, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 15-21

Erik Erikson: Critical Times, Critical Theory

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Abstract

The work and legacy of Erik Erikson are described in this brief outline of his career, his theories, and his impact on psychoanalysis, psychology, history, and the broader culture. His conception of the adolescent task—weaving internal tastes, talents, and values together with elements of one's life history and the demands of one's culture into a coherent identity—has had profound effects on developmental psychology and the way in which sophisticated youth construct and describe their lives. His extension of development through adulthood and old age established the field of life course development. His emphasis on the impact of history and culture on development was a critical element in the developing field of ego psychology. Many of his major contributions can be fruitfully understood in the context of his personal history and individual qualities.