Erik Erikson

Infobox Scientist
name = Erik Erikson
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caption = Erik Erikson
birth_date = June 15, 1902
birth_place = Frankfurt
death_date = May 12, 1994
death_place = Massachusetts
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citizenship = American
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field = developmental psychologist
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known_for = theory on social development
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Erik Homburger Erikson (June 15, 1902May 12, 1994) was born in Frankfurt to Danish parents, but later obtained American citizenship [ [ Erik Erikson ] ] . He was a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on social development of human beings, and for coining the phrase "identity crisis".

Early life

Erik Erikson's lifelong interest in psychology of identity may be traced to his childhood. He was born on June 15, 1902 as a result of his mother's extramarital affair, and the circumstances of his birth were concealed from him in his childhood. His mother, Karla Abrahamsen, came from a prominent Jewish family in Copenhagen, her mother Henrietta died when Karla was only 13 [] [] . Abrahamsen's father, Josef, was a merchant in dried goods. Karla's older brothers Einar, Nicolai, and Axel were active in local Jewish charity and helped maintain a free soup kitchen for indigent Jewish immigrants from Russia. [ [ Identity's Architect ] ]

Since Karla Abrahamsen was officially married to Jewish stockbroker Waldemar Isidor Salomonsen at the time, her son, born in Germany, was registered as Erik Salomonsen. There is no more information about his biological father, except that he was a Dane and his given name probably was Erik. It is also suggested that he was married at the time that Erikson was conceivedFact|date=February 2007. Following her son's birth, Karla trained to be a nurse, moved to Karlsruhe and in 1904 married a Jewish pediatrician Theodor Homburger. In 1909 Erik Salomonsen became Erik Homburger and in 1911 he was officially adopted by his stepfather.

The development of identity seems to have been one of his greatest concerns in Erikson's own life as well as in his theory. During his childhood and early adulthood he was known as Erik Homburger, and his parents kept the details of his birth a secret. He was a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy who was raised in the Jewish religion. At temple school, the kids teased him for being Nordic; at grammar school, they teased him for being Jewish.

Psychoanalytic experience and training

Erikson was a student and teacher of art. While teaching at a private school in Vienna, he became acquainted with Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud. Erikson underwent psychoanalysis, and the experience made him decide to become an analyst himself. He was trained in psychoanalysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute and also studied the Montessori method of education, which focused on child development. [ [ "Erikson Erik (1902-1979)", Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd ed. Gale Group, 2001] ]

North America

Following Erikson’s graduation from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933, the Nazis had just come to power in Germany, and he emigrated with his wife, first to Denmark and then to the United States, where he became the first child psychoanalyst in Boston. Erikson held positions at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Judge Baker Guidance Center, and at Harvard’s Medical School and Psychological Clinic, establishing a solid reputation as an outstanding clinician.

In 1936, Erikson accepted a position at Yale University, where he worked at the Institute of Human Relations and taught at the Medical School. After spending a year observing children on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, he joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, where he was affiliated with the Institute of Child Welfare, and opened a private practice as well. While in California, Erikson also studied children of the Yurok Native American tribe.

After publishing the book for which Erikson is best known, "Childhood and Society", in 1950, he left the University of California when professors there were asked to sign loyalty oaths. [ [ C. George Boeree, "Erik Erikson, 1902 - 1994" page at Shippensburg University] ] He spent ten years working and teaching at the Austen Riggs Center, a prominent psychiatric treatment facility in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he worked with emotionally troubled young people.

In the 1960s, Erikson returned to Harvard as a professor of human development and remained at the university until his retirement in 1970.

Theories of development and the ego

Erikson's greatest innovation was to postulate not five stages of development, as Sigmund Freud had done with his psychosexual stages, but eight. Erik Erikson believed that every human being goes through a certain number of stages to reach his or her full development, theorizing eight stages, that a human being goes through from birth to death. (Childhood and Society-Erik Erikson) [cite book
last = Schickendanz | first= Judith A.
title = Understanding Children and Adolescents
publisher = Allyn and Bacon
year = 2001
chapter = Chapter 1 Theories of Child Development and Methods of Studying Children
pages = pp. 12-13
edition = 4th edition
isbn = 020531418X
] Erikson elaborated Freud's genital stage into adolescence, and added three stages of adulthood. His widow Joan Serson Erikson elaborated on his model before her death, adding a ninth stage (old age) to it, taking into consideration the increasing life expectancy in Western cultures.Erikson is also credited with being one of the originators of Ego psychology, which stressed the role of the ego as being more than a servant of the id. According to Erikson, the environment in which a child lived was crucial to providing growth, adjustment, a source of self awareness and identity.His 1969 book "Gandhi's Truth", which focused more on his theory as applied to later phases in the life cycle, won Erikson a Pulitzer Prize and a U.S. National Book Award.

Erikson's theory of personality

Even though Erikson always insisted that he was a Freudian, he is better described as a Neo-Freudian. Subsequent authors have described him as an "ego psychologist" studying the stages of development, spanning the entire lifespan. Each of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development are marked by a conflict, for which successful resolution will result in a favourable outcome, for example, trust vs. mistrust, and by an important event that this conflict resolves itself around, for example, meaning of one's life.

Favourable outcomes of each stage are sometimes known as "virtues", a term used, in the context of Eriksonian work, as it is applied to medicines, meaning "potencies." For example, the virtue that would emerge from successful resolution. Oddly, and certainly counter-intuitively, Erikson's research suggests that each individual must learn how to hold both extremes of each specific life-stage challenge in tension with one another, not rejecting one end of the tension or the other. Only when both extremes in a life-stage challenge are understood and accepted as both required and useful, can the optimal virtue for that stage surface. Thus, 'trust' and 'mis-trust' must both be understood and accepted, in order for realistic 'hope' to emerge as a viable solution at the first stage. Similarly, 'integrity' and 'despair' must both be understood and embraced, in order for actionable 'wisdom' to emerge as a viable solution at the last stage.

The Erikson life-stage virtues, in the order of the stages in which they may be acquired, are:
#hope - Basic Trust vs. Mistrust - Infant stage. Does the child believe its caregivers to be reliable?
#will - Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt - Toddler stage. Child needs to learn to explore the world. Bad if the parent is too smothering or completely neglectful.
#purpose - Initiative vs. Guilt - Kindergarten - Can the child plan or do things on his own, such as dress him or herself. If "guilty" about making his or her own choices, the child will not function well. Erikson has a positive outlook on this stage, saying that most guilt is quickly compensated by a sense of accomplishment.
#competence - Industry vs. Inferiority - Around age 6 to puberty. Child comparing self worth to others (such as in a classroom environment). Child can recognise major disparities in personal abilities relative to other children. Erikson places some emphasis on the teacher, who should ensure that children do not feel inferior.
#fidelity - Identity vs. Role Confusion - Teenager. Questioning of self. Who am I, how do I fit in? Where am I going in life? Erikson believes that if the parents allow the child to explore, they will conclude their own identity. However, if the parents continually push him/her to conform to their views, the teen will face identity confusion.
#love (in intimate relationships, work and family) - Intimacy vs. Isolation - Young adult. Who do I want to be with or date, what am I going to do with my life? Will I settle down? This stage has begun to last longer as young adults choose to stay in school and not settle.
#caring - Generativity vs. Stagnation - the Mid-life crisis. Measure accomplishments/failures. Am I satisfied or not? The need to assist the younger generation. Stagnation is the feeling of not having done anything to help the next generation.
#wisdom - Ego Integrity vs. Despair - old age. Some handle death well. Some can be bitter, unhappy, dissatisfied with what they accomplished or failed to accomplish within their life time. They reflect on the past, and either conclude at satisfaction or despair.

On Ego Identity versus Role Confusion, Ego identity enables each person to have a sense of individuality, or as Erikson would say, "Ego identity, then, in its subjective aspect, is the awareness of the fact that there is a self-sameness and continuity to the ego's synthesizing methods and a continuity of one's meaning for others". (1963) Role Confusion however, is, according to Barbara Engler in her book "Personality Theories" (2006), "The inability to conceive of oneself as a productive member of one's own society" (158). This inability to conceive of oneself as a productive member is a great danger; it can occur during adolescence when looking for an occupation.

cientific support

Most empirical research into Erikson's theories has focused on his views regarding the attempt to establish identity during adolescence. His theoretical approach has been studied and supported, particularly regarding adolescence, by James Marcia [ [ Marcia, J. E., (1966), Development and validation of ego identity status, "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" 3, pp. 551-58] ] . Marcia's work extended Erikson's by distinguishing different "forms" of identity, and there is some empirical evidence that those people who form the most coherent self-concept in adolescence are those who are most able to make intimate attachments in early adulthood. This supports Eriksonian theory, in that it suggests that those best equipped to resolve the crisis of early adulthood are those who have most successfully resolved the crisis of adolescence.


Major works

*"Childhood and Society" (1950)
*"Young Man Luther. A Study in Psychoanalysis and History" (1958)
*"Identity: Youth and Crisis" (1968)
*"Gandhi's Truth: On the Origin of Militant Nonviolence" (1969)
*"Adulthood" (edited book, 1978)
*"Vital Involvement in Old Age" (with J.M. Erikson and H. Kivnick, 1986)
*"The Life Cycle Completed" (with J.M. Erikson, 1987)


*"Identity and the Life Cycle. Selected Papers" (1959)
*"A Way of Looking at Things: Selected Papers 1930-1980" (Editor: S.P. Schlien, 1915)
*"The Erik Erikson Reader" (Editor: Robert Coles, 2001)

Related works

*"Erikson on Development in Adulthood: New Insights from the Unpublished Papers" (Carol Hren Hoare, 2002)
*"Erik Erikson, His Life, Work, and Significance" (Kit Welchman, 2000)
*"Identity's Architect: A Biography of Erik H. Erikson" (Lawrence J. Friedman, 1999)
*"Erik H. Erikson: The Power and Limits of a Vision", N.Y., The Free Press (Paul Roazen, 1976)
*"Everybody Rides the Carousel" (documentary film) (Hubley, 1976)
*"Erik H. Erikson: the Growth of His Work (Robert Coles, 1970)
*"Ideas and Identities: The Life and Work of Erik Erikson" (Robert S. Wallerstein & Leo Goldberger, eds., [IUP, 1998] )

ee also

*Erikson Institute - graduate school in child development in Chicago, Illinois

External links

* [ Erikson Institute Web site]


Further reading

id = PMID:11623368
first=D C
title=Beyond rumor and reductionism: a textual dialogue with Erik H. Erikson.
periodical=The Psychohistory review

id = PMID:11615442
first=J V
first2=M W
first3=J D
publication-date=1971 Oct
title=Gandhi; a psychoanalytic view. [Essay review of Erik H. Erikson, Gandhi's truth] .
periodical=The American historical review

id = PMID:9279928
publication-date=1997 Jun
title=The legacy of Erik Homburger Erikson.
periodical=Psychoanalytic review

id = PMID:11623367
first=J E
title="Is it really so terrible her?": Karl Menninger's pursuit of Erik Erikson.
periodical=The Psychohistory review

id = PMID:11615801
first2=J J
publication-date=1976 Dec
title=The writings of Erik H. Erikson.
periodical=The Psychohistory review

id = PMID:11634791
first=R M
title=Freud, Erikson, and the historian: a bibliographical survey.
periodical=Canadian review of American studies

id = PMID:9256525
title=Erik Erikson: critical times, critical theory.
periodical=Child psychiatry and human development

id = PMID:9279929
publication-date=1997 Jun
title=Contributions of Erik Erikson.
periodical=Psychoanalytic review

id = PMID:791417
first=J J
publication-date=1976 Jul
title=Erik H. Erikson and psychohistory.
periodical=Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic

id = PMID:799636
first=G W
publication-date=1976 Oct
title=The evolution of sexual and genital intimacy: a comparison of the views of Erik H. Erikson and Harry Stack Sullivan.
periodical=The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis

id = PMID:11623369
first=L E
title=Erikson on Hitler: the origins of 'Hitler's imagery and German youth'.
periodical=The Psychohistory review

id = PMID:4616017
first=J L
title=India and the unconscious: Erik Erikson on Gandhi.
periodical=The International journal of psycho-analysis

id = PMID:11623366
title=Erik H. Erikson as a teacher.
periodical=The Psychohistory review

id = PMID:6992185
first=R L
publication-date=1980 Apr
title=Contributions to psychohistory: IV. Individual experience in historiography and psychoanalysis: significance of Erik Erikson and Robert Coles.
periodical=Psychological reports

id = PMID:11615797
first=C B
publication-date=1976 Dec
title=Disciplined subjectivity and the psychohistorian: a critical look at the work of Erik H. Erikson.
periodical=The Psychohistory review

id = PMID:374748
first=M B
publication-date=1979 May
title=Caring for the elderly. Psychological aging: aspects of normal personality and development in old age. Part II. Erik Erikson: resolutions of psychosocial tasks.
periodical=The Journal of nursing care

id = PMID:788015
first=L D
title=Erik Erikson: from Luther to Gandhi.
periodical=Psychoanalytic review

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  • Erik Erikson — Erik Homburger Erikson (* 15. Juni 1902 bei Frankfurt am Main; † 12. Mai 1994 in Harwich, Massachusetts, USA) war ein deutsch amerikanischer Psychoanalytiker und Vertreter der psychoanalytischen Ichpsychologie. Er gilt als Neofreudianer. Bekannt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Erik Erikson — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Erik Homburger Erikson Erik Erikson Nacimiento 15 de junio …   Wikipedia Español

  • Erik Erikson — Psicólogo que describió el desarrollo de la identidad del yo y del ego a través de etapas sucesivas que se despliegan a lo largo de la vida. Las ocho etapas son: confianza frente a desconfianza (infancia); autonomía frente a vergüenza y duda… …   Diccionario médico

  • Erik Erikson — (15 de junio de 1902 12 de mayo de 1994), psicologo estadounidense de origen alemán, destacado por sus contribuciones a la psicología evolutiva. Discípulo de Freud, discrepó de él, no obstante, en dos aspectos básicos : 1. Que las personas son… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Erik Erikson — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Erickson . Erik Erikson Biographie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Erik Homburger Erikson — (* 15. Juni 1902 bei Frankfurt am Main; † 12. Mai 1994 in Harwich, Massachusetts, USA) war ein deutsch amerikanischer Psychoanalytiker und Vertreter der psychoanalytischen Ichpsychologie. Er gilt als Neofreudianer. Bekannt wurde er insbesondere… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Erik H. Erikson — Erik Erikson. Erik Homburger Erikson (* 15. Juni 1902 bei Frankfurt am Main; † 12. Mai 1994 in Harwich, Massachusetts, USA) war ein deutsch US amerikanischer Psychoanalytiker und Vertreter der psychoanalytischen Ich Psychologie. Er gilt als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • ERIKSON, ERIK HOMBERGER — (1902–1994), U.S. psychoanalyst. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Erikson immigrated to the U.S. in 1933. He taught and did research at Harvard, Yale, and the University of California until 1951, when he joined the senior staff of the Austen Riggs… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • ERIKSON (E. H.) — Erik Homburger ERIKSON 1902 1994 Né le 15 juin 1902 à Francfort sur le Main (Allemagne), Erik Erikson s’installe à Vienne en 1927, où il s’occupe des quatre enfants de l’Américaine Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham, qui étudie la psychanalyse avec… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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