The great diversity of pedagogical theory defines the state of the modern science of teaching and education. The educator today — whether a professionally qualified teacher or a parent — seeks to use the experience accumulated over many generations to maximize education’s positive effects. Thus, there is no doubt that the choice of techniques and theories is not limited to a few options but instead offers the educator a myriad of diverse, sometimes even opposing practices. Among such a number of techniques, special attention should be paid to Erikson’s psychosocial theory of personal development, which has become a fundamental work for tracing human growth dynamics. Erikson held that the human personality undergoes growth throughout life, which means that the quality of problem-solving, skill development, and social integration should not stop at childhood. This academic paper dispels aspects of Erikson’s theory concerning the observed child, represented by a teenage girl.
A Brief Description of the Subject of Observation
Although Erikson’s theory acknowledges the impossibility of stopping personal growth at any of the age stages, the subject-child was chosen for reasons of more accessible observation and personal familiarity. It is worth acknowledging that, as a rule, adolescents are more open than adults, which means that any manifestations of emotions, desires, and needs are easier to observe. On the other hand, adults are traditionally more withdrawn and not always ready to share their experiences. Therefore, the choice for this sociological test was precisely on the teenager.
The subject is a 15-year-old girl of European descent named Nadia. Nadia comes from a dysfunctional family with no father but a mother who works to provide for the family. At certain times, her mother has buddies who also contact Nadia, but these are not permanent connections. Consequently, the closest relative with whom the girl interacts most of the time is her mother. Nadya and her mom live in a quiet, actively developing area of a big city, but they cannot be called a rich family. Instead, their household is middle-class, whose income allows them to meet basic physiological needs, travel, and stimulate their child’s creative development through paying for clubs, paid classes, and hobby goods.
Like most functionally developing adolescents, Nadia can walk, can talk, and can make independent decisions. She has no apparent pathophysiological disorders and no disabilities, which means she represents adolescents’ broadest class. In her free time away from school, the girl does not go out much and mostly engages in indoor activities: playing computer games, studying lessons, or surfing social networks. In addition, Nadia believes that the school subjects she finds easier than others form the center of her future interests.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Analysis
Erikson’s fundamental theory focuses on assessing a person’s personality development on a scale of eight stages. First of all, it should be noted that Erikson’s psychosocial approach to the study of personality structure was an evolutionary continuation of Sigmund Freud’s views, but there were contradictions between the researchers in positioning the central core of personality (Chapman, 2017). So while Freud believed that the unconscious and instinctive It shapes personality, Erikson emphasized the Ego’s concept puts the self above everything (Syed & McLean, 2017). In addition, Freud analyzed mainly the childhood period of human development, while Erikson assessed the dynamics of change throughout the individual’s life.
Erikson’s psychosocial theory’s general idea is represented by eight successive stages, from infancy to old age, each of which confronts the individual with severe age-related conflict. How successfully the subject copes with the problem determines whether they can move on to the next stage of their evolution. Thus, according to Erikson, we can conclude that it is possible to observe adults with the views and motives of an adolescent: this is infantilism (Sabelnikova & Khmeleva, 2018). Simultaneously, many seniors deny themselves well-deserved rest and seek to continue working, illustrating millennialist workaholism (Scully, 2020). Since describing each stage requires considerable resources, only the relevant ones will be highlighted due to the work’s limitations. As a fifteen-year-old girl, Nadia may fall under the stages of school age, adolescence, and early adulthood.
Between the ages of six and twelve, which is the fourth period of personal evolution, the individual transcends his family’s boundaries and actively engages in other social groups. Because this period is inextricably linked to school discipline mastery, the child learns systematic thinking and logic (Syed & McLean, 2017). Children of this period are explorers who seek to learn more than just from the school walls: their friendly environment encourages them to discover new facets and try new aspects of life. Thus, the central question of this period is determining whether a person is capable of activity.
The school stage, according to Erikson, is followed by the stage of adolescence. This is the period from 12 to 20 years of age in which the personality undergoes some of the most critical psychobiological changes. Thus, in addition to reaching puberty, the individual in this phase adopts a dominant identity model that determines both his position of outlook and patterns of behavior (Syed & McLean, 2017). In this phase, among other things, there is one of the strongest conflicts related to both the quite natural desire for independence and autonomy of a growing personality and the inner desire to preserve the care and support of loved ones. In addition, the teenager here tries on new social roles and makes more acquaintances outside of his or her usual environment. At this stage, the formation of the issue that defines the identity of the individual takes place.
Finally, the last relevant stage for consideration is the period of youth, when the individual enters the age range of 20-25 years. Formally, this is the beginning of independent adulthood, in which all responsibility for decisions, civic obligations, and social demands become the concern of the individual alone (Syed & McLean, 2017). Love and romantic relationships take on a great significance here: the individual questions whether they are worthy of love and whether it is necessary to earn others’ sympathy. Consequently, the desire to avoid relationships in the hope of maintaining self-identity is a threatening factor that can lead to self-isolation of the individual.
Applicability of the Theory to the Subject
Observing Nadia and examining the main phases of personality dynamics, according to Erikson, it is not difficult to see that she is in her age-specific stage of adolescence (12-20 years old). Several arguments may support this assumption at once. First of all, the girl has mastered all the necessary physical skills typical of her age group: Nadia can walk, sit, use everyday objects independently, and meet her physiological needs (“Physical Development,” 2019). Thus, she does not need her mother’s support in covering desires such as eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom. Second, during the stage of school development, the individual makes a second, and usually more successful, attempt to achieve independence. This is especially noticeable when considering the dynamics of Nadia’s relationship with her parent over the last year. At the time of our acquaintance, her mother played a priority role in the girl’s life, instructing her in the right way and offering her advice. However, this attitude has obviously changed over time, and now fifteen-year-old Nadya prefers autonomy and the absence of any moralizing. This is also reflected in regular generational conflicts, which, however, are entirely natural for an adolescent in the school phase (Van Lissa, Hawk, & Meeus, 2017). Finally, at this age, adolescents encounter new social roles and define a prosperous society model according to their views. This is realized both through Nadia’s political interests, who actively engage in opposition and through her doubts about her future role for society. The schoolgirl cannot choose her future career because of an internal conflict of personal interests and social expectations.
There are, however, some contradictions in Nadia’s scenario. In particular, Erikson prescribed school age a large number of new acquaintances and social connections, which also supported developing new roles. Thus, by the age of fifteen, Nadia should actively interact with her peers, classmates, and friends, distancing herself from her mother (Drogos, 2017). In practice, the situation is not quite the same: of course, Nadia maintains contact with her peers, but it is more of a forced communication initiated by everyday school tasks. The girl prefers to be alone or play video games most of her free time, replacing real communication with virtual ones. Most likely, the reason for this disagreement lies in the low adaptability of Erickson’s ideas to the technological community. Hardly did the researcher know that today’s children would use the Internet more than they would communicate in real life.
To summarize the work, it should be noted that Erikson’s necessary steps in the psychosocial development of personality remain relevant for all generations. As a follower of Freud’s teachings, Erikson singled out eight successive stages of personal evolution, which ends with the successful overcoming of conflict. In this paper, it was shown that the researcher’s ideas overlap well with the subject: fifteen-year-old Nadia, who, by her behavior, embodied the school phase of development. Some inconsistencies were seen, but the likely source of these is the theory’s lack of adaptability to today’s technological community.
Chapman, A. (2017). An overview of Erikson’s psychosocial theory of human development. Web.
Drogos, K. L. (2017). The relationship between adolescent identity formation and social network site use. Web.
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Sabelnikova, Y. V., & Khmeleva, N. L. (2018). Infantilism: Theoretical construct and operationalization. Russian Education & Society, 60(1), 74-88.
Scully, S. M. (2020). Are you a workaholic? Here’s how to tell if you’re addicted to work. Web.
Syed, M., & McLean, K. C. (2017). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. Web.
Van Lissa, C. J., Hawk, S. T., & Meeus, W. H. (2017). The effects of affective and cognitive empathy on adolescents’ behavior and outcomes in conflicts with mothers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 158, 32-45.