Erik Erikson was born in 1902 near Frankfort, Germany to an unmarried Jewish mother. He was raised in an artists colony by his mother and eventually he would have his pediatrician as a stepfather, however, Erikson would seek his biological father’s identity throughout his life. (Capps, Mother, melancholia, and humor in Erik H. Erikson's earliest writings, 2008). In 1929, Erikson began psychoanalysis with Anna Freud and in 1933, he and his wife and children emigrated first to Denmark and then to the United States (Capps, Mother, melancholia, and humor in Erik H. Erikson's earliest writings, 2008). In the United States, Erikson would change jobs many times, taking research positions at Massachusetts General Hospital and at the Harvard Medical School, as well as a position at Yale and at the University of California at Berkeley. He also lived among and studied the Sioux nation in South Dakota.
Erik Erikson was best known for his eight-stage theory of psychosocial development. His theory developed out of, and elaborated upon, Freud’s early theories in the development stages of life. Where Freud’s theory had only three stages of life, beginning with the first 4-5 years in the infantile period and having the latency period from around 5-years of age until puberty and a final stage of the genital period from puberty until the end of one’s life; Erikson developed a theory that included eight stages of development ranging from infancy to old age but including the early childhood, play age, school age, adolescence, young adulthood and full adulthood (Feist & Feist, 2009).
Erik Erikson thought of himself as a Freudian psychoanalyst, however, his theory differed somewhat from Freud’s. (Hoare, 2009). Erikson’s theory differed from Freud’s; not only in the number of life cycle stages, but also in that he specified a problem to be resolved in each of his stages of development. Successful resolution of the problems presented in each stage was, to Erikson, the path to a mature personality. The conflict to be resolved in each lifecycle is reminiscent of a virtue or a vice, which Erikson described as weaknesses. (Hoare, 2009) Conn uses Erikson’s conflicts to illustrate the formation of ethics (Conn, 1977).
In the first stage, which he called infancy, the conflict was basic trust vs. basic mistrust, from which hope emerges with successful resolution of the conflict (Feist & Feist, 2009). Donald Capps, in his article Mother, Melancholia and Play in Erik H. Erikson’s Childhood and Society, gives the example of Erikson’s patient Jean, who, as an infant, was removed from her mother due to her mother’s illness. Jean was unable to successfully resolve her basic trust vs. basic mistrust conflict and, as a result, she was withdrawn and never fully recovered to a state of good mental health (Capps, Mother, melancholia, and play in Erik H. Erikson's Childhood and Society, 2007). This contrasts with another child, Freud’s grandson, who resolved his basic trust vs....