Erik Erikson was a theorist. He believed that there were stages of development, each housing their own ‘tasks’. He concluded that “Young children wrestle with issues of trust, then autonomy (independence), the initiative. School-age children strive for competence, feeling able and productive.” (Myers, 2014 p 519).
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This first stage of Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life lasts from infancy to one year of age. The child is unfamiliar with its new environment. He looks to his caregiver to provide a sense of security. During this stage, infants need constant and consistent care. The child in this stage needs to know that his needs will be consistently cared for. If a child is neglected and his/her needs aren’t met, he/she will develop a sense of mistrust. On the other hand, if a child is shown love and all of his/her needs are met, then the child will develop a sense of trust towards others. A child who grows up with the care that it needs would be considered adaptive by Erikson. If the child is poorly cared for and doesn’t receive the attention and care it needs, Erikson would refer to him as maladaptive. An adaptive child will go through life trusting, secure, and optimistic. A maladaptive will be insecure and mistrustful. Every child needs a responsive caregiver to create a secure attachment. ‘Success in this stage will lead to hope,’ according to Sarah McLeod’s Simple Psychology article,’ By developing a sense of trust, the infant can have hope that as new crises arise, there is a real possibility that other people will be there as a source of support.’ According to Berk, (2012 p 246), Erikson believed that while no parent can be perfectly in turn with the infant’s needs, a healthy outcome during infancy was dependent upon the quality of care given instead the amount of food or oral stimulation offered. This quality care mentioned hinged upon the needs of the infant being met. For example, gently holding the crying or uncomfortable infant, patiently making sure he was given enough milk during his feeding, emphasizing wind weaning when the infant show less interest in the breast or bottle. Infants expect the world to be good and pleasurable. Until they experience. I was born into poverty, yet my parents believed happiness was contagious, so they smiled despite their circumstances. My mother sang to me and prayed for me daily while I was in her womb. When I was born I opened my eyes and held my head up earlier than most babies during that era. My mother remembers me as a happy and very easy baby from birth to infancy. I was very observant of everyone and everything. I don’t remember this stage, but I’m told I laughed a lot and rarely cried. Whenever I cried, she would pick me up immediately, hold me close to her while speaking gently, and rub my back. I am told that there were three distinctive sound to my cries: if I was hungry when I was in pain when I needed my diaper changed. The cries started off silent but could ring as loud as a trumpet. My maternal and paternal family was quite large, but my parents were very cautious and kept me safe. Only close relatives could hold or care for me. It was believed that picking up a child when they cried would cause them to become “spoiled.” My mother did not believe that, so she would pick me up and tend to my needs.
The second stage of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development is autonomy versus shame. Autonomy can be defined as an individual’s ability to make their own choices. A toddler in this stage learns, “to exercise their will and do things for themselves, or they will doubt their abilities.” (Myers, 2014 p 520). During toddlerhood, most toddlers begin to grow physically and mentally. They are now able to make some basic choices for themselves. Examples of such choices are choosing their own clothes or the toys they want to play with. They begin to establish control and use words such as “no”. In this stage, the adaptive toddler will come out of this stage confidently and proud. The maladaptive toddler will come out of this stage fearful. Erikson noted the importance of parents allowing their kids to explore and to be tolerant of failures. As mentioned before, if a child is scolded for making mistakes, they will grow fearful and will be afraid to try things on their own. According to Berk, (2012 p 247) Adults who have difficulty establishing intimate ties, who are overly dependent on a loved one, or who continually doubt their own ability to meet new challenges may not have fully mastered the tasks of trust and autonomy.My LifeDuring this stage, I was watching my three older siblings move around the house freely, so I wanted the freedom to imitate them. I remember living in the rural part of town and riding on my dad’s motorcycle. My parents started allowing me to do things on my own around 1 1/2 years old. I climbed small trees, jumped rope, and found anything hidden under the sun. I loved to dress and try to do my own hair. I tried to help cook and clean as much as possible. One day I managed to pull down a 13in television from the shelf. It fell on my shoulder leaving a cyst that remained until 2010. My mother blamed herself and decided to shelter me. She said less than thirty minutes later she realized it wasn’t a good idea because for the first time I said: “Noooo, I can do it.” After that incident, I was supervised yet allowed to make my own mistakes. My parents always let me know they were there to help me.
The third stage deals with initiative and guilt. According to Berk, (2012 p 357), Erikson (1950) described early childhood as a period of “vigorous unfolding.” Young children in this stage are preschool age. In this stage, children learn how to imitate tasks and carry out plans. The child is imaginative and often takes on leadership roles. An adaptive child comes to this stage imaginative, cooperative, and as a leader. Children of this stage may also develop a sense of curiosity.
An important factor in whether a child will be adaptive or maladaptive is how the parent responds to the child’s questions. The child needs the adults to encourage their social interaction and questions for a sense of capability. Erikson regarded play as a means through which young children learn about themselves and their social world (Berk, 2012 p 358). During this stage, preschoolers either “learn to initiate tasks and carry out plans, or they feel guilty about their efforts to be independent (maladaptive).”(Myers, 2014 p 520)My Life I created a grocery game for my younger sisters and I. I would pull out canned goods from underneath the kitchen cabinets and put them in a chair. The chair served as my shopping cart. I would place the cans on the table and my sisters would take turns being the cashier. We used torn newspaper as our currency. We played dress up and had tea parties every afternoon. I insisted on being the boss to show my parents I was a big girl by doing things on my own. By allowing me to develop and grow during the early childhood stage without being overbearing but rather authoritative I was growing into myself. While I was allowed to do things on my own, I was reminded to ask for help when needed or wanted to prevent hurting myself or siblings. My cognitive skills were being sharpened and soon my parents were able to trust me to do things without harming myself. I loved taking care of my baby dolls. Each of them had names and were viewed as my babies. I washed their hair and often washed their clothes in the bathroom sink. I was talking in complete sentences by the age of three. My parents described me as sweet, talkative, and bossy. I enjoyed being the teacher’s helper and was given the task of erasing the blackboard daily. I loved riding the bus to school and helping my little sisters to their class. I became shy and withdrawn at the end of this stage.
The fourth stage is among one of the most important in an individual’s life. It is during this stage that the individual develops competency. The individual learns to read and write during this stage. Teachers, religious leaders, and parents play an important role in the individual’s life. If the child is praised for his/her accomplishments, he/she will grow to be hard-working. The child will be proud of their accomplishments. On the other hand, if the child is not encouraged to accomplish more, they will grow to feel inferior. It is vital that a child’s initiative is not discouraged by a parent or teacher.
My parents played the most important role in my life and were very instrumental in preparing me for success. They were good listeners, avid supporters, and encouraged me to do my best in everything. I was taught to try despite the odds. I remember not having the money to go on a field trip while in second grade. Because the there was no one in my grade available to watch over me I was sent to the fifth-grade class until my class returned. While there, the teacher instructed her class to take out pencil and paper for the spelling quiz. I took out a sheet of paper and a pencil and began taking the test. I misspelled influenza and tongue, yet unknowingly scored the second highest in the class. I was disappointed in myself until the teacher publicly praised me. This gave me the motivation to work even harder. Religion was key in keeping my family hopeful. According to Berns, (2016, p 115), Not only does religion influence families and their socialization of children, but it influences the community as well, with respect to values and behavior.
During one’s adolescent time frame, the individual is constantly trying to identify who they are. This stage is encouraged by those around him/her, such as family, friends, and peers. Through their goals, values, and beliefs, children in this stage will develop a sense of self and personal identity. They discover the roles they will play later in life. The seeds of identity are planted early yet young people don’t emerge into it until late adolescence. Fidelity, or faithfulness, is developed after success during this stage. According to Berk, (2012 p 587), Erikson believed that successful psychosocial outcomes of infancy and childhood pave the way toward a positive resolution. Adolescence with a weakened sense of trust has trouble finding ideals to have faith in. If an individual fails to develop a sense of self, an identity crisis might occur.
Stage six, when successful, builds the virtue love. It is during this stage that one enters intimate relationships. The individual is now a legal adult. Entering more intimate relationships, with someone other than a family member, can help build a longer lasting, more serious relationship. When successful in this stage, the individual will enter a happy relationship with his/her partner. An individual who is scared to enter an intimate relationship may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression.
This stage is the result of intimate relationships developed to establish and provide guidance for the next generation.
A person at this stage will look back at his life and accomplishments. If the individual is satisfied with his life, they will develop integrity. The individual will be proud of the life they lived and will be ready to face death. They will develop wisdom. Of the person looks back on his life and is unsatisfied, he will develop a sense of despair.
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