Adolescence is an age of enduring dreams with adolescents having own desires and expectations and developing their own identity as they come into contact with the world outside. It is a passage towards the adult world where many conflicting tendencies are making them devoid of these dreams and expectations yet giving them lessons to face these challenges. According to psychologists, this tendency is called psychosocial development conceptualized by Erik Erikson.
Erikson’s theory developed to explain life experiences and how life helps adolescents in their growth process. Psychosocial development theory also known as theory of Identity Development has been considered as widely recognized and very useful not only to understand basic principles of human life but also to understand complete human personality and overall awareness and growth. It helps in understanding the way adolescents try to build their personality and identity.
There are eight stages of psychosocial development human beings have to pass through having their own time frame beginning from birth to old age and final death. At each stage people are molding their identity according to their age and their maturity level of understanding and their own progression, which quite often comes into conflict with their culture and society. (Muuss, 1988)
Adolescence is a fifth stage, according to the model, dealing with the identity and role diffusion. It is the way adolescents try to recognize themselves with their environment but many times are not sure of their true self. There are many factors that affect their identity like their own emotions, their interaction and attachment with other people and their esteemed projections. Main principle of Erickson’s theory’ is the ego-identity faced by every adolescent in one or the other part of his life.
Many social conditions force adolescents to shape their behavior and personality according to the demands of the society; these demands they feel are obstacles to their own self-identified personality to which Erikson called identity crises. (Muuss, 1988, p. 60) In this whole process, they feel their own identity is lost somewhere and they are instead adopting dubious personality, on one hand meeting the demands of the society and on the other hand struggling to bring out own self-esteem. Therefore Erikson asserted that study of identity is more important than that of sexuality as focused by Freud. (Muuss, 1988)
Erikson said that at the age of adolescence, individual should develop personal identity avoiding crises of role diffusion and identity confusion. Hereby it is all the more important for adolescents to learn to judge their own abilities and their self possessed qualities and the way they want to use them. Adolescents should be able to answer questions for themselves like how they could turn their expectations into reality within the precinct of society. Peers can help them find answers to their many questions like what and how others feel about them, the dress they should wear that could suit their personality and the way they can carry themselves among their peers and friends.
While bringing out their own personality, they should also feel themselves committed towards religious values, beliefs and faith in oneself.
Erikson’s theory recommends that an individual face conflicts in his life and thus should be able to learn to develop the identity and own personality by adjusting with these conflicts. If he could amalgamate these conflicts in his personality in a constructive manner then it would lead to the development and overall growth of adolescent.
Erikson looks at the growth of man from the eyes of a keen observer and the way the development of an adolescent should take place within the precinct of his own society. Adolescents who fail to identify themselves often have to face self-diligence, self-doubt and confusion leading many of them to develop many psychological and emotional disturbances coaxing them towards self-destructive path. It can lead to personality disorganization and in severe cases it may lead to suicide attempts by adolescents. (Muuss, 1988)
Erikson’s model is every close to the human life observing every aspect to it, making his theory most popular among all. His theory makes us understand behavior of adolescents in a much better for e.g. how and why they behave in the manner they behave. It also helps us to analyze their life experiences and their relationships with one another. This understanding enables adults, parents and peers to become a better judge and a good teacher, and make them feel they are cared for.
Muuss, R. E. (1988). Theories of Adolescence. New York: Random House.