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A Qualitative study showing how a middle aged couple view their identity and how this relates to Erikson `s stage theory of identity development. Abstract This study examines an interview of a middle aged couple and the notion of identity; mainly Erikson` s developmental stage theory. The researcher views the research from an emotive position; although attempting to stay neutral. A thematic analysis of the transcript to extract themes and relate them to Erikson` s stage theory. The findings in this research are an interpretation of the interview and relate to some areas of Erikson` s stage theory.


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Identity is a subject where a lot of research has been conducted; it is also personal to some researchers which brought into light some valuable theories. Erikson (1968) developed the eight developmental stages which each stage has a period of time in life from birth to late adulthood; which adolescence is especially pertinent to developing identity in adulthood. In this study, there are areas of the discussion where the couple have discussed emotive periods in their life which relate to Erikson` s stages of development. The research question for this study was one decided by The Open University which is: `What do Tony and Jo see as being their principal `identity`, and how does this relate to Erikson `s stage theory of identity development. `

Method This is a qualitative study of a middle aged couple` s identity and how it relates to Erikson `s stage theory of identity development. A thematic analysis of the transcript and edited video recorded interview was used to explore meaning whilst taking into account the context.

The interview process involved Tony and Jo; a middle aged couple, being asked questions in an informal interview whilst being captured on film by the Open University. The first interviewer was Jane Tobbell who has known Tony and Jo for a long time and then the second interview was conducted by Dan Goodley who does not know the couple. The reason for the interview being conducted this way was to demonstrate to myself as the researcher; an undergraduate psychology student, the differences in research style. This interview was a semi structured interview so the researchers could allow for flexibility in how the questions were asked.

As with all psychological study, ethical implications were considered, the study involved using pre existing materials provided by the Open University. It is also important to note that there was no particularly intrusive questions being asked by either interviewer and that the names of the participants involved is only the first name, anonymity has been preserved. With this in mind, I was able to carry out the research without the need for permission from the participants who were interviewed. The analysis which I carried out involved reading the transcript and highlighting themes relating to identity.


What do Tony and Jo see as being their principal `identity`, and how does this relate to Erikson `s stage theory of identity development? This is the research question which has been devised by the Open University course team; as I preferred not to use my own for this study. When carrying out the study I found three main themes, identity, lifespan development and attachment and separation, which were the choice of themes from The Open University course materials and were readily identifiable within the transcript. The theme of identity encompasses a multitude of theories some which I have identified:

Identity development in Erikson` s eight developmental stages The opening statement from Tony relates to Erikson` s stage theory of identity development, late adulthood – integrity vs. despair – fulfilment or disappointment. This also links to Erikson` s notion of ego identity, in which it appears that Tony has a secure feeling of who he is. Tony: ` A mass of contradiction. A workaholic to a certain extent. Fairly easy going. I’m always accused of manipulating situations. But that’s just my management style. [lines 7 to 9]

This related by the quality of being honest and having strong moral principals, the integrity. Another theme which is evident through the transcript is the area that Erikson found particularly important is in the adolescence stage, through which many experiences can be poignant at that stage in development. Tony: ` I had a very disrupted childhood` [ line 7 ] `a lot of strange influences` [ line 40 ] Jo: ` …I was evacuated. Which I found quite traumatic like everybody else. ` [lines 45 to 46] ` … I went to boarding school for the next ten years. ` [lines 46 to 47].

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