Formation of Identity

  • Overview of Theories of Development
  • The theories of changes that occur in a lifespan, and each stage builds up over another.
  • Freud – Proposed the psychosexual theory of development.
    • Believed early childhood was the most important age/period it developed. Plays large role in personality development.
    • 5 stages – if completed successfully, result is a healthy issue. If issues aren’t resolved at a certain stage, then fixation occurs
  • Erikson – Psychosocial development theory.
    • Proposed personality/identity development occurs through one’s entire lifespan.
    • Each stage depends on overcoming a conflict, and success/failure at each stage affects overall functioning of theory.
    • 8 stages
  • Vygotsky – Sociocultural development theory
    • Believed children learned actively through hands-on processes, and suggest parents/cultural beliefs/language/attitudes are all responsible for higher function of learning.
    • Child internalizes interactions with others.
  • Kohlberg – Moral development theory .
    • Focused on moral reasoning and difference between right and wrong.
    • Moral reasoning develops through cognitive development, and people pass through 3 stages of development (each with 2 stages) – 6 levels total
  • In general, Freud and Erikson were interested in how personality develops, and Vygotsky and Kohlberg were interested in how cognition develops


  • Freud’s Psychosexual Development
  • Proposed psychological development in childhood developed through these stages, and concept of tension and pleasure – the build-up of tension could cause a lot of conflicts.
    • Fixation was due to concept of libido – a natural energy source that fuels mechanisms of mind. And when fixated, can have lifelong effect well into adulthood. Libido is centered at different parts of the body at different times of development.
    • First 5 years are crucial


  • Old = oral, age = anal, parrots = phallic, love = latent, grapes = genital
  • Depending on what stage we’re at, going to be different fixation of energy at certain body part.
    • For oral stage – focus is mouth. For anal stage, anus, phallic is genitals, latent is none, and genital stage is the genitals.
  • Oral stage – age 0-1, libido is centered around baby’s mouth, vital for sucking/eating. Because completely dependent on caretakers, baby also develops sense of trust and comfort.
    • If fixation here, issues with dependency or aggression. Also smoking or biting fingers.
  • Anal stage – age 1-2, centered around anus, ex. toilet training. Leads to developing control/independence, encouraging positive outcomes. Serve as basis for competent adults.
    • If fixation occurs, have problems with orderliness and messiness.
  • Phallic stage – age 3-6, children discover difference between males and females. Oedipus complex (desire for sexual involvement with other parent) also develops. Resoled through process of identification, where child starts to understand and develop similar characteristics as same-sex parent.
    • If fixation occurs, cause sexual dysfunction. Oedipus complex and Electra complex at this stage.
  • Latent periodno focus of libido. A period of exploration, libido present but directed into other areas such as intellectual pursuits and social interactions. Important in development of social and communication skills.
    • Fixation doesn’t develop into adult fixation.
  • Genital stageback on libido, because individual develops strong sexual interests. Before this stage, focus on individual needs. Now, focus on needs of others.
    • No adult fixation – person is mentally healthy.


  • Erikson’s Psychosocial Development
  • Greatly influenced by Freud, but his theory was based on culture and society
    • Another key difference between his and Freud’s theory was he suggested there was plenty of room for growth throughout one’s life (not just childhood).
    • Assumed a crisis can occur at each stage of development, between needs of individual and society. Successful of 8 stages results in acquisition of basic virtues and healthy personality.
  • Failure in certain stage results in reduced ability to move on to further stages.
  1. 1 yrs., trust vs. mistrust. If an infant’s physical and emotional needs are not met, as an adult he or she may mistrust everyone. Virtue is hope, and failing to acquire of virtue can lead to suspicion/fear/mistrust.
  2. 2 yrs., autonomy vs. shame/doubt. Around 18 months to 3 yrs. children develop independence by walking away from mother, what they eat, etc. Critical that parents allow children to do that. Virtue achieved is will (independence). If child is overly criticized/controlled, feel inadequate and lack self-esteem, and have shame.
  • 3-5 yrs., initiative vs. guilt. Children feel more secure in their ability to lead others and play, so ask questions. Virtue they reach is a sense of purpose in what they do and choices/decisions they make. If tendency to ask questions is controlled, develop guilt – as if they’re annoying other people and act more as a follower. Inhibits their creativity, and outcome is inadequacy.
  1. 6-12. industry vs. inferiority. Where teachers take an important role in a child’s life, and child works towards competence. Child will gain greater significance and self-esteem, and try to win approval from others. Will feel industrious, but if initiative is restricted child feels inferior. Some is good though, so child has modesty.
  2. 12-18, identity vs. role confusion Transition from childhood to adulthood, so one of most important crisis. Want to start feeling they belong in society. In this stage, the child has to learn rules, so may re-examine identity to figure out who they are. Body image plays big role. Virtue is fidelity, seeing oneself as unique. Can cause rebellion/unhappiness.
  3. intimacy vs. isolation. Try to find love and relationships. Completion leads to comfortable relationships, avoiding intimacy can lead to isolation/loneliness.
  • 40-65, Generativity vs. stagnation so settle down, make families the center of their lives, and sense of being part of bigger picture.. Adults feel like they give back through raising children/work/community activities, so develop sense of care for others. Negative outcome is they feel stagnate and unproductive.
  • 65+, integrity vs. despair slowing in productivity. Contemplate on lives, reminisce. May feel guilt about past or unaccomplished, dissatisfied. Virtue is wisdom, but if we feel unproductive leads to despair/dissatisfaction upon death.


  • Vygotsky Sociocultural Development
  • Studied the role social interaction plays in development of cognition.
    • Focussed on social interactions between growing children and interactions with those around them in development of higher order learning.
  • Said babies have 4 elementary mental functions:
    • Attention, sensation, perception, and memory.
    • These elementary mental functions are developed into more sophisticated and mental processeshigher mental functions. Most develop from skillful “tutor” – a model, ex. parent/teacher.
    • Independent learning and thinking
      • Requires cooperative and collaborative dialogue from a MKO (more knowledgeable other).
      • Zone of proximal development – part where most sensitive instruction/guidance should be given. Ex. between ability of not being able to do something and being able to do something. ZPD is the link between the zone of can’t do and can do.
      • Language – the main means by which adults transmit info to children, and a powerful tool of intellectual adaptation. Ex. private/internal speech, when people speak out loud to themselves – happens most in children. Way for children to plan activities/strategies, and aids their development.
  • Kohlberg Moral Development
  • Moral theory of development, different from previous 3, but based on cognitive development similar to Vygotsy.
    • Looked at how people developed their morals, and the way moral reasoning changes as people grow.
    • Also looked at children. He told stories to children and gauged their response.
      • Most famous story was the Heinz Dilemma, his wife was dying from cancer and drug was discovered made my local chemist that could save her. Chemist charged 10x the price it took to make the drug, and more than Heinz could afford. Only had half the family, so explained to chemist his wife was dying, but chemist refused. He broke into chemist’s office at night and stole the drug.
        • Asked children questions like what if Heinz didn’t love his wife, if person dying was a stranger, should he have stolen it, and should police arrest chemist for murder if woman died.
        • After analyzing these, he came up with 3 moral stages, each split into 2.
  1. Pre-Conventional (pre-adolescent)
    • Obedience vs. Punishment – reasoning is based on physical consequences of actions, so obeying the rules is a means to avoid punishment.
    • Individualism and Exchange – recognize not just one right view by authorities, different individuals have different viewpoints.
  2. Conventional
    • Good Boy and Good Girl – Authority is internalized, but not questioned, and reasoning is based on group person belongs. Individual is good in order to be seen as good by others, emphasis on conformity.
    • Law and Order – maintaining social order, child is aware of wider roles of society and obeying laws.
  3. Post-Conventional (moral)
    • Social Contract – Individual becomes aware that even though rules and laws exist for greater good, there are times this law works against interest of particular people.
      • for Heinz, is protection of life more important than breaking/stealing? People at this stage said yes.
    • Universal Ethical Principle – people develop own set of moral guidelines, which may or may not fit the law, and principles apply to everyone. People who uphold and believe in these have to be prepared to act towards these even if they have to obey consequences. Very few people who reach this stage, ex. Ghandi.
  • Social Influences
  • How imitation, roles, reference groups, and culture are all parts of social influence.
  • Imitation – a type of individual social influence, one of most basic forms of social behavior. Begins with understanding there’s difference between others and self.
    • Andrew Meltzoff questioned theory that understanding between self and others happens soon after birth. Picture baby 12-21 days old, baby copies sticking tongue out. Imitating experimenter.
    • Was it true imitation or something else? Picture you opening mouth, baby should also open mouth. Had to ensure it wasn’t a reflex or conditioning either.
    • Suggests we are born with built-in capacity to imitate others.
    • Evidence suggests we have mirror neurons, when one fires another fires when we observe same action performed by other person.
  • Roles – define what we do and who we are. Social norms are the accepted standards of behavior of a social group, use it to guide our behaviours. We respond to their approval when we play our roles well, and disapproval when we play roles badly. Expect people to behave in way that fits that role, and have them even more when roles are stereotyped.
    • Prison experiment
  • Reference groups – the group to which people refer in evaluating themselves. People’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviours.
    • Constantly looking for external groups that align with our beliefs/attitudes/behaviours. Influences our social decisions.
  • Culture and socialization – important contributions of society to our personal development, the people and culture in which we live.


  • George Herbert Mead: The I and the Me
  • Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead both thought others could play a significant role in how we view ourselves, but differed in how they thought this would happen.
    • Cooley thought everyone a person interacts with in a lifetime influences their identity
    • Mead thought this was more restricted – only certain people can and only in certain periods of life.
  • Mead developed the idea of social behaviourism, the mind and self-emerge through the process of communicating with others (beginning of symbolic interactionism).
    • Infants + children were not influenced by others in any way, merely imitate others, and see themselves as being the focus of their own world and don’t care what others think of them. Lack ability to take perspective of another person – related to Piaget’s concept of egocentrism.
  • As we grow up, how others perceive us is more important, 3 stages:
  1. Preparatory stageimitation, ex. play with pots and pans when parents are cooking. As they grow older, focus more on communication with others instead of simple imitation, and get practice using symbols (gestures/words).
  2. Play stage – more aware of social relationships, reflected in children’s tendency to pretend role play as others like firefighters, doctors, etc.
    • Mentally assuming perspective of others and acting based on their perceived point of view.
  3. Game stage – Start to understand attitudes/beliefs/behavior of “generalized other” (society as a whole). With this comes whole new understanding of society. Also realize people can take on multiple roles. Also realize others perceive them, and are influenced by these perceptions and are concerned by reactions of others to what they do. But don’t care about reactions of everyone, only significant others (important relationships, ex. parents/teachers/close peers).
    • Believe this last stage led to development of the “I” and “me”.
    • Me = how the individual believes the generalized other perceives it, the social self, and the “I” is our response to the “me”.
    • I = the response of the individual to the “me” aka attitudes of others.
    • Me = society’s view (that’s me!), the part of self-formed in interaction with others and social environment, and I = individual identity stepping in and our personal responses to what society thinks.
      • The “I” is the spontaneous and autonomous part of our unified self.
    • Charles Cooley – Looking Glass Self
    • Socialization describes the process by which people learn the attitudes, behaviours, and values expected by their culture/community.
      • Can be learned through parents, peers, person at supermarket, celebrity, etc.
      • Socialization also shapes our self-image, and Charles Cooley used the term “looking glass self” to describe this process – idea that a person’s sense of self develops from interpersonal interactions with others.
    • Thought this happened in 3 steps

1) How do I appear to others?

2) What must others think of me? (shy, intelligent, awkward)

3) Revise how we think about ourselves (based on correct OR incorrect perceptions).

  • Critical aspect of this theory is Cooley believed we are not actually being influenced by opinions of others, but what we imagine the opinions of other people to be.
    • Say we have teacher grading paper harshly, and doing it because they think that student has a lot of potential. But student gets paper back, think the teacher did so because student is not very intelligent, and came to conclusion they’re not very good at literary analysis. Might result in student putting less effort into the class.
    • But can also be influenced by future interactions – student might talk to teacher, and student was able to revise their incorrect perceptions and develop a different perspective.
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