Describe the Similarities and Differences in the Way Identity Is Conceptualised by the Psychosocial Theory of Identity and the Social Identity Theory.

Describe the similarities and differences in the way identity is conceptualised by the psychosocial theory of identity and the social identity theory.

This paper looks at two identity theories, Psychosocial theory and The Social Identity Theory.   Beginning with an overview of each, then discussing similarities and differences including the background of the researchers, their research methods and the evidence they found.

Erik Erikson believed identity to be psychosocial – personal and social (Phoenix, 2007). Born in Germany, and raised by his Jewish mother and Jewish-German stepfather he took his stepfather’s surname of Homburger. His adolescence was fuelled by angst and he spent much of his life searching for his birth father.

Erikson was deeply neurotic and spent six years, from 1927, in psychoanalysis with Anna Freud. He left Austria for the USA in 1933 to escape the Nazi’s and became a child psychoanalyst.   During this time he changed his name to Erikson.

Through observational and clinical studies, Erikson believed that society and historical events were crucial in shaping identity, and identity was something that was achieved over a lifetime, developing through stages, with change building from each stage.

He focused on the fifth stage, adolescence.   He believed that adolescence was a time to reflect on who one is now and who one could become in the future, and ego identity (a secure feeling of who and what one is) has to be achieved (Phoenix, 2007). Adolescence was a time for psychosocial moratorium, where a fixed identity could be postponed to try out different identities through introspection and experience during which, was a period of   ‘normative crisis’ –   a crisis common to most people.

Erikson stated that by the end of adolescence one must have a clear idea of who one is and what one stands for (Phoenix, 2007)

Erikson believed that young people can ‘over identify’ with social groups in their search for identity.   He argued that...