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SECTION 2: STAGES OF PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT
A. Overview of Personality Development
Erikson proposed a series of psychosocial stages through which we pass over the course of our lives. These stages are based on the epigenetic principle of maturation; that is, it grows according to a genetically established rate and in a fixed sequence. Although the stages are genetically predetermined, it is social and environmental forces that influence how each stage is dealt with. Our progress through each stage is in part determined by our success, or lack of success, in all the previous stages.
Each stage involves certain confrontations with our environment, which Erikson referred to as crises, or turning points, that must be resolved during the stage. There are both adaptive and maladaptive ways of coping with these crises and both are needed in order to resolve these crises and move onto the next stage. Erikson also believed that each stage offered opportunities to develop basic strengths or virtues that emerge once a crisis is overcome. Strengths from previous stages must be developed before one can progress to the next stage successfully. If they are not, we may not be able to adapt successfully in subsequent stages.
According to Erikson, the ego is the center of personality and is responsible for a unified sense of self. Major changes in ego can take place at any stage, but they are most likely to occur during adolescence. The ego develops within a given society and is influenced by child-rearing practices and other cultural customs. The ego develops according to the Part of each developmental stage exists before that stage reaches its zenith, and part continues to grow during the ascendancy to later stages.
B. Summary of the Eight Psychosocial Stages
Erikson was the first to develop a truly lifespan theory of personality development. Eight stages of development represent the eight struggles that people must undergo. Successful resolutions of struggles establish the basic areas of psychosocial strength; unsuccessful resolutions impair ego development in an area and adversely impact resolution of future struggles. Each of the eight psychosocial strengths has its own special time of ascendancy or period of particular importance and that each must be resolved one way or the other. It takes a lifespan to develop and acquire all the psychosocial strengths.