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The Hood Magazine

Psychosocial Development and Your Teen

Dec 05, 2020 10:26AM ● By Southeastern Directions for Life

By:   Southeastern Directions for Life 

Erik Erikson was a psychologist who was best known for his theory of psychosocial development and believed that personality developed in a series of stages. Erikson’s theory maintains that a person passes through eight developmental stages throughout their lifespan that build upon each other. At each stage, the individual faces a crisis. By resolving the crisis, the person develops strengths or traits that help them become confident and healthy individuals. If they fail to deal effectively with these conflicts, they may not develop the essential skills needed for a strong sense of self.  

The fifth stage of Erikson’s theory is “identity vs. role confusion.” This stage happens during the adolescent years, when most teenagers are beginning to explore and experiment with different “selves” or roles. Erikson saw this as a period of confusion and experimentation regarding identity and one’s life path. He described adolescence as “psychological moratorium” where teens put on hold commitment to an identity while exploring options.  

By changing how they look, think, and act, they are considering what their roles in society will be. Teenagers are faced with questions such as “Who am I?” and “How do I fit into this world?”  Young people’s identities are shaped by different factors, such as family, cultural and societal expectations, experiences at school, media and friends. As adolescents make choices that shape their identity, they select the environment and the people that they want to be around and adjust their beliefs and behaviors based on feedback and their experiences.  

Parents and caregivers can support their adolescent during this stage by providing guidance, encouragement, and reinforcement. It’s important to be open as they try out different presentations of themselves, while also being consistent with rules and boundaries to help keep them safe, especially if the choices being made involve risky behaviors.  

A parent’s support and encouragement, along with your child’s own experiences and exploration will help them emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control.