Epigenetic Principle

Erikson believed that the ego develops throughout the various stages of life according to an epigenetic principle, a term borrowed from embryology. Epigenetic development hnplies a step-by-step growth of fetal organs. The embryo does not begin as a completely formed little person, waithig to merely expand its structure and

Children crawl before they walk, walk before they run, and run before they jump.

form. Rather, it develops, or should develop, according to a predetermined rate and hi a fixed sequence. If the eyes, liver, or other organs do not develop during that critical period for their development, then they will never attain proper maturity.

In similar fashion, the ego follows the path of epigenetic development, with each stage developing at its proper time. One stage emerges from and is built upon a previous stage, but it does not replace that earlier stage. This epigenetic development is analogous to the physical development of children, who crawl before they walk, walk before they run, and run before they jump. When children are still crawling, they are developing the potential to walk, run, and jump; and after they are mature enough to jump, they still retain their ability to run, walk, and crawl. Erikson (1968) described the epigenetic principle by saying that "anything that grows has a ground plan, and that out of this ground plan the parts arise, each part having its time of special ascendancy, until all parts have arisen to form a functioning whole" (p. 92). More succinctly, "Epigenesis means that one characteristic develops on top of another in space and time" (Evans, 1967, pp. 21-22).

The epigenetic principle is illustrated hi Figure 9.1, which depicts the first tlnee Eriksonian stages. The sequence of stages (1,2, 3) and the development of their component parts (A, B, C) are shown in the heavily lined boxes along the diagonal. Figure 9.1 shows that each part exists before its critical time (at least as biological potential), emerges at its proper tune, and finally, continues to develop during subsequent stages. For example, component part B of Stage 2 (early childhood) exists during Stage 1 (infancy) as shown in Box lg. Part B reaches its full ascendance during Stage 2 (Box 2B), but continues into Stage 3 (Box 3B). Similarly, all components

Chapter 9 Erikson: Post-Freudian Theory 247

Stage

Play age

Early childhood

Infancy

Parts

Parts

Play age

Early childhood

Infancy

3A

3b

3C

2A

2B

2C

1a

CD

1c

FIGURE 9.1 Three Eriksonian Stages, Depicting the Epigenetic Principle.

Reprinted from The Life Cycle Completed: A Review by Erik H. Erikson. by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. Inc. Copyright © 1982 by Rikan Enterprises. Ltd.

FIGURE 9.1 Three Eriksonian Stages, Depicting the Epigenetic Principle.

Reprinted from The Life Cycle Completed: A Review by Erik H. Erikson. by permission of W. W. Norton & Company. Inc. Copyright © 1982 by Rikan Enterprises. Ltd.

of Stage 3 exist during Stages 1 and 2, reach full development dining Stage 3, and continue throughout all later stages (Erikson, 1982).

Was this article helpful?

+1 0
Kicking Fear And Anxiety To The Curb

Kicking Fear And Anxiety To The Curb

Kicking Fear And Anxiety To The Curb Can Have Amazing Benefits For Your Life And Success. Learn About Calming Down And Gain Power By Learning Ways To Become Peaceful And Create Amazing Results.

Get My Free Ebook


Responses

  • Halfred
    What is epigenetic principle?
    2 years ago
  • awate
    What is epigenic principle in psychology?
    2 years ago

Post a comment