Erik Erikson was the first clinical psychologist to address the identity development journey from adolescence through adulthood. Erik Erikson was a pioneer in describing human life in terms of stages, sequential developmental occurrences. Who is Erik Erikson?
Erikson’s perspective on growth and development is grounded in the epigenetic principle: “Anything that grows has a ground plan, and… out of this plan the parts arise, each part having its time of special ascendancy, until all parts have arisen to form a functioning whole” (Evans et. al., 2010). Who is Erik Erikson?
Erikson’s psychosocial theory states that human behavior is social and reflects a desire to affiliate with other people. He believed that people face predictable developmental crises (i.e. times of turmoil and opportunity) throughout their lives. Each crises must produce a developmental change in order for the person to grapple with later. (Evans, et. al., 2010) Erikson’s Theory and Beliefs
According to Erikson, these developmental crises/events involve aging, retirement, birth, and marriage. These crises are equivalent to a turning point in life when we have the potential to move forward or to regress (Corey, 2009). Thus, he believed the early and later phases of life experiences result in either failure or success. Erikson’s Theory and Beliefs
Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages Erikson’s first five stages focus on the formation of the person into a competent individual with adequate skills and identity (Gladding, 2007). These stages are sequential with individuals having to achieve a percentage of accomplishment in one stage before they can move to the next stage.
The first five stages are: Trust vs. Mistrust Autonomy vs. Shame doubt Imitative vs. Guilt Industry vs. Inferiority Identity vs. Role Confusion Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages
The last three stages are more interpersonally they include: Intimacy vs. Isolation Generativity vs. Stagnation Integrity vs. Despair Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages
Initiative versus guilt is the third stage which occurs during the preschool years.
As children encounter a widening social world, they are challenged more than when they were infants.
During early childhood, children use their perceptual, motor, cognitive, and language skills to make things happen.
They have a surplus of energy that permits them to forget failures quickly and to approach new areas that seem desirable although they may be dangerous.
Stage Three: Initiative versus Guilt
Children begin to assume responsibility for their bodies, their behavior, their toys, and their pets as they begin developing a sense of responsibility that increases initiative, which is governed by the “conscience”. Infants start seeing their parents as powerful and beautiful, although they may seem unreasonable, disagreeable and sometimes even dangerous. The child also begins to feel afraid of being found out if they have done wrong and they begin to hear inner voices of self-observation, self-guidance and self-punishment. Their initiative and enthusiasm may bring rewards and punishments, which may result in disappointments that may lead to feelings of guilt, which may lower self-esteem. Stage Three: Initiative versus Guilt
As the child leaves this stage, they mainly depend on how the parents respond to their self-initiated activities. When children are given the freedom and opportunity to initiate motor play their sense of initiative is supported. On the other hand, if the child is made to feel that motor activities are bad, if their questions are a nuisance and their play is, silly or stupid then they often develop a sense of guilt and that may persist through other stages. Stage Three: Initiative versus Guilt
Intimacy versus isolation is the sixth developmental stage and is experience during the early adulthood years.
Young adults begin to face the task of forming intimate relationships with others.
Intimacy is finding one’s self yet losing one’s self in another person.
The inability to form meaningful relationships can harm the individual’s personality.
If intimacy is not developed in early adulthood, the adult may be left in “isolation”. This can lead to the individual to repudiate, ignore, and attack those who frustrate them. This sometimes leads to a painful depression, isolation, and mistrust of others.
Generative adults commit themselves to the continuation and improvement of society as a whole, through their connection with the next generation. They develop a positive legacy of themselves and then offer it as a gift to the next generation.
If they feel this has not occurred then stagnation develops. Stagnation also called self-absorption is developed when individuals sense that they have done nothing for the next generation.
Integrity versus despair is experienced late in adulthood.
During this stage, a person either reflects on the past and pieces together a positive review or concludes that life has not been spent well.
They may have also developed a positive outlook in most or all of the previous stages. If this is the case, they will feel as if their life has been good and the person may feel a sense of satisfaction and integrity will be achieved.
However, if the person feels as if their life was filled with doubt or gloom then despair may be evident.
Stage Eight: Integrity vs. Despair
Erikson emphasized that therapist should recognize how people handle and adjust to these crises or events (Corey, 2009). Erikson’s View of Identity
James Marcia was a Canadian developmental psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. James Marcia built upon the work of Erik Erikson focusing mainly on the development of adolescents. (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2011) Who is James Marcia?
Marcia proposed that a person’s sense of identity is essentially determined by their choices and concerning personal and interpersonal traits. Marcia viewed adolescence as the degree of exploration or commitment to an identity in various domains. (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2011) James Marcia’s Theories and Beliefs
Crisis: a time of cataclysm where old values or choices are reconsidered. Crisis resolves in a commitment of role or value. (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2011) Marcia’s Definition of Crisis
Identity development involves the embracing of: Sexual orientation Values and ideals Career direction (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2011) Identity Development
This status is characterized by lack of direction. The adolescent has no sense of choice. No attempt has been made to make a commitment to identity. (Gregoire & Jungers, 2007) Identity Diffusion
The adolescent conforms to the expectations or desires of others about their future. Options other than those imposed upon the individual have not been explored. It is usually the values and goals of the adolescent’s parents which have been accepted as their own. (Gregoire & Jungers, 2007) Identity Foreclosure
The adolescent is in crisis. Options are being explored and considered. No commitment has been made. (Gregoire & Jungers, 2007) Identity Moratorium
The adolescent has moved through the crisis of identity and made a commitment to self defined roles and values. Identity is achieved. (Gregoire & Jungers, 2007) Identity Achievement
Successful identity achievement enables the individual to gain a balanced view of their strengths, weaknesses, and individuality. “Of the four identity statuses, identity achievement and moratorium are most indicative of psychological well-being and a healthy search for a sense of self,”(Gregoire & Jungers, 2007, p 129).
Josselson began her research in an effort to “view identity in women in women’s own terms” (Josselson,1987). Her research explored the lives of individual women and she used these stories to develop a theory of identity development that would be useful in our understanding of women. By following women’s lives from adolescence through adulthood, she was able to illustrate the paths that lead to identity formation. Josselson was careful to avoid the tendency to generalize about “all women” or to assume that all women are fundamentally alike (Josselson, 1973) . She also did not compare women based on particular variables (such as lesbians and heterosexuals or working mothers and stay-at-home mothers) because she understood that these dimensions are only smaller parts of a larger identity. Who is RuthellenJosselson?
Josselson’s work is based on Marcia’s model that operationalized Erikson’s concept of ego identity (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton & Renn, 2010). The model describes four statuses of identity formation used to explain why some women resolve their identity crisis while others avoid creating identity or fail to move beyond the crisis. Josselson’s work began with a series of interviews with 60 women when they were in college and again with 30 of the women when they were in their early 30’s and 40’s. Josselson classified her participants in the four groups suggested by Marcia based on the pathway they seemed to be taking toward identity (a pathway of decision making) rather than one defined by content (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Josselson’s Identity-Status Research
1) Identity Foreclosure 2) Identity Achievement 3) Moratorium 4) Identity Diffusion Josselson’s Four Statuses of Identity Formation:
The first pathway is Foreclosure. In this pathway the women graduate from college with commitments to identity without undergoing a period of identity crisis. Foreclosures continued the values and beliefs of their childhoods without questioning or testing them. They typically adopt standards about sexual morality, occupation, and religion based on parental beliefs and will not risk disappointing their parents (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton & Renn 2010). They seemed to somehow have gone through college with blinders on and avoided exploration and peer influence (Josselyn,1996). Twelve years later, all eight women in the group were again classified as Foreclosures. The women continued to cling rigidly to their views with no internal desire for change (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton & Renn 2010). Foreclosures: Purveyors of the Heritage (Guardians)
The Foreclosures lived their lives based on tradition and conviction. Josselson described the Foreclosures as hardworking and capable women who were highly successful in their careers. However, career success was not as fulfilling as relationships (Josselson,1996). The Foreclosures’ lives were dominated by the need to feel loved and cared for. Their families were central in their lives and provided them with the sense of safety and security they sought. In college, the women had histories of difficult peer relationships, and ten years later still had few relationships outside the family. Foreclosed women had high self-esteem and low anxiety and seemed to function well. Their identities appeared to be assigned externally and thus development appeared to occur through identification rather than individuation (Josselson,1996). Foreclosures: Purveyors of the Heritage (Gurdians)
The Identity Achievement women had separated themselves from their childhood and formed separate, distinct identities (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). They explored options and reworked their identity in a way that accounted for who they were in the past and who they wanted to become in the future. Identity Achievements needed to feel as if they had an impact on the world. They were more intrinsically motivated, and internal satisfaction was more important than obtaining external affirmation from others (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). At times, these women felt a sense of guilt for betraying their parents, yet they learned to live with it and moved on. The term “achievements” can be confusing since these women were not necessarily higher achievers in college or in their careers than the other statuses (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005), rather they were women who had individuated and were following a life plan that was their own. Identity Achievements: Pavers of the Way (Pathmakers)
Of the eight women, seven were Identity Achievers at the follow-up, with one returning to a Moratorium state and questioning her choices and trying to make new ones. The follow-up showed that these women did not solely define themselves by their work nor did they only define themselves by their role in the family. Women in the Identity Achievement status tried to achieve balance among work, relationship, and other interests. Some women found their chosen career to be unsatisfactory and changed jobs after a crisis period in which they realized they could not reach their goals or felt unfulfilled. Identity Achievements had the highest self-esteem and low levels of anxiety (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). They were flexible, confident, and open to new experiences. Thus, they were likely to continue exploration, and were still in the process of becoming. Identity Achievements: Pavers of the Way (Pathmakers)
The Moratorium phase is a unstable time of testing and searching for new identities (Josselson,1996). As college students, these women were aware of choice and often paralyzed by their awareness (Josselson,1996). Moratoriums felt guilt about loosening family ties and the process of separation and individuation. They believed there was “one answer” and that their families were always right. When they learned otherwise, they became disoriented and searched for something stable to hold on to. Moratorium women reported grand daydreams, yet did not know how to make these dreams a reality. They focused on relationships, but their need for others was based primarily on their quest to find new identifications. (Josselson, 1996). Moratoriums: Daughters of Crisis (Searchers)
Of the ten former Moratoriums, three went on to resolve the crisis state, one still struggled to decide what to commit herself to and the remaining six were somewhere on the Foreclosure/Achievement continuum where they had made commitments but returned to old values and life patterns. The Moratoriums showed lower self-esteem and greater anxiety than did Identity Achievements and Foreclosures. Josselson described these women as the most interesting lively and engaging women who took part in the study, partly because of their capacity for reflection and self-analysis, as well as their intensity and risk-taking behavior. They were insightful, yet perpetually in conflict (Josselson,1996). Moratoriums: Daughters of Crises (Searchers)
Identity Diffusion is a stage of no crisis and no commitment. These women were adrift and lost, but for different reasons, because of this variance and complexity, they were the hardest to understand as a whole group (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Josselson identified four different patterns of Identity Diffusion; severe psychopathology, previous developmental deficits, Moratorium Diffusion, and Foreclosed Diffusion. The first two groups fell outside the normal range of healthy personality, and were considered to have borderline personality disorders. Those in Moratorium Diffusion were in extreme conflict about the choices in their lives, but were more plagued by philosophical questions about the meaning of life. They were experimental, and tried many different ways to experience the world. The Foreclosed Diffusions drifted through life neither in crisis nor able to commit. They felt little control in their lives and waited passively for an authority to take charge. (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005) Identity Diffusions: Lost and Sometimes Found (Drifters)
The Identity Diffusions all experienced failures in internalization, where aspects of experience become part of one’s self (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Experiences occurred, but did not produce learning or change. The women had a tendency to act on impulse or to withdraw from situations. They were lowest on all measures of healthy psychological functioning. For half of the women in this status, identity was no longer a central concern twelve years later and they implemented the choices they made earlier. For the other half, identity formation remained unresolved, and they were no closer to settling these issues than they were in college. Identity Diffusions: Lost and Sometimes Found (Drifters)
Josselson (1987) found that women in the four identity-status groups differed consistently and that the women’s identity status at the end of college predicted largely the course of her early adulthood. Women characterized as Foreclosures, Identity Achievements or Diffusions at the end of college remained there with a few exceptions. Josselson also stated that there was not necessarily a hierarchy of statuses. Though identity diffusion is clearly an undesirable state, the other statuses merely represented differences in ways of searching for meaning in life. These identity statuses describe different pathways toward identity and we may not know the true success of each path until much later in adulthood. Josselson’s Connections Among Identity Statuses of Women
Corey, G. (2009). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. (8th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing.
Evans, N., Forney, D., Guido, F., Patton, L., & Renn, K. (2010). Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice. (2nd ed.) . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. FJN06. (2007). It’s not your fault scene [video]. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com Gladding, S. (2007). Family Therapy: History Theory and Practice. (4th ed.). Columbus: OH: Pearson Prentice Hall. Gregoire, J., Jungers, C. (2007). The Counselor’s Companion: What Every Beginning Counselor Needs to Know. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Josselson, R. (1973). Psychodynamic Aspects of Identity Formation in College Women. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2(1), 3-51. Josselson, R.(1987). Finding Herself: Pathways to Identity Development in Women. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Josselson, R.(1996). Revising Herself: The Story of Women’s Identity from College to Midlife. New York: Oxford University Press. Learning Theories Knowledgebase (2011, March). Identity Status Theory (Marcia) at Learning theories.com. Retrieved March 11th, 2011 from http://www.learning-theories.com/identity-status-theory-marcia.html Nomorejam17. (2007). Good will hunting piano organic chemistry [video]. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com Pascarella,E. & Terenzini, P. (2005). How College Affects Students. Volume 2 A Third Decade of Research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. SgtFluffyMcFay. (2006). When did you know? [video]. Retrieved March 1, 2010 from http://www.youtube.com