Erikson’s Theory of Child Development

The different aspects of child development identified by Erikson (1963) are: biological, social and individual. Erikson’s most important contribution to psychology is his demarcation of the eight psychosocial stages represented by the eight ages constituting the life span of an individual. An individual’s identity is related to each stage of the lifecycle. During adolescence, a conflict between identity and role confusion can arise. Ego development occurs through the stages of the life span and is part of a child’s evolution into adolescence.

As a student of Freud, Erikson took a unique perspective on Freud’s work, incorporated Freud’s primary assumptions, and broadened the network of factors considered responsible for influencing development. He extended the Freudian psychoanalytic theory to focus on the ego as the fundamental component in an individual’s functioning. Erikson’s (1963) psychosocial theory of personality development is similar to Freud’s psychosexual theory of development with its emphasis on instinctual energy as a determining life force (Sadock et al, 2007).

Freud’s viewpoint was that the most important determinants of development occurred during early childhood, but on the other hand, Erikson believed that the most important development came later, and that development continued through the lifespan: from childhood till the last stage of life. Another difference between Freud and Erikson’s theories is that: Erikson does not stress unconscious motives or desires, and he based his ideas on analyses of the functioning of healthy people, whereas Freud studied individuals being treated for mental health problems. Erikson considered key social interactions at each stage of development to be very important. Though he agreed that biological unfolding was& essential part of development, “particular social, cultural and historical environments that the child experienced mattered as well”.