Posted by: aboutalbion | July 21, 2012

Childhood (6)

My last reading about Erik Erikson’s child development framework is about his fifth stage, adolescence, which lasts (in his view) from around twelve or thirteen years of age to around, say, eighteen years of age.  For Erikson, a sense of identity is the component of personality that has the opportunity to flourish in the fifth stage of life, and identity v identity confusion is the issue to be resolved during this stage.

A sense of identity means knowing who you are and how you fit in to the society around you. It requires that you take all you’ve comprehended about yourself and about life and shape it into a coherent self-image, and one that your community finds socially acceptable.  Erikson suggests that identity confusion occurs when an adolescent is uncertain about her/his place in their culture and the world.  Erikson notes that the absence of a rite of passage to mark the transition from the relatively untroubled time of childhood to the time of responsible adulthood can contribute to identity confusion.

Erikson lists the contributions that previous stages can make to the desirable formation of a sense of identity in an adolescent.

From stage one, infancy, the capacity to “trust in oneself and in others” enables an adolescent to look eagerly “for [wo/men] and ideas to have faith in, which also means [wo/men] and ideas in whose service it would seem worthwhile to prove oneself trustworthy”. (1968 p128f)

From stage two, early childhood, the capacity for independence enables an adolescent to look “for an opportunity to decide with free assent on one of the available or unavoidable avenues of duty and service …”. (1968 p129)

From stage three, pre-school, the capacity for initiative enables an adolescent to place his trust in “peers and leading … elders who will give imaginative … scope to [her/his] aspirations …”. (1968 p129)

From stage four, school age, the capacity for industry in the form of “the desire to make something work, and to make it work well” means that an adolescent will evaluate and choose an occupation on grounds “beyond the question of remuneration and status”. (1968 p129)

A favourable outcome to this adolescent stage leads to the attribute of loyalty, loyalty to the society that nurtured the young person.  And not a blind loyalty, but a critical loyalty which means that the adolescent has found a place in the community which allows her/him to contribute.

[Erikson, Erik H (1968) Identity: Youth and Crisis.  London: Norton.]

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