Outlined To Different Psychological Approaches To Identity. What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Each

2167 words - 9 pages

Outline two different psychological approaches to Identity. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?

If asked most people would have an opinion about identity and what it means to them. In this essay two different approaches are outlined which are Psychosocial theory by Eric Erickson and James Marcia and the Social Constructionist theory which as ‘diverse origins in a number disciplines and as many perspectives’ (p69 book 1).

In Psychosocial theory Erickson believed that identity was constantly evolving along a path of ‘lifelong developmental process’ (Pheonix, 2004, p53) and would come into conflict with polar opposite characteristics e.g. trust vs mistrust. He called these ...view middle of the document...

To understand social constructionism a break down of the words is required. First, ‘social’ is defined by the Collins dictionary as ‘relating, or characteristic of experience, behaviour and interaction of persons forming groups’. This means the experience of language used, social groups and media all influence individuals within sub-groups, in addition to this (Phoenix, 2007, p69) contributes ‘histories and histories of cultures’ which appeared ingrained in peoples lives. Secondly the ‘constructionist’ part is stating that all interactions between people are purposefully constructed which creates an understanding of the world. For example, a director of a company may wear a suit and have a brief case that allows them to form the identity in high-level management. That same person’s identity can be viewed as either ‘successful’ or ‘stuck in the rat race’ by different social groups. Notice how the language can effect how the person’s identity can appear, this can be described as a Power relation because it allows people to be categorized. (Phoenix, 2007) mentions ‘how we treat each other and are treated, and power relations are all constructed through language’. In addition, the process people construct through meaning is ‘discourse’. Identity is viewed as shifting from social settings and over time (Phoenix, 2007, p79) ‘everybody has multiple, decentred and changeable identities’. The social constructionist research are conducted through people’s personal accounts (Gergan, 1999, p.1) ‘I grew up with my fountain pen’ or the twenty-statement test and are studied in natural social settings; such as Gergan’s account of having to use a computer and give up the fountain pen.

Both psychological approaches towards identity have their own strengths and weaknesses. Psychosocial theory states that a person has a core identity that is on a continuum from past to future. However, due to the psychosocial theory been founded by (Eric Erickson) it appears he has dealt with issues that have effected him in his own life. As (Pheonix, 2007) states in Erik Erickson biography ‘Erickson’s adolescence was turbulent’ and previously says ‘his feeling of puzzlement at being raised by two dark haired Jewish parents when he was blond and blue eyed’. Erikson was possibly focused on one identity that he was trying to achieve and the area he found important was adolescence due to his own turbulent time at that period of life. To assume everyone has conflict in adolescence is misleading e.g. David Beckham seemed to use this period of life to practice and perfect football that could mean he created a successful and powerful identity. Marcia’s added the four identity statues, which are from different history and culture which allows the theory to become a rounded strength through a different persons perspective. The model can categorise young people into four sections for example, Beckham may fall into the identity foreclosure by being committed without masses of exploration...

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