Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

2020 Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Developmental Epochs

  • Nicholas PapouchisEmail author
  • Halle Thurnauer
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_564

At a time when Freudian psychoanalytic theory dominated psychiatry, Harry Stack Sullivan drew on his experiences working with the severely mentally ill to develop an alternative approach to understanding development, the etiology of psychopathology, and effective psychotherapeutic treatments. Observing his patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, Sullivan concluded that those with psychosis were acutely sensitive to the interpersonal environment and that many of the psychotic experiences of his patients heavily influenced their interpersonal interactions. Out of these observations emerged an examination of the interpersonal issues particular to each phase of the lifespan and the notion that early relationships are central to the development of personality. Essentially, Sullivan pioneered a field of psychiatry that challenged the understanding of a human as a single unit and conceptualized human development as inseparable from the interpersonal environment (Mitchell and Black 1995).


This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Mitchell, S. A., & Black, M. J. (1995). Freud and beyond. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  2. Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Long Island UniversityBrooklynUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin Meehan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLong Island UniversityBrooklynUSA