Freud vs. Erikson

Erik Erikson's Eight Stages of

Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson (whose name was Homburger until he came to the U.S.) was a student of the Freuds. He worked with Sigmund Freud in Austria. After his mentor died, he continued with Sigmund's daughter Anna Freud. Like others among Freud's followers, Erikson initially felt that his own theory was simply an elaboration of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Eventually, though, he decided he disagreed with too many of Freud's key points. He felt Freud was correct in noting that people go through specific stages in developing their personalities, but he came to believe that Freud had overemphasized the role that sexual development plays and that Freud had neglected adult personality development.

In his theory of psychosocial development, Erikson identified eight distinct periods of personality development. In each stage, according to his theory, the individual undergoes a "crisis" that will lead to either a healthy or an unhealthy trait. For example, during the first eighteen months of life people experience the crisis of basic trust versus mistrust. During this time, the individual is completely at the mercy of others to meet his or her needs. By age eighteen months, the person will have developed a tendency to trust others if caregivers have met his or her needs consistently and appropriately, or the person will learn to mistrust others because of caregivers who met the child's needs inconsistently or inappropriately. A successful outcome in this stage increases the likelihood of a successful outcome in the next stage, and an unhealthy outcome in one stage makes an unhealthy outcome more likely in the next stage. After all, if you don't feel you can trust anyone, you won't feel secure enough to explore your environment and your own abilities enough to develop a sense of autonomy.