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Erik Erikson - Psychology and ChildhoodErik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood


Erik Erikson (1902-94)


German-born American psychologist (pictured right), famous for:

  • explaining how people develop as human beings.
  • his concept of “identity crisis”.


His most famous book is…

Childhood and Society (1950).


What did he teach us about psychology and childhood?


1. Eight stages in your development

 Erik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood

a) the first four stages 

These finish with your teenage years, when an identity crisis is likely.

This happens because teenagers (independently of their parents) are trying to work out their:

  • identity (see point 2) 
  • values Erik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood
  • purpose.


b) the last four stages

These begin around the age of 20, when you learn about love and self-esteem through family, friends and peers.

You may be lonely due to fear of rejection, but marriage and children will give you companionship and purpose.

 Erik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood

2. Identity crisis

This occurs when you lose your sense of:

  • who you are and how you relate to others (self-image). 
  • what you believe in (values). 
  • what your purpose is in life.

This crisis starts in your teenage years (see point 1) and is becoming more common, as the world changes faster than people’s ability to cope with it.


3. Parents are powerful

Their support and encouragement develop in a child:Erik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood

  • trust and autonomy
  • the will and courage to be independent, creative and morally responsible.

Children will:

  • reward unconditional love.
  • punish implicit hatred or resentment from their parents.

 Erik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood

4. Time is precious

You must

  • use your time as creatively and effectively as possible,
  • find the right balance between work, leisure and love.


5. Morals are mighty

The happiest people:Erik Erikson - Psychology and Childhood

  • do what’s right.
  • are socially responsible.

Their principles give them the wisdom and courage to overcome life’s problems like aging, despair and fear of death.


Key quotes on family and children

Children love and want to be loved.

The most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit.


Key quote on time management

The richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love and play.


Key quote on positive thinking

If life is to be sustained, hope must remain.

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