Theories of Development: Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 599 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Nov 22, 2018

Words: 599|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Nov 22, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Theory of Operant Conditioning
  2. Continuity and Discontinuity
    The Still Face Experiment
    Secure Attachments vs. Insecure Attachment

Both Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson believed that personality is developed in certain fixed stages. However, Erikson disagreed with some parts of Freud’s theory of psychosexual development so he modified this theory by creating his own theory of psychosocial development. Both of these theories focus on a person’s early development and experiences but they called and viewed the stages differently. The first stage which is 1-2 3 years old was called by Freud as the anal stage of development while Erikson called it the autonomy versus shame and doubt stage. While Freud focused on sexual stimulation, Erikson emphasized self-doubt and independence if one succeeds or fails at this stage. Freud mostly talked about libido; physical development and psychosexual relationship in the other stages while Erikson highlighted interpersonal relationship and personal identity. Erikson also added three more stages in the period of adulthood. Intimacy versus isolation is the stage in which a person looks for love and romantic relationship. Generativity versus stagnation is when adults support others and make social contributions. The last stage is integrity versus despair where adults feel bitter or fulfilled when they look back on their past life.

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Theory of Operant Conditioning

Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning suggests that behaviour can be modified by using positive and negative reinforcement. Various parts of a person’s environment such as parents, friends and teachers react positively or negatively. When the behaviour is positive, a person is likely to repeat this behaviour but if it is negative, he is going to eliminate it. Skinner believed that the cause of a person’s action and its consequences is the most ideal way to understand behaviour.

Continuity and Discontinuity

Continuity and discontinuity are two different theories that aim to explain various changes in people’s lives. The continuity theory claims that change is a continuous process. Meaning, people change in all periods of their lives. Discontinuity theory opposes to this idea as it proposes that changes in people’s lives are abrupt or unexpected.

The Still Face Experiment

The Still Face Experiment was conducted by Edward Tronick and other researchers in 1975 where they made an experiment on an infant. One of the findings of the experiment was that infants react based on their mother’s facial expression. When the mother is expressionless, an infant will cry because he wants his mother’s attention. This experiment led to another finding that infants have basic social cognition and they are able to relate facial expression with emotions (Rathus 125).

Secure Attachments vs. Insecure Attachment

Infants develop either secure attachment or insecure attachment depending on how they are taken care of. When an infant’s caregiver treats the child negatively, he is likely to develop insecure attachment but when an infant is treated positively, the child will develop secure attachment. Children who are securely attached to their caregivers are likely to experience less stress, have better problem solving skills and tend to build better relationships with other people. On the other hand, children with insecure attachment are likely to avoid other people, show fear, anxiety or anger and overstress.

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Unfortunately, 695,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect each year and there are cases that lead to fatalities. Due to social deprivation, many children experience a lot of difficulties at an early age and this can affect their social, mental and emotional development. When a child lacks social relationships, he will feel unloved and neglected. To seek attention, he is likely to develop negative behaviours such as smoking, drinking and skipping classes. Neglected children want the attention of the people around them so they will do anything to feel their love and concern.

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Theories of Development: Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud. (2018, November 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Theories of Development: Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud.” GradesFixer, 05 Nov. 2018,
Theories of Development: Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Theories of Development: Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Nov 05 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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