Similarities & Differences Between Freud & Erikson

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Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson are two of psychology's developmental forerunners, each one having his own theory behind personality and the elements of advancing through the stages of life. Erikson is known as a Freudian ego-psychologist. His theories came after Freud's and build on Freud's original work. Both of these psychologists have some common similarities and some differences as well.

Main Theories

Both Freud and Erikson had their own theories on personality development, with Erikson's theory being an offshoot of Freud's. The theories are separated into stages of a person's life according to age and how well a person will adapt and thrive as an adult if a certain quality or characteristic is acquired during each stage. Both of these theories are very similar, as they both have many of the same dividing age groups for development. However, there are several differences that remain between the names of the stages and the developmental issues that are encountered within them. Each psychologist has his own view of the driving force behind a human being's actions as well, which shows through their individual theories.

Freud's Psychosexual Stages

Freud thought that a person was solely motivated by the urge to satisfy biological needs. His theory contains five different psychosexual stages, beginning at birth and ending at age 18. He believed that if a person doesn't experience a particular gratification at each stage, the person will become fixated on that stage and carry certain psychological hang ups with him or her into adulthood. Freud's stages are oral (birth to 1 year), anal (1 to 3 years), phallic (3 to 6 years), latency (7 to 11 years) and genital (12 to 18 years). An example of a fixation would be if an infant didn't get sufficient feeding, he or she would have an oral fixation later in life, perhaps manifested by an addiction to cigarettes or food.

Erikson's Psychosocial Theory

Erikson's theory is based on Freud's, except Erikson expands on the more social or cultural elements that can impact personality development. Also, his theory includes eight stages instead of five. Erikson's stages are basic trust vs. mistrust (birth to 1 year), autonomy vs. shame and doubt (1 to 3 years), initiative vs. guilt (3 to 6 years), industry vs. inferiority (7 to 11 years), identity vs. role confusion (12 to 18 years), intimacy vs. isolation (the 20s), generativity vs.self-absorption (late 20s to 50s), and integrity vs. despair (50s and older.) According to Erikson, if a 2-year-old is trusted and allowed to explore his or her own environment, a sense of independence, or autonomy, will be acquired.

Main Differences

A major difference in the two theories is where the developmental emphasis is placed. For Freud, it is fully on a person's biology and the basic needs that drive them. Freud doesn't place any emphasis on cultural or environmental influences like Erikson does. He designated a specific organ to each stage of development, whereas Erikson looked at the issue on a broader scale by incorporating a person's surroundings. Erikson also doesn't believe that a person becomes completely stuck in a stage like Freud believes. Instead, each stage builds on the next, and whatever characteristic is acquired at each age group will carry on in the context of the next stage.

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