According to Erickson’s (1963) its human nature to pass through a genetically determined sequence of psychosocial stages, spanning the whole lifetime. Each psychosocial stage involves a struggle between 2 conflicting personality outcomes, one positive / adaptive, the other negative / maladaptive. Healthy development involves the adaptive outweighing the maladaptive. In the case of adolescence the main challenge is to establish a strong sense of personal identity and the struggle is between the ego identities, the role of confusion.
Erickson’s role confusion can take several forms relating to intimacy, time perspective, industry or negative identity. The latter refers to adolescents engaging in abnormal or deliwuent behaviour, such as drug – taking, or even suicide, in an attempt to resolve their identity crisis. It’s preferable to the loneliness and isolation that come with failing to achieve a distinct and more functional role in life (a negative identity is better than no identity). One role source of role confusion is the ‘maturity gap’ that is, being at the same time biologically and sexually mature, but still not having adult social status.
Erickson’s, Coleman and Hendry (1990) and others argue, that puberty is one of the most important adjustments that adolescents have to make, and their changing body image is central to their overall self image. This may be more difficult transition for girls than for boys. Criticisms: 1) Erickson’s theory has been criticised for being based on observations of to restrict a group (white middle class males). Gilligan has argued that his theory must be seen in that context, and states that Erickson’s theory is only really applicable to males.
2) Erickson’s did not carry out any experimental studies to test his ideas. The ideal approach would have been to conduct a longitudinal study in which people would be observed over a period of years staring before 3) adolescence and continuing after adolescence. Erickson relied mainly on his observations of adolescents undergoing therapy. He obtained evidence an identity crisis in this biased sample but this does not mean that all adolescents are the same. 4) Erickson’s views merely describe what he regarded as typical of adolescents behaviour and thinking.
He did not provide detailed explanation of the processes responsible for creating an identity crisis, nor did he indicate in detail the processes responsible for resolving it. Moreover, he only offers the option that adolescents do go through a crisis. Marcia’s identity theory Marcia (1980) extension of Erickson’s theory proposed four statuses of adolesents formation. A mature identity can only be achieved if an individual experiences several crisis in exploring and choosing between life’s alternatives, before finally making a commitment or investment of the self in these choices.
Research for: Marcia’s findings suggest that it is important to distinguish which of the 4 aspects of identity development is experienced as those in the moratorium felt much more positive than those in the diffusion and foreclosure statuses, and this supports the validity of the statuses. Research against: Offer (1969) reported on an extensive study of American adolescents and found that only a very small minority showed any signs of identity crisis. Similarly, siddique and D’Arehy (1984) reported that less than 25 % of their sample showed psychological distress.
The majority appeared to experience a smooth transition through adolescence to adulthood. It was also clear that, when applied to females, even Marcia (1980) accepted that his statuses work only more or less. The view that the male experience is the standard a criticism applied by Gilligan (1982) to Erickson’s and Marcia. Critisisms: + 1) realism: Marcia’s approach to identity is more flexible than Erickson’s, who tends to see it as all or nothing, i. e. identity achievement verses diffusion.
Marcia’s representations of the concepts first identified by Erickson as different identity statuses are more realistic because it is more representative of real – life identity formation. – 2) Andocentric and Eurocentric: Marcia (and Erickson’s) research was conducted on mainly western (Eurocentric) males (andocentric) and so generalisability is questionable as may not be representative of other social groups. It disproves the usual gender bias of using male as the standard of normality.
3) Interview weaknesses: Marcia’s use of the semi- structure interview means that the evidence on identity formation lack reliability and validity. Interviewer bias and participant reactivity may have led to demand characteristics when the participants say what they think interviewer wants to hear rather than the truth. This means that the research evidence provides only weak empirical support for Marcia’s theory. – 4) Reductionism: the four statuses, like any classification system can be criticised as being over simplified because it is unlikely that they account for individual differences.
5) Descriptive rather tan explanatory: Marcia describes four identity statuses rather than explaining how they arise and how the individual progresses from one to the other. Consequently the theory lacks explanatory power, as it covers what happens not……. The social approach Coleman’s Focal theory A01 Coleman (1974) contradicts the psychoanalytical view that identity crisis is a normal part of adolescence as he does not consider crisis to be a request of healthy development.
He suggests that the majority of adolescents do not experience crisis because they are able to focus on and resolve problems as they occur. Thos that do experience crisis have additional external pressures. Thus he aggress with the id that it is a time of change but not that it inevitably a period of ‘storm and stress’ (Hall 1904) Research for: Research on good parental relationships (e. g. Ryan and Lynch 1989) supports Coleman’s claim that adolescence need not be time of stress. Research against:
Freud’s approach can be contrasted with the social approach, as he believes adolescent crisis is more a consequence of early childhood conflicts than current external pressures. Criticisms: + 1) high population validity: the sample size was large in Coleman and Hendry’s and in Rutter’s research, which increases confidence in the generalisabilty of the findings. + 2) face validity: many individuals clearly do cope with adolescence without serious disturbance and so it does make sense that adolescence is a time of change but not necessarily of crisis.
Certainly Coleman’s emphasis on the external pressures at adolescence is integral to our understanding of adolescence. – 3) Self respect: participant and researcher effects may have biased the research. – 4) Understanding of ‘crisis’: the term may not have been used to mean the same thing. Erickson’s and Marcia’s understanding of it as a normal and healthy event suggest that they view it differently to Coleman, who seems to see it more as psychological breakdown.