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Erik Erikson, born in 1902, was a German psychoanalyst that studied and theorized about the psychology of personality. Like many other researchers at the time, Erikson believed personality was based off both genetics and environmental factors. He introduced the a theory of the eight psychosocial stages an individual experiences, including the oral-sensory (birth-1 year old), muscular-anal (1-3 years old), locomotor-genital (3-5 years old), latency (6-11 years old), adolescence (12-18 years old), young adulthood (18-35 years old), adulthood (35-55 years old), and maturity stages (55-death).
At the age of 17 years old, Kerikson would fall into the fifth of Erikson’s psychosocial stages, adolescence. The adolescent stage can be identified by containing identity cohesion vs. role confusion. The individual develops and ego identity and self-image during this time, “based on the integration of the beliefs about what ourselves and others think about us”. From Kerikson’s case study, we can pick out that his family lives in a low-income neighborhood and his parents work long hours to provide for their five children. Due to their investment into his football career, it is understandable that Kerikson may feel confusion and worry has regarding his athletic career, and his new found love of social psychology.
In his research, Erickson preferred the use of anthropological studies, play therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and psychohistorical analysis. This case study would most likely be treated with psychodynamic psychotherapy, a form of talk therapy that allows patients to gain “self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior” (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1999). With the use of psychotherapy to develop a self-image, and talk therapy with his parents, I strongly believe that Kerikson will be able to choose the correct path for himself and continue to explore his education in social psychology with his uncle.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (1999, January 1). Chapter 7-Brief Psychodynamic Therapy.
Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse. https://
The client for this week’s case is 17-year-old Kerikson, who is African American. This young man was raised by two blue-collar parents, his mother and father. His parents worked long hours to help provide for there four children and lived in a low-income inner city neighborhood. Based on the information provided concerning the client, I have decided to use psychologist Erik Erikson’s theory to help better understand what behaviors are helping to reinforce the client’s personality and offer suggestions that the client could use as treatment. Mr. Kerikson describes a summer in which he spent time with his aunt and uncle, where he began to find an extreme interest in what his uncle did for a living, which consisted of being a professor. However, after confiding in his uncle, the young man learns that graduating from graduate school would only be possible if his primary focus wasn’t a college football career. This causes the young to feel confused and fear of letting his parents down.
Based on the information given, the client’s fear solely comes from the influence of his social life and environment. As we know from the authors Schultz and Schultz (2017), a person’s social and environmental forces that they are exposed to control how one is genetically predetermined to develop (pg.163). This means that since the client was more likely exposed to an environment with violence, his demonstration of fear comes from learning to protect himself at a younger age. Keriskon’s personality development, in which he shows he is a student of excellence in academics and athletics, can be connected to family genetics. This assumption is made because the client has parents who work extremely hard to provide, demonstrating the ideals of hard work. Also, looking further into his family, you can see that his academic excellence again comes from genetics, as his uncle holds a PhD in social psychology. The young man’s hard work can be connected to his personality development, as it was stated that such development is affected by biological and social factors (Schultz & Schultz, 2017).
Furthermore, the cultural considerations specific to this young man that help me understand him are the environmental factors of staying in a low-income neighborhood that have caused him to be in a fight or flight mood and the overhyped influence of athletics within his home life. In the predominately low-income community of the African American race, many see athletics as the only answer to escaping the violent environment. Using psychologist Erikson’s theory, this form of escape would demonstrate a confrontation with Erikson’s environment, which is considered a crisis (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). The crisis for Kerikson, before his stay with his aunt and uncle, wasn’t a trouble for his personality development until the client saw that he wanted more than just an athletic college career. As the client began to experience that shift in perspective, it reflected outward as confusion and fear because it shifted what the client felt he originally wanted in life.
Additionally, the client’s fear represents an identity crisis connected to career identity (Maree, 2021). Such an identity crisis should be further looked into as this could come from the client’s early adolescent stages of life. He could have been molded to believe that the only answer to his career was athletics since his parents worked hard to pay for all football expenses. Since the client knows how hard his parents worked, this results in the failed autonomy of his personality, which gives him the ability to express himself (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). I suggest the client undergo psycho-historical analysis to understand the client’s biographical background better. It would help the client to pinpoint the moment in which his major life crisis began that altered his personality development. As well I would suggest the client use therapy as a way to build his mistrust in himself, which comes from the lack of display that he received from his mother because she overworked to help provide for her children. Lastly, I would suggest the client use Erikon’s idea of creating a narrative story to develop the concept of how and what he envisions his life story would feel and look like without thinking about his parent’s opinions. Allowing the client to have therapeutic sessions and pinpointing the start of this personality development could help rebuild this young person’s trust in himself and fulfill his life journey.
Maree, J. G. (2021). The Psychosocial Development Theory of Erik Erikson: Critical overview.
Early Child Development and Care,
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2017).
Theories of personality. Cengage.