Freud's Psychosexual Theory and Erikson's Psychosocial Theory

Describe two main psychoanalytic theories, including the contributions and criticisms of these theories.

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I have always been fascinated by Freud’s psychosexual theory of human development and the ID/Ego/Superego trichotomy. Although I will admit that Freud’s view of conscious/unconscious conflict and repression are very good at explaining some human behavior but cannot be readily isolated as cognitive processes. Tolman was able to show that rats use cognitive mapping to learn the mazes and that reinforcement only affects performance, but no one has ever used the hypothetico-deductive method to prove that the ID actually exists (to my knowledge). Without that kind of evidence psychoanalytic perspective, as Freud saw it, is relegated to the arena of phrenology or astrology. 

Erikson’s psychosocial theory has more of a logical positivist approach, tying theoretical cognitive constructs to observable behavior. The stages are still coached in largely vague terminology (i.e. guilt, trust, etc…), but Erikson also adds a description of the characteristics and typical activities that the individual in a particular stage might exhibit. Also, I like that Erikson offers a set of stages for the entire lifespan. I wonder if Freud thought that development ceased to occur after puberty? As I looked through Erikson’s stages I decided that the “Intimacy vs. Isolation” stage was one of the most important. All of the others we seem to figure out as a result of peer pressure, forces of social conformity, and self-actualization; but the stage from 18 to 30 seems rather pivotal in the perspective of the human lifespan. It is in this stage that we mature significantly and develop relationships that might last the rest of our lives (i.e. spouse, best friend).

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References

Boyd, D. and Bee, H. (2006). Lifespan development (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn Bacon.

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