharkey, 1997).
In fact, Erikson was admitted to
the Vienna Psychoanalytic
Institute. In 1933, he moved to Boston,
Massachusetts and filled a position at Harvard Medical School as
first child analyst (Sharkey, 1997).
While Erikson was at Harvard, he met
psychologists such as Henry Murray
and Kurt Lewin and anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict, Margaret
Gregory Bateson. It was said that they
had as much as an impact on him as Sigmund and Anna Freud (Boeree,
1997). Later in Erikson’s career, he held
at Yale, Berkeley, and the Menninger Foundation (Sharkey, 1997). While he taught at Yale and at the University
of California at Berkeley,
he did his famous studies on the modern life of the Lakota and the
officially changed his named to Erik
Erikson when he became an American citizen, though no one knows how he
him name (Boeree, 1997). Erikson is
known for being a prolific writer since he wrote many books and essays. For example, he published Childhood and
Society (1950), Young Man Luther (1958), Youth: Change and Challenge (1963), Insight
and Responsibility (1964), and Identity:
Youth and Crisis (1968), (Sharkey, 1997).
Erikson left the University
of California at Berkeley
in 1950 because professors were asked to sign “loyalty oaths” during
Joseph McCarthy’s reign of terror, since Erikson refused to comply by
the oath he left California
security. Therefore, Erikson went on to teach at a clinic in
then back to Harvard before he retired in 1970.
Erikson passed away in 1994 at the age of 92
Erikson’s main contribution to
psychology was his
developmental theory. Though Sigmund
Freud influenced Erikson significantly, he believed that humans
throughout their life span. However,
Freud believed that our personality was shaped by age five. Erikson developed eight psychosocial stages
of development and believed that each stage presented a crisis that
resolved before one can proceed to the next stage.
The stages are Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy
vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority,
vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs.
Integrity vs. Despair (Sharkey, 1997).
Erikson’s initial stage, Trust
vs. Mistrust, occurred from
birth to one year. Erikson believed that
if an infants needs were met, such as being fed when hungry, they would
trust. He also mentioned that mistrust
must be learned to be able to discriminate between honest and dishonest
people. Erikson said that if mistrust
wins over trust the child will likely become withdrawn and will lack
self-confidence (Sharkey, 1997).
Erikson’s second stage, Autonomy vs. Shame and
Doubt, occurred between
ages two and three. He stated that
parents need to create a supportive atmosphere so the child may develop
self-control. If basic trust were not
sufficiently developed, the child would have developed shame and doubt
his or her sense of self-control. This
was also the stage in which rules were encountered (Sharkey, 1997). The third stage, Initiative vs. Guilt,
occurred from ages four and five. During
this stage the child discovered who he or she was going to be. Initiative was increased when the child
developed a sense of responsibility. If
the child was irresponsible and felt too anxious, they felt guilt. Erikson believed that most guilt was
compensated for quickly by accomplishment (Sharkey, 1997).
Erikson’s fourth stage, Industry
vs. Inferiority, occurred
between age six and puberty. During this
period, the child entered school where he or she was exposed to
technology. Erikson said that teachers
should “mildly but firmly coerce children into the adventure of finding
that one can learn to accomplish things which one would never have
by oneself” (Santrock, 2004, p. 46). If
the child had successful experiences, they received a sense of
was a feeling of expertise. But if the
child failed, they felt a sense of inferiority.
The fifth stage, Identity vs. Role Confusion,
adolescence. Elements of Erikson’s
previous stages contributed significantly to this stage.
During this period the
adolescent must have discovered who
they were because they were seeking an identity (Sharkey, 1997). Erikson himself was said to struggle with his
own identity because during his early life, he was known as Erik
Homberger. He was a tall, blond,
blue-eyed, Jewish boy
who was teased for being Nordic and teased for being Jewish (Boeree,
1997). Erikson’s sixth stage, Intimacy
vs. Isolation, occurred during young adulthood.
He stated that intimacy was only possible if a
well-integrated identity resulted from the fifth stage.
The seventh stage, Generativity vs.
Stagnation, occurred during middle adulthood.
During this period, we must have assisted the
younger generation in
leading useful and productive lives. If
the individual did nothing to assist the younger generation, they felt
as a result. The eighth and final stage,
Integrity vs. Despair, occurred during late adulthood.
In this stage, the individual reflected on
the past. If their prior stages
developed well, they felt a sense of integrity, but if their previous
had not developed positively, they felt a sense of despair. Erikson believed that development was both
qualitative and quantitative and that nature determined the sequence of
stages (Sharkey, 1997).
Erik Erikson has made numerous
contributions to society as a
psychologist. His developmental theory
had a major impact on the way we view psychology today.
All of his professional accomplishments have
lead us to a better
understanding of the field of psychology and psychoanalysis and for
contributions history will never forget him.