«Impact of Low Socioeconomic Status on a Person within Erikson's Theory» - Free Essay Paper

Impact of Low Socioeconomic Status on a Person within Erikson's Theory


Erikson’s theory involves eight stages of psychosocial development, corresponding to eight age crises. At each of these stages, a person has to complete the task, important for his/her personal development (McLeod, 2013). The way in which people adapt to life at every stage of development impacts the way they cope with the next task. The nature of psychosocial adaptation to problems plays an important role in the individual’s development. In addition, social environment and socioeconomic status have an exceptionally big impact on person’s development. The current paper will examine the way in which low socioeconomic status affects healthy development of a person, navigating through Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development.

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The First Stage: Trust or Mistrust

According to Erikson’s theory, the first stage of human development covers the first year of life. During this period, social interaction parameter is developed. It involves trust as the positive pole, and mistrust as the negative pole. The task of this stage is to create the necessary balance between trust and distrust of the world (McLeod, 2013).

The degree of confidence that the child feels to the outside world, to others and to himself, is largely dependent on the care exhibited by him. A baby will be confident if he/she gets what he/she wants, whose needs are quickly met, who never feels malaises for a long time, with whom they play and talk, who feels that, in general, the world is the cozy place and people are responsive and helpful (Bee & Boyd, 2009, p. 67). However, the low socioeconomic status of the family often does not allow a baby to receive proper care. Experiencing a difficult financial situation, the mother is not able to buy everything necessary for a child, pay enough attention to him/her since she may often be busy, looking for a way to earn money. In extreme cases, the baby can even starve. Baby does not have a feeling that behavior of the mother is confident and predictable.

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Thus, low socioeconomic status at the first stage of child’s development produces mistrust. In future, a baby may experience fearfulness and suspicion towards the world, in general, and the people, in particular. Physically, this impact manifests itself in an increased nervousness and capriciousness of the child (Bee & Boyd, 2009, p. 68). This mistrust may be carried to other stages of development of the person.

The Second Stage: Autonomy and Indecision

The second stage covers the second and third years of life. According to Erickson, during this period, the child develops independence through the development of his/her motor and mental abilities (McLeod, 2013). At this stage, the child develops a variety of movements, learns to not only walk, but also to climb, open and close, push and pull, hold, let go and throw. The main task of stage is to develop autonomy and acquire self-control and willpower.

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If educators are impatient and in a hurry to do something for the child, to which he/she himself is capable of, he/she develops modesty and indecision. As a result of low socioeconomic status, parents may be concerned about the things that may be damaged by child’s activities, since their ability to buy new ones is limited. Thus, they may unreasonably and constantly scold the child for ‘accidents’, whether it is the wet bed, stained pants, broken cup or spilled milk. Also, due to the same reason, parents may be impatient and hurry to do something for the child, which she/he is capable of. It develops modesty and indecision in children. Children growing under such conditions may experience a sense of shame in front of other people and uncertainty in the ability to govern themselves and the environment. Physically, uncertainty may manifest itself in weakness and inertness (Bee & Boyd, 2009, p. 72).

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The Third Stage: Entrepreneurial Spirit and a Sense of Guilt

The third stage is usually between the ages of four to five years. The main task of the stage is to develop the initiative (entrepreneurial spirit) and acquire the direction and ambition (McLeod, 2013). The child starts to invent activities, rather than just responding to the actions of other children or imitating them. Social setting of the stage develops between the entrepreneurial spirit and the feeling of guilt (Crain, 2011, p. 90). Which of these qualities will outweigh in the character largely depends on the way in which parents react to the child’s actions. Unfortunately, with low socioeconomic status, parents often do not pay enough attention to the child’s ventures being busy, tired of searching for money. Moreover, parents may show the child that his or her motor activity is harmful, annoying, and undesirable, show that they have no time for his questions and games. As a result, the child begins to feel guilty and carries this sense of guilt in his/her subsequent stages of life.

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The Fourth Stage: Skillfulness and Inferiority

The fourth stage is between the age of six and eleven years. During this period, the child develops the ability to deduction, organized games, and regulated occupations. Psychosocial setting at this stage is characterized by skillfulness and a sense of inferiority. The main task of the stage is to develop skillfulness (courage) against the feelings of inferiority and to learn the system approach and acquire the competence (McLeod, 2013).

The child is interested in the way things are arranged, the way they can be learned and adapted. Low socioeconomic status of the family may result in the fact that parents consider the child’s development as a dalliance and mess and forbid him/her to play with/damage the things. Some parents cannot afford to pay for the educational classes to compensate for this. It may promote the feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. At this stage, along with the family, school and other public institutions, as well as an attitude that a child meets there, has a major impact on the mind’s balance (Crain, 2011, p. 91). A child may face discrimination, based on his/her social position. As a result, if a child despairs of his or her instruments of labor and workers’ skills and rank among the companions, it could discourage the identification with them. Thus, the child may feel doomed to mediocrity or inadequacy.

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The Fifth Stage: Personal Identification and Confusion of Roles

In the transition to the fifth stage (12-18 years), social setting occurring in this period fluctuates between the positive pole of identification and the negative pole of role confusion (McLeod, 2013). In contrast to the previous stages, the effect that parents have is much more indirect. The main task of the stage is to realize one’s own individuality. However, the chances for identification significantly decrease in distrustful, bashful, insecure, full of guilt and the conscious of own inferiority teenager, who was unable to complete the previous tasks due to low socioeconomic status.

Teenagers are trying to strengthen their own social role. They show the painful concern about the way they look in the eyes of others, as well as look for ways to combine the roles and skills they cultivated before, with the ideal prototype of today (Crain, 2011, p. 94). Therefore, search for self-identity can be a difficult process for groups of people with low socioeconomic status. For example, a teenager from poor family may find it difficult to reach a clear sense of self-identity in a society that is aimed at consumption, and considers poor as second-class citizens. In some cases, this difficulty may lead to ‘negative identification’, since it is better to identify themselves with a ‘juvenile delinquent’ or ‘addict’ than to be unable to find own individuality (Crain, 2011, p. 94). As a result, the self-identity crisis may become a psychosocial problem due to low socioeconomic status.

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The Sixth Stage: Proximity and Isolation

The sixth stage covers the period from the end of adolescence to the beginning of middle age. Hereinafter, Erickson does not clearly inform about the importance of age. Specific to this, the stage parameter varies between the proximity and loneliness. The main task is to develop an ability to care about the other person, share the essential with him without the fear of losing one’s own identity (Germer & Siegel, 2014, p. 89). Success or failure, at this stage, does not depend directly on the parents, but only on how well a person has passed the previous stages.

As in the case of identification, social status can facilitate or impede the achievement of intimacy. A person, for a long time experiencing financial difficulties, may also experience difficulties in the development of ability to share. Diffidence, associated with low socioeconomic status in conjunction with failure to succeed in completing the previous tasks, may not be ready to allow another person to enter his or her life. If neither in marriage, nor in friendship, a person reaches the intimacy, she/he experiences loneliness - the human condition, in which there is no one to share life and care.

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The Seventh Stage: Common Humanity and Self-absorption

The seventh stage covers the period of mature age. At this stage, there is a new parameter of identification with common humanity at one end of the scale, and self-absorption at the other. The main task of this stage is to develop the ability to take an interest in the fate of people outside the family circle, to think about the lives of future generations, and future forms of society.

However, people with low socioeconomic status have to focus on themselves, specifically concentrating on the satisfaction of their own needs and ensuring an appropriate level of comfort. In addition, the failure of the resolution of previous conflicts often leads to excessive preoccupation regarding health, the desire by all means to satisfy own psychological needs, protect peace, and so forth (Sahler & Carr, 2012, p. 33). Thus, at this stage, the low socioeconomic status may deprive a person of the possibility to fulfill the main task of psychosocial development, specifically the interest in structure of life and admonition of a new generation.











The Eighth Stage: Integrity and Hopelessness

The eighth and final stage covers the last part of life. Its main task is to create and realize one’s own ego integrity. The psychosocial setting of this period varies between integrity and despair. At this time, the focus of human attention is shifted from worries about the future to the past experiences.

This last phase of maturity is characterized not so much by the new psychosocial crisis but by the summation, understanding, and evaluation of all the previous stages. Thus, the modest financial situation does not have the major impact on development, but rather is perceived as an indirect complication, in addition to the main losses, such as the death of a spouse or close friends. People who consider that their life is failed due to low socioeconomic status or any other reason experience hopelessness. Bitterness and regret may eventually cause senile dementia, depression, hypochondria, strong anger and paranoid behavior in an elderly (Sahler & Carr, 2012, p. 40).

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Theory of psychosocial development of personality was created by Erik Erikson. He describes eight stages of personality development and focuses on the development of individuality. According to this theory, development continues throughout life. Each of the stages of development can be noted for the specific task. Low socioeconomic status may affect the person at each stage. This impact is characterized by destructive nature. Unfortunately, financial difficulties may result in failure to complete the task development.

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