16 JULY 2008
With the establishment of a good initial relationship to the world of skills and tools, and with the advent of puberty, childhood proper comes to an end. Youth begins. But in puberty and adolescence all samenesses and continuities relied on earlier are more or less questioned again, because of a rapidity of body growth which equals that of early childhood and because of the new addition of genital maturity. The growing and developing youths, faced with this physiological revolution within them, and with tangible adult tasks ahead of them are now primarily concerned with what they appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are, and with the question of how to connect the roles and skills cultivated earlier with the occupational prototypes of the day. In their search for a new sense of continuity and sameness, adolescents have to re-fight many of the battles of earlier years, even though to do so they must artificially appoint perfectly well-meaning people to play the roles of adversaries; and they are ever ready to install lasting idols and ideals as guardians of a final identity.
The integration now taking place in the form of ego identity is, as pointed out, more than the sum of the childhood identifications. It is the accrued experience of the ego's ability to integrate all identifications with the vicissitudes of the libido, with the aptitudes developed out of endowment, and with the opportunities offered in social roles. The sense of ego identity, then, is the accrued confidence that the inner sameness and continuity of one's meaning for others, as evidenced in the tangible promise of a 'career'.
The danger of this stage is role confusion.
Where this is based on a strong previous doubt as to one's sexual
identity, delinquent and outright psychotic episodes are not uncommon.
If diagnosed and treated correctly, these incidents do not have the same
fatal significance which they have at other ages. In most instances,
however, it is the inability to settle on an occupational identity which
disturbs individual young people. To keep themselves together they
temporarily overidentify, to the point of apparent complete loss of
identity, with the heroes of cliques and crowds. This initiates the
stage of 'falling in love', which is by no means entirely, or even
primarily, a sexual matter - except where the mores demand it. To a
considerable extent adolescent love is an attempt to arrive at a
of one's identity by projecting one's diffused ego-image on another and by seeing it thus reflected and gradually clarified. This is why so much of young love is conversation.
ERIK H. ERIKSON
Erikson, Erik H. (1951). Childhood and Society. Harmondsworth. Penguin Books. pp. 252-254.