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Erikson’s Stage of Intimacy Versus Isolation

Early adulthood is one of the crucial periods in the continued formation of personality, and many essential changes occur during this period. One of the psychological approaches that aim to explain and interpret this period is Erikson’s theory. Erikson interprets early adulthood as a time of the interplay between intimacy and isolation and focuses on such personality changes as the necessity to redefine one’s identity and form committed relationships with others.

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As the name suggests, Erikson views the early adulthood stage as dominated by the concerns of intimacy and isolation. While some people use the word “intimacy” in a purely sexual sense, Erikson uses it to cover all dedicated relationships with a permanent commitment to a certain person – whether as a friend, significant other, or in a different capacity. The opposite of intimacy is isolation – the unwillingness to form close ties and build trusting relationships. According to Erikson’s the ability to form long-term relationships based on trust and mutual appreciation is particularly crucial in early adulthood. He bases this perception on the number of personality changes that occur in individuals during this period.

First and foremost, the important personality in early adulthood is the necessity to redefine one’s identity. Being an early adult involves getting a higher education and, experiencing separation from parents, achieving financial independence, and getting increased experience with real-world problems.

All these factors may prompt one to rethink parts of one’s identity before early adulthood. Moreover, creating a respectful and committed intimate relationship is based on trust, which requires revealing one’s identity to the partner. The willingness to do so, give up some independence in exchange for intimacy, and reconsider some elements of one’s identity is instrumental to forming stable long-term relationships. Thus, the continuous redefining of identity as a personality development occurring throughout early adulthood fits neatly within Erikson’s concept of intimacy versus isolation.

Another personality development closely related to Erikson’s interpretation of this life stage is commitment. When early adults explore their personality combining depth and commitment, it results in higher self-esteem, better adjustment, and generally greater well-being. However, too much depth without commitment may result lead to poor adjustment, anxiety, and deviant behaviors. Hence, commitment as an early adulthood personality development is crucial for long-term individual well-being. Considering this, Erikson’s concept of intimacy versus isolation has good reason to focus on committed relationships.

To summarize, Erikson’s theory views early adulthood as the stage of intimacy versus isolation and relates this interpretation to fundamental personality development occurring through this period. Firstly, the continuous readjustment of identity is instrumental in forming a trusting and intimate relationship, which Erikson views as the most important thing in early adulthood. Apart from that, commitment is equally crucial in exploring and developing one’s personality as a young adult and forming long-term intimate relationships with others.

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