Developmental Theories

While these psychodynamic theorists focused on the emotional and relational dimensions of early development, others, such as German-born Erik

Erikson (1902-1994), also emphasized cognitive and identity development over the entire life span. Erikson's theory, in which the ego confronts a series of psychosocial crises, recognized such childhood stages as autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, and industry versus inferiority as important to ego development. However, it was his conceptualization of the identity crisis during adolescence that has been highly influential on modern research on self-concept and self-esteem. By searching out and eventually choosing life strategies, values, and goals, the adolescent establishes a sense of inner assuredness and self-definition, which serve to promote healthy intimacy, productivity, and integration later in life. James Mar-cia, an American developmental psychologist, demonstrated in the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's that adolescents who actively explore the question "Who am I?" and achieve their own sense of identity are more likely to have positive outcomes, including high self-esteem, self-direction, and mature relationships. Erikson, Marcia, and other developmental scholars recognize that the task of establishing identity can be facilitated or hampered by the values and traditions presented in families and social structures.

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