MAIN PAGE

 
BIOGRAPHY LIST

 
DATELINES

 
BIOSCOPES

 
WHO AM I?

 

Erik Erikson
 
Researched and written by:  Sara Litten
 
I attest that the following biography is  product of my own original work.

Biography
 
     Erik Erikson (1902-1994), also known as Erik Homburger, was born to Karla Abrahamsen and an unknown Danish man.  No one is quite sure how Erikson came up with the last name of Erikson but he changed it from Homburger at the age of 39 when he became a U.S. citizen (Schultz & Schultz, 2000).  Erikson’s biological father left his mother before he was born and she later married Dr. Theodor Homburger who was Erikson’s pediatrician and who Erickson thought was his natural father.  The whole confusion with his last name led him to believe that he had an identity crisis (Schultz & Schultz, 2000). 
Erikson was born on June 15, 1902 in Frankfurt, Germany and when his mother married they moved to Karlsruhe in southern Germany.  By the time his mother married, Erikson was three and had problems developing his own identity.  He was a tall, blond, blue-eyed, Nordic looking, Jewish boy.  While going to grammar school he was teased about being Jewish and while going to temple school he was teased about being Nordic.
     However, Erikson made it to graduation and worked on becoming an artist afterwards.  Erikson was also interested in traveling around Europe and spent his time there going to museums and sleeping under bridges.  Erickson seemed to live the life of a rebel before being a rebel was the thing to do.  With the confusion Erickson felt over his name, being picked on at school and temple, and wondering around after high school graduation his identity problem seemed like it would never end. 
     On the recommendation of a friend, Peter Blos, who was also an artist and psychoanalyst, Erikson applied for a teaching job at an experimental school.  There he met Dorothy Burlingham who ran the school and was a friend of Anna Freud.  While teaching at that school Erickson began training in psychoanalysis.  This is when he felt like he found himself (Schultz & Schultz, 2000).  Erikson also had a certificate in Montessori education and another from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.  While there Erikson met his wife, Joan Serson, who was a Canadian dance teacher at the same school.  After marriage they had three children and one is a sociologist.
    They left Vienna though when the Nazis gained power.  Their first stop after Vienna was Copenhagen and then to Boston.  This is when Erikson began teaching at Harvard Medical School.  He also began his child psychoanalysis practice.  Erikson also taught at Yale and then the University of California at Berkeley.  This is when he started to study the Dakota and Yurok people.
      Erikson contributed the book Childhood and Society (1950) that won him the Pulitzer Prize and the national Book Award.  This book covered Erikson’s “study of the native Americans, his analyses of Maxim Gorkiy and Adolph Hitler, a piece on the ‘American personality,’ and what he thought of the Freudian theory” (Boeree, 1997).  Erikson was a Freudian, which meant that he accepted Freud’s ideas.  During this year Erikson also left Berkeley because the professors were asked to sign a “loyalty oath,” which were rules that the university believed in but no one else did (Boeree, 1997).  After that he worked ten years at a clinic in Massachusetts.  Then he took another ten years and went back to Harvard. 
 Before Erikson died in 1994 he worked on stages for Freud’s theories.  Erik Erikson put the theories in eight stages, which follows below. 
I (0-1)—infant Trust vs. mistrust Mother To get, to give inReturn Hope, faith Sensory distortion—withdrawal
II (2-3)-toddler Autonomy vs. shame and doubt Parents To hold on, to let go Will, determination Impulsivity—compulsion
III(3-6) preschooler Initiative vs. guilt Family To go after, to play Purpose, courage Ruthlessness—inhibition
IV (7-12 or so)- school- age child Industry vs inferiority Neighborhood and school To complete, to make things together  Competence Narrow virtuosity—inertia
V (12-18 or so) – adolescence Ego-identity vs. role-confusion Peer groups, role models To be oneself, to share oneself Fidelity, loyalty Fanaticism--repudiation
VI (the late 20’s)—young adult Intimacy vs isolation Partners, friends To lose and find oneself in another Love Promiscuity--exclusivity
VII (late 20’s to 50’s) – middle adult Generativity vs self-absorption Household, workmates To make be, to take care of  Care Overextension—rejectivity
VIII (50’s and beyond – old adult Integrity vs despair Mankind or “my kind” To be, through having been, to face not being Wisdom Presumption—despair            (Boeree, 1997)
Erikson believed that each one of these eight stages involved a crisis that had to be resolved before one could move onto the next stage (Schultz & Schultz, 2000).
     These stages were one of Erik Erikson’s contributions to the field of psychology.  Though some who are in the field do not like the stages, those like Sigmund and Anna Freud back Erikson’s theory.  Erikson also contributed several books, which are the Childhood and Society, Identity:  Youth and Crisis, Young Man Luther, and Ghandi’s TruthThe Journal of Psychohistory was put together and included articles about the child-rearing practices and developmental rites.  These books influenced many other people and were a great contribution to the field of psychology.

References
 
Boeree, C. (1997).  Personality Theories:  Erik 
     Erikson, 1-13.  Retrieved February 28, 2002, from http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/erikson.html
Schultz, D. & Schultz, E. (2000).  A History of Modern 
     Psychology (7th ed.).  Fort Worth:  Hancourt, Inc.

 

 

If you want more information about this web site, please send an email to Dr. Megan E. Bradley