Chapter 2: Psychosocial Theory

Psychosocial Theory
The Rationale for Emphasizing
Psychosocial Theory
• Addresses growth across the life span
• Assumes that individuals have capacity to
contribute to their own psychological
• Takes into consideration the active
contribution of culture to individual growth
Stages of Development
The 11 Stages of the Lifespan
Basic Concepts of Psychosocial Theory
• Psychosocial evolution
– Proposed by Julian Huxley
– Range of abilities that allows us to gather
knowledge from our ancestors and transmit it to
our descendants
– E.g. child care, education, modes of
Basic Concepts of Psychosocial Theory
• Six basic concepts
– Stages of development
– Developmental tasks
– Psychosocial crisis
– The central process for resolving the psychosocial
crisis at each stage
– A radiating network of significant relationships
– Coping behavior
Stages of Development
• Erikson proposed eight stages of development
– A period of life that is characterized by a specific
underlying organization
• These stages follow the epigenetic principle
– Biological plan for growth allows each function to
emerge systematically until the individual has fully
• The themes of earlier stages may reemerge at
any point
Psychosocial Crises
• Psychosocial crises
– State of tension that results from discrepancies
between the person’s competences at the
beginning of the stage and society’s expectations
• From these conflicts, new social capabilities
are produced
Psychosocial Crises of the Life Stages
• Most people experience both positive and
negative elements of the continuum
– Contributes to the person’s adaptive capacities
• Outcome of the crisis is integration of the two
opposing forces
• Succession of crises occurs in a predictable
– Epigenetic principle
Psychosocial Crises
• What is the purpose in conceptualizing life in
terms of crises?
Developmental Tasks
• Havighurst’s concept of developmental tasks
– Process by which humans learn tasks required by
society to which they are adapting
• Society has age-graded expectations
– Tasks change with age
Developmental Tasks
• Sensitive periods
– Periods of development when an individual is
most ready to acquire a new ability
– Teachable moments
• Developmental tasks may reflect gains in
physical, cognitive, social, and emotional
Developmental Tasks Associated with
the Life Stages
Developmental Tasks Associated with
the Life Stages
Developmental Tasks
• Describe a developmental task that may have
changed in content from the time of your
grandparents to your time
– What are some of these changes?
– What led to the changes?
The Central Processes for Resolving
the Psychosocial Crises
• Psychosocial crisis
– Reflects discrepancy between developmental
competencies at the beginning of a stage and new
societal pressures
• Central process
– Suggests a way that the person takes in cultural
expectations and changes self-concept
• Example: Imitation in toddlerhood
The Central Process for Resolving Each
Psychosocial Crisis
Radius of Significant Relationships
• Age-related demands on individuals are
communicated through significant
• Over the lifespan, the radius of the circle
– In adulthood, the radius condenses to a few
significant relationships
• Refers to people’s conscious, adaptive efforts
to manage:
– Stressful events
– Emotions associated with the stressors
• Begins with appraisal
• Results in prime adaptive ego qualities or core
Prime Adaptive Ego Qualities
Core Pathologies
Evaluation of Psychosocial Theory
• Strengths
– Highlights social nature of human development
– Provides broad, integrative context
• Weaknesses
– Explanations of the mechanisms are not well
– Number of stages and links to biological based
Evaluation of Psychosocial Theory
A Recap of Psychosocial Theory
• Which phenomena is the theory trying to
• What assumptions does the theory make?
• What does the theory predict?
The Six Basic Concepts of Psychosocial
The Mechanisms for Positive and
Negative Psychosocial Development
Your Perspective
• Consider the radius of significant relationships
• Where do you fall on the radius in terms of
your connections with others?
• What interconnections are there between
these radii at this point of your life?
Case Study – Erik Erikson
• Reflections
– Why did Erikson feel like a “stranger in his own
– What are the biological, psychological, and
societal factors that contributed to Erikson’s
identity crises?
– What factors from childhood appear to be
influencing Erikson’s experiences as an
Case Study – Erik Erikson
• Reflections
– Who are the significant figures in Erikson’s life/the
radius of significant others?
– What factors might have contributed to Erikson’s
ability to cope with the challenges of this period
of his life, eventually finding a direction and
meaning to which he could commit his talent and
Case Study – Erik Erikson
• Reflections
– Based on Erikson’s account of his childhood and
adolescence, how might his life experiences and
his cultural context have influenced the nature
and focus of his psychosocial theory?