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Erik Erikson and Adult Learning Essay

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Born on June 15, 1902 in Frankfurt, Germany, Erik Erikson was regarded as a major influence in contemporary psychoanalysis. Erikson was interested in arts so he moved to Florence after finishing high school. In 1927, he taught arts in a school psychoanalytically influenced children school spearheaded by Dorothy Burlingham and Freud’s daughter, Anna, in Vienna (Erikson Institute, 2003).

This move would have a major influence in the life and works of Erik Erikson. Upon recognizing that he has skills with children, Anna Freud, Sigmund’s daughter, placed him under her wings and began teaching him. Eventually, he trained and eventually received certification from Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.  After getting certified by Maria Montessori School, he underwent training in psychoanalysis at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute. In 1936, he became a member of the Institute of Human Relations, which is a branch of the Psychiatry Department of Yale University (Erikson Institute, 2003).

Major Contribution in Psychology

Erik Erikson became famous because of his eight stages of development. According to him, every stage in a man’s life is accompanied by certain psychological conflicts. He theorized that the development of personality of an individual is a life long process. The events they encounter in the latter stages of life can treat early childhood problems. His eight stages of development explained why an individual who was not able to resolve a childhood problem finds it difficult to resolve it during adulthood (Erikson Institute, 2003).

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Each stage of life is important because how well the child performed during the previous phase determined how they can cope with the next stages. Erikson called this the epigenetic principle (Boeree, 2006).

 Erik Erikson authored several books that explained his theory, the most notable of which is Childhood and Society which was released in 1950. In 1969, Erikson won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his book Gandhi’s Truth, which delved on the application of the eight stages of development in the latter portion of an individual’s life cycle(NNDB, n.d).

Stage Six: Intimacy vs. Isolation

This is the sixth stage in Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial phases of development. It takes place from 18 to 30 years old. In general, the child faces the dilemma of achieving intimacy or staying isolated. This stage likewise involves a struggle for promiscuity, which is a trait of being too close for comfort and not being able to follow through with the momentum, versus exclusion, which is characterized by rejection of relationships (Boeree, 2006).

Intimacy, according to Erikson, is the ability to develop social relationships with other people either as a partner, friend, or member of a community. If the child was able to develop a clear picture of themselves during the early stages, they should no longer be intimidated by other people (Sante Fe Community College, n.d).

According to this stage, when an individual has established a strong sense of identity, they can start expanding to the people around him. Intimacy is best seen in a person’s capacity to enter relationships, making friends, getting married, and finally settling down. An individual who successfully pass through this stage can experience feels comfortable with relationships and has a strong sense of commitment (Santa Fe Community College, n.d).

On the other hand, the consequence of being unsuccessful in completing this stage of development is isolation. The individual is not comfortable with being with friends, entering relationships, or being intimate with another person. Isolation results from the failure to establish self-identity (Niolon, n.d).

A child who experiences isolation prefers to be alone excludes themselves from the company of others. The end result of isolation, in the context of Erikson’s stages of development, is loneliness, despair, or depression. People who are unable to successfully pass this stage prefer working on lowly jobs which offer below minimum wage (AllPsychOnline, 2004).


AllPsychOnline(2004 March 21). Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved June 26     2008 from <http://allpsych.com/psychology101/social_development.html>

Boeree, G. Erik Erikson. Retrieved June 26 2008 from       <http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/erikson.html>

Erikson Institute(2003 May 1). Erik Erikson(1902-1994). Retrieved June 26 2008 from


NNDB(n.d). Erik Erikson. Retrieved June 26 2008 from    <http://www.nndb.com/people/151/000097857/>

Niolin, R(n.d). Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development. Resources for Students and        Professionals. Retrieved June 26 2008 from            <http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/person/erikson.html>

Santa Fe Community College(n.d). Self-Reflections on Young Adulthood using Erikson’s Theory of     Psychosocial Development. Retrieved June 26 2008 from                <http://inst.santafe.cc.fl.us/~mwehr/PEDevErikStage6.htm>

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