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Who Was Erik Erikson?

A Handy Guide to His Life and Theories


Erik Erikson
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Erik Erikson's stage theory of psychosocial development helped create interest and research on human development through the lifespan. An ego psychologist who studied with Anna Freud, Erikson expanded psychoanalytic theory by exploring development throughout the life, including events of childhood, adulthood, and old age.

Learn more in this guide to Erik Erikson's life and theories.

Erik Erikson Biography

Erikson is best-known for his famous theory of psychosocial development and the concept of the identity crisis. His theories marked an important shift in thinking on personality; instead of focusing simply on early childhood event, his psychosocial theory looked at how social influences contribute to personality throughout the entire lifespan..

Learn more about his life, career, and how early experiences led to his interest in identity in this Erik Erikson biography.

Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

The eight stage of Erikson's psychosocial theory are something that every psychology student learns about as they explore the history of personality psychology. Much like psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of stages. Erikson’s theory marked a shift from Freud's psychosexual theory in that it describes the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan instead of simply focusing on childhood events.

Psychosocial Stages Summary Chart

This summary chart provides an outline of the stages in Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. Each stage is centered on a conflict that must be resolved. Learn more about the important events in each stage and the potential outcomes of succeeding or failing to resolve these conflicts.

Erik Erikson and Identity Crisis

Have you ever felt confused about your place in life or not quite sure if you really know the 'real you?' If so, you may be experiencing an identity crisis. Erikson coined the term “identity crisis” and believed that it was one of the most important conflicts people face  during the developmental process. According to Erikson, an identity crisis is a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. Learn more about identity crisis, Erik Erikson, and identity research.

Quiz – Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

Now that you’ve learned more about Erik Erikson’s life and theories, it’s time to see how much you’ve learned. Test your knowledge of Erikson’s eight stages of development in this quiz.

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