Erik Erikson Psychoanalytic Approach versus Lev Vygotsky’s Cognitive Approach

Different psychologists have come up with theories on how an individual’s personality is developed with an aim to better learning methodologies and mental disorder therapies. Among the personality theories developed are the Erik Erikson psychoanalytic approach and the Lev Vygotsky’s cognitive approach. Erikson psychoanalytic approach advanced the superiority of the environment to biological factors in shaping an individual’s personality through eight psychosocial stages. Vygotsky’s cognitive approach contended that knowledge is collaborative and that interaction with skillful adults and peer’s is essential for cognitive development. This paper will compare and contrast aspects of these two approaches.

Erikson’s Psychoanalytic approach

Erikson approach to personality development was advanced through eight psychosocial stages. First of these stages was the basic trust versus basic mistrust. Erikson (1950) noted that “the first demonstration of social trust in the baby is the ease of his feeding, the depth of his sleep, [and] the relaxation of his bowels” (as qtd. in Atalay, 2007, p. 17). Development of such trust or mistrust qualities in a child, according to Erikson, were however not a mere outcome of nurture but rather involved an array of contributing social components such as “the quality of the maternal relationship” (Erikson, as qtd. in Atalay, 2007, p. 17). When such quality relationship was ensured by both parents then the child would develop a sense of trust that would act as the basis for identity development; otherwise a basic mistrust would develop (Atalay, 2007). In the second stage, in early childhood, Erikson emphasized the concept of autonomy versus shame (Atalay, 2007). As in the anal psycho-sexual stage in Freudian theory, Erikson attributed this to the child’s pursuit for self control primarily brought out desire for some control over the anal-muscular zone (Atalay, 2007). Support of such endeavor for self-control through reassuring control from others would motivate the child’s autonomy pursuit without the fear of compromising the trust attained in the first stage (Atalay, 2007). When protection from repeated loss of self control is not provided e.g. through excessive parental restraint, the child could develop a sense of doubt and a feeling of shame (Atalay, 2007).

Initiative versus guilt, the third psychosocial stage in Erikson’s theory, is related to phallic stage in Freudian theory (Atalay, 2007). In this stage the child seeks purpose and direction by identifying with one of the parents or a particular occupation (Atalay, 2007). By “imagining wild and sometimes terrifying possibilities”, the child develops a sense of guilt hence attempts to “look for opportunities where transitory identification seems to promise a field of initiative without too much conflict or guilt” (Erikson, as qtd. in Atalay, 2007, p. 18). Such attempts results into the child offering a warm companionship to one of the parents (Atalay, 2007). At the school age, Erikson proposes a fourth stage – industry versus inferiority – where such persons as teachers play a critical role in the child’s life (Atalay, 2007). As the child adapts to the new environment concepts differentiating between play (toys) and work (e.g. school assignments) start to emerge (Atalay, 2007). When the adaptation to the new world is effectively supported by teachers, a sense of industriousness develops and if not, a sense of inferiority dominates (Atalay, 2007). The fifth stage, identity versus identity confusion, is associated with adolescence developmental stage, where the crises of the preceding periods are reinvented in a new fashion (Atalay, 2007). In search of “wholeness”, the adolescent faces a crisis “between that which he conceives himself to be and that which he perceives others to see in him and to expect of him” (Erikson as qtd in Atalay 2007, p. 21). When the adolescent is successful at balancing these opposite effects to achieve wholeness, a sense of identity would develop; otherwise a diffusion of identity would occur (Atalay, 2007).

In intimacy versus isolation, the sixth Erikson psychosocial stage, a young adult attempts to become more social (Atalay, 2007). When self identity in the previous stage develops a level of confidence, one would become more willing to interact with others (Atalay, 2007). Lack of self- confidence would however lead to isolation at this stage. In the seventh stage, generativity versus stagnation, an adult would be seeking to demonstrate his level of maturity (Atalay, 2007). Where maturity is developed a concern for – teaching and guiding – the next generation develops. If such generativity efforts are frustrated, then a sense of stagnation or self-absorption could arise (Atalay, 2007). Erikson proposes integrity versus despair as his last psychosocial stage. In this old age stage, an individual would be faced with either “a peaceful, wise, and meaningful sense of saturation over the life span experienced; or a resentful, regretful, and depressing sense of emptiness toward the past experienced” (Atalay, 2007, p.22). Erikson’s stages thus dwell on how an individual confronts ones identity crisis as influenced by the surrounding environment. Go to Lev Vygotsky’s cognitive approach.

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