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Childhood and Society

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,434 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The original and vastly influential ideas of Erik H. Erikson underlie much of our understanding of human development. His insights into the interdependence of the individuals' growth and historical change, his now-famous concepts of identity, growth, and the life cycle, have changed the way we perceive ourselves and society. Widely read and cited, his works have won numero ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 17th 1993 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1950)
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Upon completion I offered up a heartfelt prayer - thank God that's all over, not that it was bad, just Meh, it more or less managed to ascend to the dizzy heights of 'this might be interesting' by about a third of the way through and then went downhill from there.

The problem is the age old one of my expectations, if I take the title and a quote every adult, whether he is a follower or a leader, a member of a mass or of an elite, was once a child. He was once small. A sense of smallness forms a s
Eli Bishop
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If you're only familiar with the condensed version of Erikson described in undergraduate psychology and child development classes (the stages of psychosocial development, with their neat pairings of opposed forces) then actually reading his defining book may be a surprise. In this mixed bag of personal case studies, theoretical wanderings, and psychological biography, he approaches Freudian theory as if it were a large stalled vehicle, takes it apart to reveal some unusual components, and then r ...more
Christopher Howard
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I definitely appreciate Erikson's sentiment. His prose is very easy to read, but also dusted with a literary flair. Psychology seems to me, at its best, to be a true literary science. I would hope that this would be an empowering statement for literature rather than a detracting statement for psychology. ( I fully realize empowering and detracting are poor words here but I can't think in the moment of a better wording.)

Erikson also seems to me to be steeped in humanism rather than humanitariani
Erik Graff
Feb 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: developmental psychologists
Recommended to Erik by: Dr. Bell
Shelves: psychology
We were assigned to read this book for the Human Growth and Development course taught by the Psychology Department at Union Theological Seminary in New York during the second semester of 1975/76. While I very much enjoyed Erikson's Young Man Luther and Gandhi's Truth, I found this rather boring. ...more
Catherine Woodman
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love Erikson's 8 stages of man ...more
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What convergence can we see between the Sioux child's orality and tribe's ethical ideals? We have mentioned generosity as an outstanding virtue required in Sioux life. A first impression suggests that the cultural demand for generosity received its early foundation from the privilege of enjoying the nourishment and the reassurance emanating from unlimited breast feeding. The companion virtue of generosity was fortitude, in Indians a quality both more ferocious and more stoical than mere bravery. ...more
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Man, what a disappointment. Erik Erikson has been on my list of psychology-classics-I-feel-I-must-read for a while now, ever since reading George Vaillant's brilliant Triumphs of Experience - The Men of the Harvard Grant Study three years back (Vaillant worked with and updated Erikson's stages of life). Not only that, Erikson's name is mentioned in every 5 or 6 psychology books I read so I was sure I was in for a treat. Jesus Christ what a letdown.

Confusing, long-winded, uninteresting and possib
Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Erikson has a very intriguing way of writing about psychology and sociology. It can be extremely dense, but some of his conclusions are so profound and eloquently said. This book is separated into case studies that vary from the Sioux Tribe to Hitler's childhood. His obsession with anal functioning and a dated view of sexuality was a bit annoying. I found his discussion about how the somatic, ego, and society affect the human neurosis and psychology very interesting. He loves the idea of play as ...more
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recovery
I was unsure whenever I read a chapter; did what I read add value to my life? Surprisingly the answer was almost always 'yes'.
The layout of his thoughts, of his work, was really helpful.
What I would have liked more if he dig in some more on neurotic people and neurosis.

The one thing I think is overboard; his writing on the USA, saying it is the best country. That's like saying about yourself you are really smart. Sure.
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book when I was getting my degree in Behavioral Science, and found it to be one of the books I referred to most often with regard to childhood development. I still find it to be quite relevant.
Alan Londy
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Erikson is not the most original psychoanalytic theorist but his stages of human development over the lifespan of an individual is fascinating. I have found it quite useful in my work as a clergy person, chaplain and pastoral care giver.
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ptsem, psychology
A classic in developmental psychology and stage-theory. Dated, with some problematic aspects, but undeniably influential and ground-breaking.
Erik Akre
May 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: experienced psychoanalists
It took me an awfully long time to get through this book. It was thick, dense, and difficult. I give it a low rating ultimately because I found that Erikson's prose was difficult to understand and somewhat obscure, although I have no doubt he knew what he was talking about, and he knew it well.

There is copious and detailed information about developmental stages, from a purely psychoanalytic standpoint. The psychoanalist will no doubt find it fascinating, and a must-read in the field. For a layma
Jun 22, 2008 rated it liked it
This book will probably feel more like an ethnography than an exploration of psychology to many people who read itbook today. I find it definitely a good read despite being an old text. I expected it to be like a very basic and outdated foundational psychology course, but I was surprised at how much of Erikson's insight is relevant to our times. Of course, the field has learned more since Erikson's time, but his writings are still surprisingly progressive.

I would suggest reading this book after
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found this book fascinating and contained a wealth of knowledge and a range of insights from Erikson's clinical experience and his vast cultural and sociological expertise. He covered a wealth of topics, including childhood anxiety, apathy in Amercian Indians, confusion in war veterans and arrogance in young Nazis. I enjoyed reading about Fanny the Shaman, Jean and her mother and JIm the Sioux. He comments that his book is a subjective book, a conceptual itinerary.
An interesting quote is:'Poli
Erikson opened up classical psychoanalysis to cultural influences and constraints when he published this work in 1952. It has since remained a classic of psychosocial literature. In this book Erikson proposes his general theory of the eight stages of psychosocial development across the life style (a reinterpretation and extension of Freud's five stages). He presents his work using the psychoanalytic terms and perspective, which might be a turn off to you if you dislike that school. However, the ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Read the danish translation from 61. Fascinating read here more than 50 years later. I inherited the book from my father who used it for his teacers education. I am in no way an expert, and I am not sure it should be read by the uninitiated, but it was none the less and interesting peak into psychoanalysis (and the 50s). I read it in many sittings, and it might have been better to read it more attentively, so I did not gain a lot from it, apart from the fact that it seems a bit outdated and seem ...more
Gnuehc Ecnerwal
Nov 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Insightful non-science, it's hard to decide where to put this kind of book in the file cabinet of my brain. The chapter on play is the most informative. The chapters on Hitler's and Gorky's youth are tedious waste of time. ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This book proposed a lot of interesting topics and correlations. Some I agree with, some struck me as being very profound, and others I didn't agree with. I still think it's a good book for any psychology student. ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The "Eight Stages of Man" chapter is really a must-read. It represents a certain way of thinking about the psyche that is very powerful and will make sense to anyone who's thought about developmental issues. ...more
Kiyaa Kanjukia
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book has been profound on the interpretation of human life, since childhood, in a psychoanalytic perspective. Laden with psychological jargon but I've learnt so much of anxiety, apathy and taming the id. A subjective book but interesting nonetheless. ...more
Billy Jones
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Conceptually fascinating. The prose is not too overwrought. Employed Erikson's theory of psychosocial development to analyse Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye' and 'Sula' as part of my undergraduate dissertation. ...more
Aug 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Had to read this in order to familiarize myself better with Erikson's theories. Interesting to read the original text; it made me want to know more about Erikson's biography. ...more
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is dated, however it is very interesting. Erikson emphasizes identity and the threats posed to identity by societal forces. Proceed with caution and skepticism.
just start reading~~
Jul 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychotherapy
Thoughtful reflections on the stages of life. Some of his ideas and observations are still relevant today but most are dated.
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Erik Erikson was a German-born American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychosocial development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. His son, Kai T. Erikson, is a noted American sociologist.

Although Erikson lacked even a bachelor's degree, he served as a professor at prominent institutions such as Harvard and Yale.

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“Anxieties are diffuse states of tension (caused by a loss of mutual regulation and a consequent upset in libidinal and aggressive controls) which magnify and even cause the illusion of an outer danger, without pointing to appropriate avenues of defense or mastery.” 10 likes
“...there is something Russian about this particular use of the eye as an aggressive and defensive weapon. In Russian literature there is endless variation in the use of the eye as a soulful receptor, as an avid grasper, and as the very organ for mutual soulful surrender. In regard to the great models of political and literary life, however, the emphasis is on the eye as an incorruptible instrument for the manipulation of the future. Gorky's description of Tolstoy is typical: 'With sharp eyes, from which neither a single pebble nor a single thought could hide itself, he looked, measured, tested, compared.' Or again, his eyes are 'screwed up as though straining to look into the future'.
Equally typical is Trotsky's description of Lenin:
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