Identity confusion arises when an individual experiences a sense of isolation or non-belonging within a cultural or social context. According to Erikson, it is a consequence of a sense of disaffection from cultural conventions that lead to an absence of a distinct self-identity or image (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Nonetheless, identity confusion can have a positive effect on an individual’s personality if one is deliberately exposed to and influenced by the historical and social factors that foster adaptive rather than maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Several factors influence the choice of the topic on Erikson’s identity theory and how identity confusion can have a positive impact on personality. Firstly, it is indisputable that anyone who enjoys the privilege of a long life up until old age, above the age of 55, must go through the psychosocial stages of personality development. The development of every individual’s personality inevitably progresses through distinct phases identified by Erikson, thus, understanding the identity theory is integral to cultivating positive attitudes and personalities. Secondly, by recognizing that personality development occurs throughout people’s lifetime and the influence of external factors, the identity theory offers hints on how to cultivate positive tendencies and alter negative attitudes. It advances a possible solution to the challenges associated with negative personality attributes and can be applied as a possible therapeutic approach for those aiming to change negative attitudes and personalities and develop positive traits. Thirdly, that the theory’s development was informed by its proponent’s personal experiences and that Erikson lacked any formal academic qualification is very intriguing.
Erikson’s identity theory, the subject of chapter 6, primarily posits that an individual’s search for an identity is an instrumental factor in the development of a personality. He suggests that the development of personality occurs in eight distinct phases, each characterized by a conflict that a person must confront and cope with to develop a personality (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). The outcome of each phase depends on whether one embraces an adaptive or maladaptive coping approach, which are determinative of the development of either basic strengths or weaknesses (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Notably, although the theory maintains the fundamental influence of genetics, it posits that environmental factors also play a critical role in personality development (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Therefore, external factors also influence personality development.
However, applying all aspects of the theory to fully ascertain its efficacy is imperative. Syed and Fish (2018) decry that contemporary identity researchers rarely recognize that Erikson considered extrinsic factors such as culture, ethnicity, and race as prominent influences on personality development. Therefore, these authors reveal the need for a holistic evaluation of the theory to enable its effective application within the modern context. Although developed many decades ago, the relevance and applicability of the identity theory today is indisputable. For example, studies have established that it its popularity and applicability within the modern education setting is growing (Flum & Kaplan, 2012; Kolar, 2018). Hence, the identity theory is a critical tool that can be harnessed to mold and influence the development of positive personality attributes in children.
Erikson’s identity theory can inform the development of solutions to address challenges associated with negative personality development. Understanding the influence of external, environmental factors makes it possible to tailor a suitable environment to address personality deficiencies. The theory is informative on the possibility of manipulating the environmental factors as a way of influencing the development of positive personalities. Therefore, it presents potentially useful solutions to problems that plague the real world.
Flum, H., & Kaplan, A. (2012). Identity formation in educational settings: A contextualized view of theory and research in practice. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37(3), 240-245.
Kolar, R. (2018). How to apply Erikson’s theory in instruction. The Classroom. Web.
Schultz, D., & Schultz, S. (2017). Theories of personality (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.
Syed, M., & Fish, J. (2018). Revisiting Erik Erikson’s legacy on culture, race, and ethnicity. Identity, 18(4), 274-283.