Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages

What does Erikson mean by Intimacy vs. Isolation?

Another of the challenges of early adulthood involves the capacity for romantic intimacy. Erikson believed that it was necessary to consolidate a personal identity before committing to a life partnership. We need to have a sufficiently solid sense of self before we can endanger it by merging our lives with another person. If the young adult cannot manage the task of intimacy, the cost is isolation. While Erikson mainly focused on heterosexual love and marriage, he also included the capacity to commit to a social group in his notion of intimacy. It is important to consider, however, that Erikson published his theory of psychosocial stages in 1950, when most people married and had families in their early twenties. The average age of marriage in the United States has increased significantly since then, as has the percentage of people who remain single or choose not to have children. Thus while Erikson’s theories are still well regarded, they must be considered within the context of the culture.


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