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In 1930 Erikson was wed to Joan Mowat Serson. They produced three children, Kai, John, and Sue. During this time he joined friends, Peter Blos and Dorothy Burlingham, Anne Freud’s colleague, in the development of a small children’s school in Vienna. This led to his training analysis being taught by Anne Freud, and lots a clinical work. He acquired a Montessori diploma and graduated from Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933.
After moving to the United States, he began private practice and an assortment of research appointments at places such as Harvard Medical School, Yale School of Medicine, University of California at Berkeley and Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts to name a few. Before his untimely death in May 1994, he took time off for work abroad, such as places like India where he also conducted an intensive study of Ghandi.
Erikson is best known for his theory of eight stages of Psychosocial Development. Erikson’s theory is different from similar theories made by other psychologists in that it spans the entire life cycle as opposed to only the first five years of life, which many believed was when personality development ended.
Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development theory combines both internal psychological factors and external social factors. Each of the eight stages builds upon the others and centers on a specific crisis or challenge that must be fixed during that stage in order to move effectively onto the next stage of development (see chart). Erikson better explains it by stating, “The person faced with a choice between two ways of coping with each crisis, an adaptive, or maladaptive way. Only when each crisis is resolved, which involves a change in the personality, does the person have sufficient strength to deal with the next stages of development.” If a person is unable to resolve a conflict at a particular stage, they will confront and struggle with it later in life. Even as this holds true, the outcome of one stage is not permanent, but can be altered by later experiences. Everyone has a mixture of traits achieved at each stage, but personality development is considered successful if the individual has more of the “good” traits than the “bad” traits.
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Although in his lifetime Erikson was thought to be the best known, most deeply esteemed and most widely influential in the “sociohistorical surround of world culture” (Robert Wallerstein), his contributions have been overlooked and unremarked. His work continues to this day to be neglected and unintegrated within psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, needless to say, Erikson received no awards or special recognition for his life work on the basis that critics have noted that he did no statistical
Research to generate his theories and it is very hard to test his theories in order to validate them.
Erikson’s theory of eight stages of development was a monumental contribution to our understanding of the psychosocial developmental process, which is why we still study his work. His work is valued more that ever today, because of society’s anxiousness to learn more about themselves. His theories are an asset to psychology today.