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Social ties are important in a person's psychological growth. Learning from experiences gained in these relationships is the most practical way for an adult to establish a well-balanced and stable personality. Erik Erikson developed a theory that divides an individual's personality development into stages (Erikson, 1959). His theory states that whether an individual has a well-developed personality or not is determined by the successful completion of all stages. This essay contrasts and analyzes two interviewees' answers about their social interactions using Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory.
Both interviewees were adults, a male and a woman. The man, aged twenty five, was the first to respond to my questions. On the nature of his friendships, he described them as mostly close. He felt like a part of a team always out to do something together. He also stated that they did not change much. The subjects of interest changed from videogames riding bikes to later on drinking, smoking and interest in the opposite sex. There were disagreements which often ended up being resolved quickly without much escalation. He also talked of times when his relationships with his friends were at times bringing conflict with that which he shared with his parents. Particularly, in his teenage years during high school, the changes in the nature of activities he indulged in with the friends such as drinking and staying out late with girls often brought disagreements with his parents.
On the subject of managing emotions, he talked about how he gradually achieved better control of them. From throwing tantrums in his childhood to get his way, he developed better understanding and ways to express his emotions and feelings. He also stated how he noticed he gained interest in changing his behavior to become more masculine, started wearing more trendy clothing to fit in with his friends, and forming a particular liking forrock and roll music. Over time, he also gained interest in various sports and recalled an incidence in high school when he was around sixteen where he fell out with one of his friends who supported a different team. Finally, he also stated how various relationship, particularly with the some of the girls he has dated have made his reflect on how he saw himself. He elaborated on this by explaining how after break ups, there are times he thought he was in the right but upon hearing the other party’s perspective he realized that may not always be right. This made him re-evaluate how he viewed himself and how others viewed him.
The next interviewee was a twenty three year old woman. She stated that her relationships more often than not felt like sisterhoods. However, they were characterized by somewhat frequent disagreements resulted in social isolation and not speaking to each other. Moreover, sometimes the pressure from her friends to engage with members of the opposite sex contradicted her parents’ opinions to limit her interactions with boys to casual friendships. She also noted that over time she was able to develop greater capacity to deal with emotions, and feelings that stemmed from negative aspects in her academics, disappointments, issues with her friendships and relationships and conflict with her parents. She also noted that her constant need to feel like she mattered in her social circle during her teenage years made the opinions of her friends seem more important to her than those of her parents. This prompted a shift in her interests in things such as clothes and music to be more in line with those of her friends. She also mentioned that later in high school, she had disagreements that led to falling out on matters relating to relationships, where certain actions and ideas led to fights. Additionally, she also noted how her social interactions with friends, dates and other people have helped her view herself in different light.
Both interviewee’s responses exhibited various allusions to the theory laid forward by Erik Erikson. The man’s response had evidence of trying to navigate through life while adapting and solving whatever problems he was experiencing. This is shown by his having the need to belong to a group of friends that establishes his need to feel like he belongs. This is further accentuated as an adolescent when he needs to feel like he belongs perhaps in relation to Erikson’s theory on the need to belong and the search for one’s identity that comes with this stage of psychological and personality development. The lady’s response also mirrors that of the man. Despite the few differences in the nature of friendships between the sexes, for the most part the challenges they faced and how they adapted to them were more or less the same. They both exhibited the need to belong to more than just their families and they started with friendships as pre-pubescent. The friendships gradually evolved and they for attachments to their friendships to an extent that they influence the way they do other things. As they grew up, they also got into more intimate relationships with their significant others marking a new milestone in their journey to develop self. This stage involves the need to feel wanted and desired. Currently in their mid-twenties, they are experiencing this having gone through the previous stages successfully. The success at this stage will ensure that they feel safe, loved and a sense of belonging intimately to a family of their own creation.
By Erik Erikson’s standards, these two adults have succeeded in most of their former stages to reach adulthood. In an age where more and more children are less exposed to external interactions, his theory may be used to predict that more people will have a hard time developing well-balanced personalities due to the isolation that many of them are experiencing as children at the moment (Boeree, 2006). The importance of social interactions cannot be understated given the role it plays in the development of self. The transitions that are experienced as one grows can viewed as essential building blocks that shape a person’s sense of self by the time they get to adulthood (Erikson, 1959). The responses by these two adults succinctly support this assertion. For instance, the man throughout learns the benefits of being a member of a group; a very essential part of being a human being given that we are social animals. He also shows how to be empathetic and introspectiveness given how he views his relationships with past dates. The lady also learns how to achieve better control over her emotions and how to navigate various social landscapes from her social interactions. This collective experiences by both serve to point that social interactions are essential in the cultivation of the self (Boeree, 2006).
In conclusion, it is correct to assert the legitimacy of Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory. Evidence of the two respondents’ theories and an analysis of the impact of relationships in the life of an individual point to reaffirm the importance of social relationships in an individual’s development. It thus paramount that one is exposed to a healthy amount of social interaction throughout their lives from childhood to ensure that they develop socially.
Boeree, C.G. (2006). Erik Erikson. Retrieved October, 30, 2012.
Erikson, E. (1959). Theory of Identity Development.
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