Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Erik H. Erikson, 91; Seminal Psychoanalyst

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Erik H. Erikson, 91; Seminal Psychoanalyst

Article excerpt

Erik H. Erikson, the psychoanalyst whose theories of personality development and adolescent "identity crisis" transformed the field of psychology and held particular appeal for the restless youth of the 1960s, has died at age 91.

Mr. Erikson also wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Mohandas K. Gandhi and books on the lives of Jesus, Martin Luther and Albert Einstein. He died of an infection Thursday (May 12, 1994) at a nursing home in Harwich, Mass.

Mr. Erikson was a thinker whose ideas had effects far beyond psychoanalysis, shaping the emerging fields of child development and life-span studies and reaching into the humanities. Mr. Erikson was born in Germany and was a disciple of Sigmund Freud but emphasized social relationships rather than sexual needs as the key to growing up.

"Of his generation, along with Anna Freud, he was probably, for good reasons, the best-known psychoanalyst in the world," said Dr. Robert Wallerstein, retired head of the psychiatry department at the University of California at San Francisco. "And the one who, in many ways, made the greatest impact on our culture as a whole."

Mr. Erikson was best known for the theory that each stage of life, from infancy and early childhood on, is associated with a specific psychological struggle that contributes to a major aspect of personality. That represented a quantum leap from Freudian thought, suggesting that the ego and the sense of identity are shaped over the entire life span and that experiences later in life might help heal the hurts of early childhood.

His influence was compounded by clinical studies of children, a teaching post at Harvard University, popular lectures and his best-selling books on Gandhi and Luther. It pervaded many layers of society, from education to medicine to law to biography to psychiatry to low-brow culture.

His popular recognition reached a peak in the 1970s, particularly because of his identification with the development of "identity crisis" - he coined the term - but his scholarly contributions have assured him of a place of eminence in many disciplines.

The term "psychobiography," which he did not originate, also was associated with his name. …

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