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(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IV, 1956: The Problem of Ego Identity. Erik Homburger Erikson. Pp. 56-121.. Psychoanal Q., 29:133.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IV, 1956: The Problem of Ego Identity. Erik Homburger Erikson. Pp. 56-121.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:133

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IV, 1956: The Problem of Ego Identity. Erik Homburger Erikson. Pp. 56-121.

Continuing from earlier thoughts Erikson deals here in a new and broad way with the reciprocal interaction of ego and environment. He points out that ego identity is more than the sum of previous identifications; it is actually a new synthesis. He is aware of the earlier need to consider the individual in a kind of isolation, but stresses that an individual ego could not exist without a specifically human environment; yet its development also depends on a potential within the individual for growth in stages. He extends Hartmann's concept of the infant as born 'preadapted to an average expectable environment' to a preadaptedness for a chain of expectable environments. For the individual these stages occur sequentially as psychosocial crises, with a potential for growth in each. Their outcome depends on the outcome of previous development and upon the social institutions aimed at helping to solve the crisis. Hartmann, Kris, and Loewenstein suggest describing cultural conditions according to how they inhibit or invite conflict-free ego functions. Erikson goes beyond this to say that there is a systematic effort by older egos to meet the phase-specific synthetic needs of growing individuals.

In this paper his emphasis is on one of these phase-specific psychosocial crises, the full development of ego identity. This crisis is specific for adolescence. There is necessity for a new synthesis of previous adaptations and identifications in correlation with the current situation and future possibilities (for example, in regard to intimacy versus isolation, or to sexual identification versus sexual diffusion). Various social institutions interact with this synthesis and are aimed at helping to solve the crisis; these include a psychosocial moratorium during adolescence allowing time for role experimentation; various ideologies (simplified views of life) which encourage investment of energy and identification with a group; and gradual acceptance by society of the identity formation of the individual. Various difficulties may also lead to identity diffusion or formation of negative identities.

Erikson discusses points of coincidence with ego psychology and other problems. He illustrates his exposition very aptly with a consideration of George Bernard Shaw, various 'borderline' patients, and the kibbutz movement in Israel.

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Article Citation

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. IV, 1956. Psychoanal. Q., 29:133

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