In this essay I will discuss Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. There are 8 interrelated stages to this theory; 5 of which are said to occur under the age of 18 and the remaining 3 throughout adult life. According to the theory, at each stage of life a person experiences a psychosocial conflict which has a positive or negative influence on one’s personality development. It considers the influence that outside factors have on one’s personality (eg; parents, society). (Erikson, E. H., 1993)
According to the theory, failure of completion of a certain stage can result in difficulty completing a further stage and leads to an incomplete or unhealthy personality. However, this can be reconciled later in life. (McLeod, 2018)
Basic Trust vs. Mistrust
The first stage takes place during infancy (birth to 18 months) and is known as Basic Trust vs. Mistrust. Based on the mother and fathers ability to nurture and care for the child, the child will develop a sense of trust or mistrust for the world around them. Babies are minuscule in comparison to the world around them, which can be threatning. However, depending on how they are treated by the people around them this fear can be replaced by trust. If the parent neglects basic needs such as food, shelter and love this can result in a damaging insecurity in the baby, unable to trust and have faith in their surroundings. The mothers treatment of the baby is particularly significant to the babies development since it is typically the first social relationship the baby encounters, A caring, sensitive mother that is responsive to the infants particular needs enables the infant to develop a healthy mental and emotional constitution. It is through the quality of interactions the baby has with the mother and other family members and the fulfilment or disapointment of expectations that the baby learns to be trusting or mistrusting as appropraite. The ideal situation would be a baby that is fed and cared for without being over protected and shown love and affection in a predictable and dependable manner to enable the baby to form a social trust. The correct surrondings in the Trust vs. Mistrust stage creates a sense of hope within the baby. The belief of hope manifests deep inside the baby, along with the belief that everything is going to be alright. A certain drive is also created, giving the baby the confidence to take reasonable risks when faced with difficult situations. (HQ, 2012)
Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
The second stage is known Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt and occurs within the ages of 1-3. The toddler begins to want to develop a separate identity to their parents. The toddler begins to walk, talk, dress and feed themselves and also begins to learn to control bodily functions such as bowel movements. As the toddler wants to become separate from the parent, the toddler will want to do these things without the help of their mother or father. This can become difficult as the parent will realize that the toddler is not yet capable of preforming these tasks alone, and may become increasingly frustrated as their paitence wears thin. The toddler also becomes frustrated with their parents and with themselves, as they want to do these things alone but can’t. The child can begin to feel ashamed that they are not yet capable of preforming these seemingly simple tasks that adults do without second thought, for example not being able to control their urinary functions. The parent can also increase the childs shame intentionally (by laughing at the child or scolding them without true reason) or unintentionally (by rushing the child due to impaitence). A certain amount of shame and doubt is healthy in a child, as an unlimited sense of autonomy would be an unhealthy trait. Therefore, the parents should be paitent with the child but their paitence should not be unlimited. Parents should teach children rules and boundaries at this stage. Through rules and boundaries the toddler develops will and self-control. Parents who encourage will and self control help their toddler to become independent and self-reliant.
Initiative vs. Guilt
The third stage of psychosocial development is known as Initiative vs. Guilt. At this stage children begin to gain a sense of power and purpose. This can be seen through children directing play that they want to part take in, and not necessarily following others leads. This can lead to conflict as other children or adults may not want to do the activities that the child wants to direct. Children at this age assert themselves more frequently as they begin to explore what they want and don’t want.