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Erikson, E.H. (1956). The Problem of Ego Identity. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 4:56-121.

(1956). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 4:56-121

The Problem of Ego Identity

Erik Homburger Erikson


In my attempt to circumscribe the problem of identity I have been "all over the map." I do not propose to leave the matter in this condition: as far as is possible, studies taking into account the specific dynamic nature of selected media (life history, case history, dream life, ideology) will follow. In the meantime, and in summary: identity, in outbalancing at the conclusion of childhood the potentially malignant dominance of the infantile super-ego, permits the individual to forgo excessive self-repudiation and the diffused repudiation of otherness. Such freedom provides a necessary condition for the ego's power to integrate matured sexuality, ripened capacities, and adult commitments. The histories of our young patients illustrate the ways in which aggravated identity crises may result from special genetic causes and from specific dynamic conditions. Such studies, in turn, throw new light on those more or less institutionalized rites and rituals, associations, and movements through which societies and subsocieties grant youth a world between childhood and adulthood: a psychosocial moratorium during which extremes of subjective experience, alternatives of ideological choice, and potentialities of realistic commitment can become the subject of social play and of joint mastery.

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