Thursday, January 10, 2008

I busted my hump on it, might as well share it

Well, I just finished typing my paper on Erik Erickson theory of personality. If you don't know, I am currently in grad school working on my masters in psychology and counseling. Erickson is by far my favorite of all the psychoanalysts because he stepped out of the psychosexual ideas and formulated a more continuous and wholesome theory of development. My favorite Erickson quote is regarding the fact that infants who develop well leave that stage of life with a sense of hope:
"Hope is the most indispensable virtue in the state of being alive."

Anywho, at the risk of having my words put up for critique, if you are interested read this simple paper on Erickson's theory of personality/life-span development. I know it gets bloated at the end but I was limited to 3 pages in Word with one-inch margins across, and we do have certain questions we must answer.

Erik Erickson, who trained in the famous Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute with the father of psychoanalytic research Sigmund Freud as well as Freud’s daughter Anna, is today considered one of the most highly esteemed and most influential researchers of psychoanalysis. Through his years of work, Erickson published many books on the subject of psychoanalysis and revolutionized the field with the development and publication of his eight stage, life-spanning psychosocial theory of development. Erickson’s psychosocial theory is used in many treatment centers to this date.
1. What is the overall purpose/direction behind personality? From the standpoint of the individual, what is the general goal/goals they are trying to accomplish through their personality? Erickson believed that the purpose of personality or life-span development in humans stem from an individual’s facing a basic crisis and having to either grow or else fall behind. The crisis the individual faces is the epigenesis of the maturation. These basic crises occur when an individual’s ego is forced into contact with a new societal barrier. These barriers can range from a child beginning kindergarten to an adult beginning to worship at a new church.
This desire to be part of certain societal groups is a derivative of what Erickson believed was each individual’s desire to figure out what they believe as well as what they will or might become. This belief the individual is of course groomed from the beginning of their life and cues are taken from the primary care giver as an infant / child, then peers, then co-workers / adult peers etc…
2. Discuss the concepts of the theory that represent common aspects that all individuals share (what are the parts/elements of the theory?) Erickson brought to light the theory that all individuals pass through one of each of his eight stages as they grow and that healthy growth from this stage allows an easier adjustment when the next crisis occurs that will cause further growth. Making Erickson’s theory unique at the time was the fact that an individual does not simply pass through a stage and then leave it. Instead, Erickson felt that each stage served as a building block to the total personality of the individual with each advanced stage taking cues from the previous stage.
While not allotted the space to fully discuss all eight stages of Erickson’s theory of development it is important to briefly look at each stage. Erickson was careful not to restrain his theories to any specific age in an individual’s life (other than infancy) and felt that during these stages, individuals either grew productively and developed strengths and ritualizations or developed negatively and developed negative pathologies and ritualisms. These will be discussed later.
Erickson’s eight stages of development are infancy, early childhood, play age, school
age, adolescence, young adulthood, adulthood, and finally old age. As stated above, Erickson’s theory was that the growth in these stages has an epigenesis of facing a psychosocial crisis. Infancy must overcome basic trust vs. basic mistrust. The early childhood individual is faced with autonomy vs. shame and/or doubt. Play age children are faced with initiative vs. guilt and the school age child must battle industry vs. inferiority. The young adult faces the crisis of intimacy vs. isolation and the adulthood crisis is generativity vs. stagnation. Finally, in old age any further development is forced by the crisis of integrity vs. despair.
3. Discuss the theorists' ideas concerning the role of society in the development of personality and any developmental stages. Regarding the role of society in development, Erickson felt that each individual had a radius of significant relations. The role of society is very important in Erickson’s theory.
For the infant stage, the maternal person in the individual’s life is key to a positive outcome in this stage. The focus shifts from the maternal person to all parental persons during the early childhood stage. In play age, children look to their basic family for assistance in growth while the school age child receives guidance from their neighborhood and/or school. It is important to remember that Erickson’s theory was one of building blocks and that in each stage, the people key in the stage continue to have influence in the proceeding stages.
The adolescent’s radius of significant relations includes peer groups, out groups, and models of leadership. Young adults learn from partners in friendship, sex, competition, and cooperation where the adult grows with help from divided labor and a shared household. The individual in old age has significant relations with man kind in general.
4. Explain how the theory addresses individual differences in personality----what are the concepts/dimensions that the theorist utilizes to describe these individual differences (different outcomes/personality types)? Erickson’s differences in personalities stem from how well the individual navigates the crisis in each stage. Should the infant navigate successfully, hope is gained and a numinous ritualizaton. Should the infant make negative progress in this stage, pathology of withdrawal and a ritualism of idolism could develop. As the individual grows, positive outcomes ranging from will to wisdom develop while negative outcomes include legalism, compulsion, inhibition and dogmatism.


JRB said...

Dave Brumley,

I hope you'll come back over the blog and continue the discourse.

I have deep roots in your neck of the woods. So glad you stopped by.

Eric said...

I too am glad you stopped by Pax. WRT this post, I have a question for you, how might the insights of Erickson's model of child dev influence and impact nurturing faith in our children in the Churches of Christ? As several of us are parents of young children, I'm curious as to how his insights might apply in faith formation. said...

Her Eric. Thanks for your comments. Let me start to answer your question by saying that I have no clue about Erickson's faith. Now to answer your question. Erickson's entire theory was based on the idea that we all have an idea of what we want to or should be. As children we look to our mother first and then our mother and father for guidance/belonging. If the parents instill Christian values into the child, more by our actions than words, the child is going to try and fit in by behaving similarly. Remember that the infant who successfully navigates through that stage (with the help of the mother) develops a sense of Hope. See Erickson's quote in the post. A parent should instill a sense of hope to go to Heaven from the very begining. Remember the Proverb: Raise a child up right and when he is old he will not depart from it. Since all the stages build on top of one another the parents influence never departs that child. I doubt that Erickson ever applied Christian values to his theory but he did apply moral ideals to it. I am writing this on my Treo so I am gonna stop now (hands cramping). Before I go though I will say that the new child in the family also introduces a new societal crisis to the parent(s) which in turn sparks growth or decline in the parent as well. Think about it. Would love to continue this conv.

Eric said...

First, I wasn't concerned about Erickson's faith positions. (He was at the very least from an ethnically Jewish family.) His insights can and have had a lot of impact on the way people view ministry to children in the Christian tradition regardless of his personal beliefs.

Second, I understand and appreciate the parental role in raising children. (I would, though, be VERY careful about using a Prov as a hard and fast rule. I know far too many good and godly parents whose children made the choice to seek other life paths. Proverbs are, by nature, general observations about life, not hard and fast rules, which is why we have contradictory proverbs in the book of Proverbs.) My primary question, though, is about how we might extrapolate from Erickson's theories relating to the nuclear family and expand to the role of the community of faith.

Obviously, the role of family is vital, but faith formation is surely not solely about immediate family. The community of faith has played an important role in the shaping of the children from Israel through the emerging church in the New Testament. I'm curious as to how you imagine Erickson's ideas relating beyond the family to the role of the greater community of faith.

Thoughts? (Please feel free to wait until you get back to an actual keyboard. :) )

Finally, since the concept of hope is foundational for children, is there a Christian way to conceive of hope that moves beyond the sometimes escapist, world denying, nearly Neoplatonic view of heaven that is often passed on to our children in our churches? Often, it seems that this view of hope has produced people who seek afterlife insurance, while not embracing the life of transformed discipleship into the image of Christ in the present. How might we, both as parents and as a church, redefine hope more biblically, so that kids can embrace the life of Christ, or imitate the "mind of Christ" in his pattern of downward mobility as another psychologist would say, and continue on the journey of transformation into that image?

Alright, I'm starting to sound like a professor. Sorry, but you've got my wheels turning.

JRB said...

Dave Brumley,

I have some other links for your review:


JRB said...

By the way, are you related to the Brumleys in Columbus? They are dear friends to us all over at the PF blog.

Dave Brumley said...

Hey Eric, I am enjoying this. First of all, regarding the Proverb, I am one of those people whose parents raised him correctly but strayed in rebellion. However, I can tell you with no doubt that what I was taught never left me amd eventually came back to it as the Proverb says. If you have never experienced this I can only explain it as a nagging that echoes in your brain telling you to come home. Also, if the Proverbs are not there for us to apply to our lives, then what are they there at all.
Secondly, the parental role in the child's faith never leaves but is built upon as the individual grows. I see what you are asking about the community of faith though. The answer is really quite simple. Recall that Erickson's theory is one of building through each of the eight stages. As the individual grows the social network of that individual grows. As far as the church, I can see no true effect it could have on the child until it reaches meaningful Sunday School age (4,5,6). I see the churches role becoming most vital during the puberty stage though when the individual is really looking for his/her own idenity. This is the age when, as you said, individuals may begin to choose other life paths. Assuming that the parental system is solid then the church can have a huge effect at this time. The child is looking for someone to help him/her through that time of crisis and validate their feelings. Should it not be the church, then it is going to be someone else, more than likely of different convictions. A strong youth group would be very important at that time.
To take it even further though, the next stage is that of young adulthood where the individual is battling the crisis of intimacy vs. isolation. This is the point in time where the individual (who I am calling Bob from this point forward because I am tired of typing "the individual"), begins to seek a mate or someone to spend their life with and deciding if they would rather not put themself out there for heartache and just be alone (just for kicks, attempt to correlate this to Paul's views on marriage). If Bob is grounded in a church or attending church while in college, where is Bob going to first look for a mate and what kind of females is Bob going to look for? Simple, Bob is going to look for females who share his beliefs and who are like the people he grew with in his youth group and he is going to look in church first. To throw Freud's ideas in there, Bob is also going to be looking for a female who is like his mother who gave him what? HOPE
Moving on into adulthood, assuming Bob found a good Christian mate and conquered his crisis, now Bob should be applying his Christian background to his marriage taking cues foremost from the home he was raised (building blocks), and possibly adding what a good youth minister may have taught him. Now Bob and his mate are going to face the crisis of generativity vs. stagnation. Are you gonna get bust helping the next generation or are you going to sit on your butt? A strong church family will push you to not become stagnate by providing encouragement and pusing you to do your best. And then Bob and his mate have their own child and now they are concerned about the next generation and the state of the church and the world that their kid grows up in. This will push them to become better Christians so we now see the child helping the parents to be better Christian while the parents are grooming their child for the crisis that they know are coming.
(Eric, you are wearing me out).
Finally, to answer your question about hope I have to say I think you are putting the cart before the horse on that one. I will simply refrence you to 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul is talking to the church about their spiritual growth. He fed them milk, not meat. We are feeding our children milk and I fear that it is over zealous people who are teaching Revelation to nine year olds who are causing many people to seek redemption through baptism too soon.

Eric said...

Thanks for the thoughts. I'm sorry I wore you out, but it's really what I do best! :)

Obviously, this is a great start and could easily be expanded into book form to think fully through the implications and possibilities of connecting Erickson's stages of development to the role of the Christian community in faith formation. It's always helpful to start though!

On the Proverbs, general observations and maxims about life can be very helpful as wee try to live faithfully, without having to be perceived as hard and fast rules. For example, how do we explain those who were raised in godly ways in godly homes and yet turned away never to return (in contrast to your personal narrative), while also looking at those who were raised in very unhealthy environments and came to a faith in God? I know many people who have been in the former camp who have been beaten down with guilt by the church, though they did all they could to instill faith and their child used his or her free will to make a different choice.

Also, compare Proverbs 26:4 with 26:5. They are contrasting opposites. Does that contrast mean that we can't trust Proverbs now? That is what a modern, scientific approach might have us believe, but one does not negate the other. A part of wisdom as seen in Proverbs is understanding that we must learn discernment with these general observations and allow them to shape our vision of life while knowing that, as another wisdom writer (not the Byrds :)) said, 'there is a time for everything.'

On the final question, I don't think I'm putting the cart before the horse, maybe I just didn't explain my question. I think that people are teaching our kids to be dunked too early, simply to escape hell. On the other hand, what I consistently see in the writings of NT authors, like Paul to use your example, is the pastoral teaching that attempts to help people in his church live like Christ in the world, as though Jesus really is Lord. I would like us to see the latter done in churches more and connect baptism to the decision to live like Jesus (under his lordship), rather than simply as fire insurance.

Again, just some quick thoughts. Thanks for the friendly exchange and exploration. I hope and pray that God will use our discussion above to empower our various ministries to family, our churches, and our friends.

Grace and peace, erm