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In view of recent controversies about theory and self, identity development re- searchers need to examine the utility of their own theory. In an effort to begin this enterprise, we define what we see as the central concerns of Erikson’s theory—a life- span, psychosocial emphasis, and the notion of agentic identity development—and use a feminist standpoint analysis to examine the usefulness of these aspects of his theory in a rapidly changing, multicultural context. We critique the theory’s emphasis on biology as a significant component of psychosocial development, including the emphasis on the biological distinctiveness of women and men as an explanatory con- struct. We also address the issue of an androcentric bias that many have argued is interwoven with the theory’s core concepts. Finally, we offer conclusions regarding the aspects of the theory we find most useful and most in need of clarification or revision.


Originally published in Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research. 2001. Volume 1. Issue 2. Pages 97-128.