15 June 1902
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
|Died||12 May 1994
Harwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
|Institutions||Harvard Medical School|
|Notable students||Richard Sennett|
|Known for||Theory on social development|
|Influences||Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud|
|Spouse||Joan Serson Erikson (1930-1994; his death; 4 children)|
Erik Erikson (15 June 1902 – 12 May 1994) was a German-born American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychosocial development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. His son, Kai T. Erikson, is a noted American sociologist.
Although Erikson lacked even a bachelor's degree, he served as a professor at prominent institutions such as Harvard and Yale.
Early life 
Born in Frankfurt, Erik Erikson's lifelong interest in the psychology of identity may be traced to his childhood. He was born on June 15, 1902. The circumstances of his birth were concealed from him in his childhood. His Danish-born mother, Karla Abrahamsen, came from a prominent Jewish family in Copenhagen. At the time of her son's birth in Germany, Karla Abrahamsen had not seen her husband, Jewish stockbroker Waldemar Isidor Salomonsen, for several months. Nonetheless, the boy 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 conceived. Following her son's birth, Karla trained to be a nurse, moved to Karlsruhe and in 1905, married a Jewish pediatrician, Theodor Homburger. In 1908, 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 Erikson's greatest concerns in his own life as well as in his theory. During his childhood and early adulthood he was known as Erik Homberger, 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 a Nordic; at grammar school, they teased him for being Jewish.
Psychoanalytic experience and training 
Erikson was a student and teacher of arts. 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 and sexual stages.
North America 
Soon after his graduation from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933, the Nazis came to power in Germany. Now Erikson and his wife emigrated, 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 Medical School and Psychological Clinic, establishing a singular reputation as a clinician.
In 1936, Erikson joined the staff at Harvard 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 moved to the University of California at Berkeley; there he 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.
In 1950, after publishing the book, Childhood and Society, for which he is best known, Erikson left the University of California when professors there were asked to sign loyalty oaths. 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.
He returned to Harvard in the 1960s as a professor of human development and remained there until his retirement in 1970. In 1973 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Erikson for the Jefferson Lecture, the United States' highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Erikson's lecture was titled "Dimensions of a New Identity".
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 (known as "The Eight Ages of Man"). He then later added a ninth stage in his book "The Life Cycle Completed". 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. 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), 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. Erikson won a Pulitzer Prize and a U.S. National Book Award in category Philosophy and Religion for Gandhi's Truth (1969), which focused more on his theory as applied to later phases in the life cycle.
Erikson's theory of personality 
Erikson was a Neo-Freudian. He has been described as an "ego psychologist" studying the stages of development, spanning the entire lifespan. Each of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development is marked by a conflict for which successful resolution will result in a favourable outcome, and by an important event that this conflict resolves itself around.
Favorable outcomes of each stage are sometimes known as "virtues", a term used in the context of Erikson's work as it is applied to medicine, meaning "potencies." 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 order of the eight stages in which they may be acquired, are:
- Basic trust vs. basic mistrust - This stage covers the period of infancy. 0-1 year of age. - Whether or not the baby develops basic trust or basic mistrust is not merely a matter of nurture. It is multi-faceted and has strong social components. It depends on the quality of the maternal relationship. The mother carries out and reflects their inner perceptions of trustworthiness, a sense of personal meaning, etc. on the child. If successful in this, the baby develops a sense of trust, which “forms the basis in the child for a sense of identity“.
- Autonomy vs. Shame - Covers early childhood around 1-3 years old- Introduces the concept of autonomy vs. shame and doubt. During this stage the child is trying to master toilet training.
- Purpose - Initiative vs. Guilt - Preschool / 3–6 years - Does the child have the ability to or do things on their 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 - School-age / 6-11. Child comparing self-worth to others (such as in a classroom environment). Child can recognize 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 - Adolescent / 12 years till 18. 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.
- Intimacy vs. isolation - This is the first stage of adult development. This development usually happens during young adulthood, which is between the ages of 18 to 35. Dating, marriage, family and friendships are important during the stage in their life. By successfully forming loving relationships with other people, individuals are able to experience love and intimacy. Those who fail to form lasting relationships may feel isolated and alone.
- Generativity vs. stagnation is the second stage of adulthood and happens between the ages of 35-64. During this time people are normally settled in their life and know what is important to them. A person is either making progress in their career or treading lightly in their career and unsure if this is what they want to do for the rest of their working lives. Also during this time, a person is enjoying raising their children and participating in activities, that gives them a sense of purpose. If a person is not comfortable with the way their life is progressing, they're usually regretful about the decisions and feel a sense of uselessness.
- Ego integrity vs. despair. This stage affects the age group of 65 and on. During this time an individual has reached the last chapter in their life and retirement is approaching or has already taken place. Many people, who have achieved what was important to them, look back on their lives and feel great accomplishment and a sense of integrity. Conversely, those who had a difficult time during middle adulthood may look back and feel a sense of 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.
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)
Related work 
- Erikson on Development in Adulthood: New Insights from the Unpublished Papers (Dallas Hope Melinda Bird, 2002)
- Erik Erikson: His Life, Work, and Significance (Kit Welchman, 2000 Open University Press) His Work (Robert Coles, 1970)
- Ideas and Identities: The Life and Work of Erik Erikson (Robert S. Wallerstein & Leo Goldberger, eds., [IUP, 1998])
See also 
- Erikson Institute - graduate school in child development in Chicago, Illinois
Further reading 
- Andersen, D C (1993), "Beyond rumor and reductionism: a textual dialogue with Erik H. Erikson.", The Psychohistory review 22 (1): 35–68, PMID 11623368
- Bondurant, J V; Fisher, M W; Sutherland, J D (1971), "Gandhi; a psychoanalytic view. [Essay review of Erik H. Erikson, Gandhi's truth].", The American historical review (1971 Oct) 76: 1104–15, PMID 11615442
- Brenman-Gibson, M (1997), "The legacy of Erik Homburger Erikson.", Psychoanalytic review (1997 Jun) 84 (3): 329–35, PMID 9279928
- Carney, J E (1993), ""Is it really so terrible her?": Karl Menninger's pursuit of Erik Erikson.", The Psychohistory review 22 (1): 119–53, PMID 11623367
- Coles, R; Fitzpatrick, J J (1976), "The writings of Erik H. Erikson.", The Psychohistory review (1976 Dec) 5 (3): 42–6, PMID 11615801
- Crunden, R M (1973), "Freud, Erikson, and the historian: a bibliographical survey.", Canadian review of American studies 4 (1): 48–64, doi:10.3138/CRAS-004-01-04, PMID 11634791
- Douvan, E (1997), "Erik Erikson: critical times, critical theory", Child psychiatry and human development 28 (1): 15–21, doi:10.1023/A:1025188901554, PMID 9256525
- Eagle, M (1997), "Contributions of Erik Erikson", Psychoanalytic review (1997 Jun) 84 (3): 337–47, PMID 9279929
- Fitzpatrick, J J (1976), "Erik H. Erikson and psychohistory", Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic (1976 Jul) 40 (4): 295–314, PMID 791417
- Goethals, G W (1976), "The evolution of sexual and genital intimacy: a comparison of the views of Erik H. Erikson and Harry Stack Sullivan", The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis (1976 Oct) 4 (4): 529–44, PMID 799636
- Hoffman, L E (1993), "Erikson on Hitler: the origins of 'Hitler's imagery and German youth'", The Psychohistory review 22 (1): 69–86, PMID 11623369
- Masson, J L (1974), "India and the unconscious: Erik Erikson on Gandhi", The International journal of psycho-analysis 55 (4): 519–29, PMID 4616017
- Roazen, P (1993), "Erik H. Erikson as a teacher", The Psychohistory review 22 (1): 101–17, PMID 11623366
- Schnell, R L (1980), "Contributions to psychohistory: IV. Individual experience in historiography and psychoanalysis: significance of Erik Erikson and Robert Coles", Psychological reports (1980 Apr) 46 (2): 591–612, PMID 6992185
- Strozier, C B (1976), "Disciplined subjectivity and the psychohistorian: a critical look at the work of Erik H. Erikson", The Psychohistory review (1976 Dec) 5 (3): 28–31, PMID 11615797
- Weiner, M B (1979), "Caring for the elderly. Psychological aging: aspects of normal personality and development in old age. Part II. Erik Erikson: resolutions of psychosocial tasks", The Journal of nursing care (1979 May) 12 (5): 27–8, PMID 374748
- Wurgaft, L D (1976), "Erik Erikson: from Luther to Gandhi", Psychoanalytic review 63 (2): 209–33, PMID 788015
- "Erik Erikson, 91, Psychoanalyst Who Reshaped Views of Human Growth, Dies", New York Times, March 13, 1994.
- Friedman, Lawrence Jacob (2000). Identity's architect: a biography of Erik H. Erikson. Harvard University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-674-00437-5.
- Erikson Erik (1902–1979), Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd ed. Gale Group, 2001
- C. George Boeree, Erik Erikson, 1902 - 1994 page at Shippensburg University
- Jefferson Lecturers at NEH Website (retrieved January 22, 2009).
- Erikson, Erik H. Dimensions of a New Identity: The Jefferson Lectures in the Humanities (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1979), ISBN 0-393-00923-8, ISBN 978-0-393-00923-1.
- George Stade, "Byways of Our National Character," New York Times, May 19, 1976 (review of Erikson's Dimensions of a New Identity).
- Erikson, Erik H. Childhood and Society.
- Schickendanz, Judith A. (2001). "Chapter 1 Theories of Child Development and Methods of Studying Children". Understanding Children and Adolescents (4th ed.). Allyn and Bacon. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-205-31418-X.
- "1970 winners—General Nonfiction—Gandhi's Truth by Erik H. Erikson". pulitzer.org. Columbia University. undated. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
- "National Book Awards – 1970". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-08.