Employees Training and Development Plan

Freud and Erikson Theory


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Compare and Contrast Freud and Erikson Theory


This essay begins by discussing Psychoanalytic Theory proposed by Sigmund Freud; the theory portrays that human behaviour is the result of conflict between the biological drives that develop slowly from childhood and play a significant part in determining a person’s character. After a short review of the Psychoanalytic theory and evaluating it against modern psychoanalytic perspectives, the study will then cover a quite different theory i.e. Erikson’s theory that reduces the significance of biological contributions. Erikson’s Theory supposes that character/personality development is determined by not only biological factors but also by historical, ethnic, and cognitive factors. Erikson’s theory explains challenges or issues that people face in the modern world. The fact that words such as “inner-space,” “identity crisis” and “lifespan” have gained prominence in spoken and written language is testament to Erikson Theory’s relevance. The Erikson’s theory also has a heuristic aspect that has stimulated thinking among philosophers, theologians and psychologists. This paper will define, compare and contrast the theories proposed by Sigmund and Erikson.


II. Freud Theory


The psychosexual theory by Freud argues that phases of personality growth are based on maturation of the sex instinct and that the manner in which guardians control the impulses from this instinct will determine the child’s future character.


III. Erikson Theory


Erikson’s theory, also known as the coherence theory of truth, utilizes an aspect of the philosophical perspective to explain personality. In contrast to Freud, Erikson does not employ a “scientific argument” to his understanding; instead he utilizes philosophical statements in the belief that, to come up with a proper personality theory, one would have to use a philosophical reasoning. To develop understanding, Erikson explored the development of the super-ego and also differentiated between adult ethics, adolescent ideology and infant mortality. In exploring these developments and differentiating between the three moral commitments, Erikson was able to show the manner through which epigenetic theories describe the development of principles/conscience. The egos outlined by Erikson can be looked at as ethical values that every individual should incorporate in his or her life. Thus unlike Freud, Erikson’s philosophical statements are explicit/direct (Shaffer & Kipp, 2010).


IV. Compare and contrast theories


Even though Erikson accepted many of the ideas proposed by Freud, he differed from his theory in two different aspects. First of all, Erikson in his 1963 work emphasized that children are curious explorers and discoverers who constantly try to adapt to different situations, unlike Freud’s idea that the children are passive subjects to biological drives and that they are to be moulded solely by their guardians. A second important difference is that Freud places more stress on sexual impulses and less stress on cultural influences than Erikson does. According to Schaffer (2009), Erikson’s thinking must have been informed by his own experiences.


Difference between Freud and Erikson theories


Erikson is renowned for his psychosocial theory while Sigmund Freud is renowned for his psychosexual theory. Both individuals are considered the fathers of modern psychology and theories they are known for, are on the development of character. While both theories have several similar aspects, for instance, the portrayal of life in stages, they do have several differences as well. For instance, even the theories themselves have different premises. The psychosexual theory is based on Freud’s belief that an individual is a slave of his or her biological urges and that an individual can get fixated if gratification is not achieved at a certain phase. While Erikson’s theory is based on Freud’s work, he, unlike Freud, believes that society and culture plays more significant roles in the development of an individual’s personality. In Freud’s theory, this is a part of the phallic phase. The phallic phase, according to Freud is the phase where the libido energy is still concentrated in the reproductive organs. And that this is also the stage where the boy-child identifies with his father and the girl-child similarly to her mother. Later the boys start getting attracted to their mothers (Oedipus complex) while girls to their fathers (Electra’s complex). In the psychosocial theory, Erikson has referred to this phase as the initiative versus guilt phase – whereby children start to assume control over their surroundings. According to Erikson, if the child succeeds at this phase, he or she develops a sense of purpose whereas, if he or she does not succeed they are left with a sense of guilt.


In general, the psychosexual theory is described as follows: According to Freud, the initial stage is the oral phase, and the child interacting with his or her environment using the mouth characterizes it. At this stage of life, the child is usually completely dependent on its guardians/caretakers and develops trust only through the mouth. The second phase is the anal phase where the main issue is the training the child to control their bowel and bladder movements. Success in this phase is characterized by child starting to use the washrooms effectively (Jarvis & Chandler, 2001). The third stage is the phallic phase, according to Freud, in this phase the libido/sexual energy is concentrated on the reproductive organs. During this stage boys start getting attracted to their mothers (Oedipus complex) while girls to their fathers (Electra’s complex). In the Oedipus complex, the boy child becomes attracted to the mother and starts viewing the father as a competitor to be dethroned and the girl child similarly views the mother as a rival. The fourth stage is also referred to as the latent period and during this stage, the libido or sexual energy is focused on other activities such as sports and education. The fifth and last stage in the psychosexual theory is also referred to as the genital stage and during this stage, the child develops attraction towards the opposite sex. Moreover, the child starts to outgrow his personal interests and begins developing a concern for community (Cherry, n.d).


Erikson’s psychosocial theory is also divided into phases. However, according to Erikson the first developmental stage is the trust versus mistrust phase. In this phase, the child through trust association with the actions of its caregivers develops a sense of comfort, safety and trust. In the psychosocial theory the second stage is referred to as the autonomy versus doubt and shame (Hayes, 1999). Erikson argued that this is the stage where the infant starts developing feelings of control of their environment through training by their caregivers. The third phase is the initiative versus guilt stage whereby the child begins to assert his or her beliefs in social interactions. The fourth phase is the industry versus inferiority phase whereby the child becomes concerned with gaining of intellectual and other skills resulting in self-gratification, if successful. However, Erikson pointed out that the development is highly based on the push and guidance of caregivers, parents and teachers (Jarvis, & Chandler, 2001). The fifth phase of development is the Identity vs. Role confusion stage. In this stage, the individual is believed to be in the process of developing his or her self-identity. Success in this stage leaves an individual with a sense of control and independence. The next phase in the psychosocial theory is the intimacy versus isolation phase where a person becomes concerned with developing personal relationships. According to Erikson the intimacy versus isolation phase is highly dependent on the identity versus role confusion stage, in that a strong identity of self is a prerequisite to the development of effective personal relationships. The next phase is the generativity versus stagnation phase whereby an individual develops a sense of family and career. In the final developmental stage, which Erikson termed as integrity versus despair phase is one whereby an individual reflects on his or her achievements. This stage is filled with nostalgia (Difference Between Erikson and Freud, 2011).


Freud’s theory mainly concentrates on the duration between childhood and adolescence where he postulates that the genital phase of development lasts until death unlike Erikson’s theory which has three more phases for adulthood which are intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation and integrity versus despair (Cherry, n.d). Freud’s theory is based on libido energy, while Erikson does not give much emphasis on sex for development of personality. Erikson concentrated on identity believing that one’s identity was developed throughout his lifespan, while Freud opined that identity is primarily developed in adolescence. Freud and Erikson have described the developmental stages differently. Even though both opine that life develops according to predetermined stages, Freud’s psychosexual theory focuses on the influence of sex on personality development while Erikson’s psychosocial theory focuses on societal impact on personality development (Difference Between Erikson and Freud, 2011).


In Freud’s psychosexual theory he believed that people are born with Id (which according to him is the pleasure seeking part of an individual’s personality). Freud believed that Id was important since it drives one towards his or her basic needs. He also argued that Id does not consider the circumstances and just seeks gratification. He further argued that within three years of life, a child starts developing his or her ego. The ego is developed on the basis of reality, and that though it aims to gratify the needs of the Id, it first considers the circumstances and tries to balance Id with ego. Within five years, the child starts developing a conscience from the rules and restrictions imposed by parents and other people he interact with. Freud further stated that the ego is the most rational and pragmatic part of one’s personality (Sincero, 2012).


According to Erikson, the phases of development entail challenges that an individual has to overcome if he or she is to succeed in the later stages. During the first four years after birth, the infant must develop trust in others, if he or she is not able to do this he or she will not be able to trust later in life. Within the first three years, the child must also develop independence or he or she while be doubtful of their own abilities later in life. Between the third and the sixth year, the child has to learn to be assertive by planning and leading situations, if not they will always be followers in life with no trust in their own leadership. The child must then between age six and twelve develop a sense of confidence and pride or they will feel discouraged and will forever hence be in doubt. At adolescence, a boy or girl must develop his or her self-identity or else they will be confused of what he or she wants to achieve. He or she must also, as a young adult develop personal relationships; lack of such relationships will cause one to be pessimistic. Contributions to community during middle adult hood and integrity in late adulthood are powerful factors in an individual development and without the former one may feel like a failure while without the latter one may feel unproductive (Sincero, 2012).


V. Conclusion with a reason argument explaining the argumentation


Erikson and Freud are two of the most influential psychoanalysts in the modern day world. Even though Freud’s and Erikson’s theories are different in terms of focus, they also share several similarities. For instance, Erikson was in agreement with some of Freud’s ideas such as the ‘fact’ that human development was based on predetermined stages. However, there were also several differences. First was that Erikson emphasized that children are curious explorers and discoverers who constantly try to adapt to different situations, unlike Freud’s idea that the children are passive subjects to biological drives and that they are to be moulded by their guardians. A second important difference is that Freud places much more stress on sexual impulses and much less stress on cultural influences than Erikson did. Thus, Freud’s theory was titled as psychosexual while Erikson’s was labelled psychosocial.


Freud and Erikson Theory 6




Cherry, K. (n.d.). Freud vs. Erikson: How Do Their Theories Compare? Retrieved November 16, 2015, from http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/ss/Freud-and-Erikson Compared.htm#step2


Difference Between Erikson and Freud (2011, April 5). Retrieved November 16, 2015, from http://www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-erikson-and-freud/


Hayes, N. (1999). Access to Psychology. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton Educational


Jarvis, M. & Chandler, E. (2001).Angles on Psychology. Cheltenham, Australia: Nelson Thornes Limited.


Shaffer, D. R. (2009). Social and personality development. Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.


Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2010). Developmental psychology: Childhood and adolescence. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.


Sincero S. M. (Jun 15, 2012).Psychodynamic Theories of Personality. Retrieved Nov 16, 2015 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/psychodynamic-theories-of-personality

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