Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Early Adulthood (19–40)

Which of Eric Erickson’s psychosexual stages pertain to early adulthood?

Erik Erikson suggested that young adulthood was a time when people struggled with intimacy vs. isolation. He believed that this stage depended upon a successful resolution of the previous stage, identity vs. isolation. Erikson believed that it is necessary to have a stable personal identity, a secure sense of self, in order to establish a committed, intimate relationship. In an intimate partnership, one has to open up one’s identity to another person. To some extent, intimacy involves the merger of one’s sense of self with that of the other person. If a secure sense of self has not been achieved, it remains too threatening to loosen the reins and let another person in. When people are afraid of losing themselves in a relationship, intimacy and commitment will be avoided. Such people may engage in many short-term relationships or avoid monogamous relationships. Interestingly, later research has supported Erikson’s ideas. People who are more secure in their values and goals are more likely to remain faithful in intimate relationships and to be more ready for a serious commitment.


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