Bereavement causes a profound effect on the development of the adolescent. During this stage of development, the main task the young adult has is developing self-identity. However, the parents and guardians, who should guide them through this stage, are also busy grieving.
Their peers are not best suited to help them overcome this type of grief. Therefore, they experience a crisis, which seriously hampers the development of self-identity. In explaining the development of self-identity, the author analyzes Erik Erikson’s theory of development. The theory majorly argues that the manner in which families bring up their children determines how their adolescents interact with peers and the environment in the process of developing self-identity.
The first thing the author notes about Erikson’s definition of self-identity is its “multi-dimensionality, broadness and inclusiveness” (Hyatt, 2010, p. 30). He acknowledges that the development of self-identity is a continuous process: it occurs throughout the life of individuals as they meet and overcome challenges in every stage of the development process (Hyatt, 2010). The author also takes note of Sigmund Freud’s influence on Erikson’s ideas.
He argues that the emphasis on the interaction between the individual and the environment was Freud’s idea (Hyatt, 2010). According to him, Erikson argues that the development of the self is a result of epigenetic steps: one step leads to the other (Hyatt, 2010). He also learns that a healthy individual develops due to a proper mastery of the environment, integrating all aspects of personality and accurately viewing the world ((Hyatt, 2010)).
The second thing the author learns from Erikson’s theory is that it is an expansion of Freud’s psychosexual stages of development (Hyatt, 2010). According to the author, each of the eight stages Erikson proposes entails a conflict the individual must solve in order to develop into a healthy individual (Hyatt, 2010). In addition, he learns that overcoming the conflicts helps adolescents develop strong egos.
He also learns that the self develops from the interaction between peers, parents, the society, caregivers and the environment and that the adolescent must integrate all past experiences to overcome future challenges (Hyatt, 2010). Poor integration leads to stagnation, which may be mild or serious depending on how individuals handle the conflicts (Hyatt, 2010). Hence, they may not be able to achieve their development goals.
Thirdly, the author learns that Erikson believes that adolescence begins at the age of 12 (Hyatt, 2010). During this period, teens are in a stage Erikson calls “identity versus role confusion”. They seek to know who they are and their attention shifts from their parents to peers: they listen to their friends more than their parents (Hyatt, 2010).
The author also learns that the role of the family is very critical at this stage: if the family properly handles the stages that precede adolescence, the individual will know how to relate with peers. Otherwise, he or she might end up in wrong groups. He also learns that the adolescent should get rid of old values and practices without anxiety and embrace new ones in the process of acquiring self-identity (Hyatt, 2010).
Developing a mutual relationship helps the adolescent avoid isolation and achieve autonomy (Hyatt, 2010). The writer also notes that this relationship helps the adolescent learn how to share intimacy without difficulties and fear (Hyatt, 2010). He further notes Erikson’s suggestion that adolescents should question what adults do because such questions help them develop into responsible adults.
The author also learns that Erikson’s theory does not explore the role of gender diversity in the development of self-identity (Hyatt, 2010). According to him, Erikson puts too much emphasis on the role of the mother at the expense of the father. He also learns that Erikson describes a streamlined and universal process of self-development (Hyatt, 2010).
He insists that the process is non-linear and varies from one person to the other. In addition, he argues that every individual has different personalities: the professional self, the friendly self and the private self (Hyatt, 2010). The writer asserts that these categories are not pathological in any aspect (Hyatt, 2010).
The author also criticizes Erikson’s work for lacking enough facts to support it. According to him, Erikson based his work on “clinical experience and metaphor” rather than research (Hyatt, 2010, p. 32). In other words, the theory is very impractical and is not based on real-life occurrences. He thinks Erikson should have done more research using real-life situations before publishing his research findings.
In summary, the writer learns that Freud’s psychoanalytic theory had a profound impact on Erikson’s ideas. Erikson argues that what adolescents become at the end of the adolescence stage depends on how they interact with their parents, peers, the society and the environment.
As the writer explains, if they properly interact with these factors, they will successfully go through the process of self-development. However, if families do not shape their children’s behaviors, they will find themselves in the company of wrong friends. Worse still, they will poorly interact with their environment, leading to poor self-development.
Hyatt, E. (2010). Development in Crisis: Adolescent sibling bereavement (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.