During its history, the United States of America has been a country of extreme contrasts and abrupt changes. Most Americans face alternatives presented by such polarities as open immigration and ‘jealous islands of tradition’ (Erikson, 1977: 258); outgoing internationalism and defiant isolation; boisterous competition and self-effacing cooperation; and many others. For Erikson, the influence of the resulting contradictory metaphors on the development of individual identity probably depends on the coincidences of nuclear ego-states with critical changes in the family’s geographic and economic chances.