Introduction Erikson’s psycho-social stages of development provides great insight on the process of child development. It is composed of eight stages that range from infancy to adulthood. However, the first four stages are what will be discussed in this analysis paper. The first four stages are Infancy, Early Childhood, Preschool, and Middle childhood. The infancy stage discusses the conflict of trust vs mistrust with infants (0 to 18 months). During the early childhood stage (2 to 3 years) Erikson discusses autonomy vs shame and doubt. In preschool (3 to 5 years) this is where the initiative vs guilt stage begins.
Lastly, the middle childhood also known as school age (6 to 11), is where competency vs inferiority takes place. There are very important developmental experiences that contribute to each stage. Although Erikson’s theory accounts for a fair amount of them, there are other developmental experiences that Erikson does not account for. In the sections below, each stage will be analyzed and given developmental experiences examples that are accounted for by Erikson’s theory and those that are not. Infancy The infancy stage targets children that are 0 to 18months.
The central crisis during this stage is trust vs mistrust. The first social interaction that a child has is with their parents. The role of the care giver is to provide a sense of dependability to the child. While also including comfort and affection. Whether this need of the child is taken care of, it can lead to either trust or mistrust. There are a lot of important factors in developing trust. For example, when a baby cries the parent(s) should respond by attending to the baby’s needs. This could be feeding the baby, changing their diaper, or giving them affection.
Each time a parent can respond in adequate time for their baby, this strengthens the bond. In the article, Maternal-infant bonding, RN Kayla Johnson mentions this as maternal sensitivity. This leads to a trusting relationship between parent and infant, the mother recognizes and responding in a timely manner to infant cues Johnson, 2013). While there are many factors that contribute to trust there are also quite a few that can lead to mistrust. Factors mentioned in Erikson’s theory are an unstable environment, lack of food, care, and affection, etc.
If the infant’s environment is inconsistent, unpredictable, and unstable; this can lead to mistrust. This developmental experience can be carried into other relationships as well. In addition, there are other factors not accounted for in Erikson’s theory that can impact developmental experiences as well. Poverty for example can also influence the infant during the infancy stage. If the parents do not have the means to care for the child, such as adequate food, diapers, etc. They would be unable to respond to the child’s needs therefore leading to mistrust in the relationship between parent and infant.
Toddler Toddler stage covers the ages of 2 to 3 years. During this stage the child begins to learn a sense of independence. Erikson used toilet training and dressing as important events that occur during this time. The basic conflict is autonomy vs shame and doubt, the child will learn independence or will have feelings of failure. This all depends on how well the child is raised by the parents. Between the ages of 2 to 3 the child begins to learn more physical skills. Skills such as walking, jumping, scribbling, grasps, etc.
Another important factor in developing autonomy is the release of bowel movements. Somewhat like the Freudian anal stage in psychosexual theory, Erikson used the expression of “holding on and letting go” (Robbins, Chaterjee, Canda, p. 214). Parents should teach the child and set the expectations but not damage their self-esteem. If the parent does not respond correctly to the child during this period, it can lead to feelings of shame and doubt for the child. For example, if the parent completes every task for the child they will not gain a sense of independence.
This causes the child to be very dependent on their parent and others, also resulting in feelings of inadequacy. Such as not being able to make decisions, easily influenced, needing structure and direction, etc (Erikson handout, 2017). A factor not noted in Erikson’s theory that can impact this stage are gender differences or gender bias. In the article, The Social Construction of Gender, they write about the structure of categorizing people. It is not based on realities or actual truths, but what society feels is accurate (Freud, 1994 p. 38).
For example, little boys should not wear princess costumes or wear pink. By telling the child that they are doing something wrong when they are simply self-expressing, can lead to shame, doubt, and low self-confidence (WWYD, 2014). Preschool From 3-5 years, old (preschool years) the initiative vs guilt stage occurs. Children begin to explore and test their boundaries. Erikson also mentions the oedipal complex, where the child must disguise the initiative to the opposite sex parent. This occurrence is a criterion for masculine and feminine behaviors that will transpire later in their life (Robbins et al, pg. 14).
It is the parent’s duty to educate their child in understanding proper roles, including gender roles. With proper care and leadership, the child develops a since of purpose. If the child is not taught well or ineffective resolution occurs, it will lead to shame and doubt (Robbins et al, pg. 215). At this stage the child begins to understand purpose and the notion to pursue goals. During this time locomotor skills are increased and mastered. Such as walking and running, which gives the child a broader range of things to accomplish (Robbins et al, pg. 214).
Children also begin to take on different tasks because they are very active around this time. Tasks such as building blocks, making sandcastles, these are activities that are considered goals for children this age. Children accept challenges and take on leadership roles. Each of these are factors in a child developing initiative. The opposite of child developing initiative is the child acquiring guilt. Guilt can occur if the child has failed at something while taking the initiative to complete a task. For example, a child attempting to build a tall block tower but fails.
This can result in the child putting their self-down or getting depressed very easily. Another factor contributing to guilt is racism, which is a factor not accounted for by Erikson’s theory. The video of preschool suspensions presented on CNN presented the effects of school suspension on black children. At such a young age children getting expelled from school can lead to serious issues of guilt. Labeling them as bad children when they are simply being 3 or 4-year old’s. Lowering their self-esteem, setting them up for the preschool to prison epidemic (CNN, Preschool to prison pipeline, 2014).
Middle Childhood The fourth stage which is middle childhood, covers the ages of 6 to 11. Around this time the child is understanding novel societal and academic tasks. The central crisis during this stage is industry (competency) vs inferiority. If the child obtains the recognition from completing new tasks they develop a sense of industry and “a lasting ego quality of competence”. If this stage is not successful it will lead to feelings of inferiority or inadequacy (Robbins et al, pg. 215). When a child begins to develop competence, they develop their skills in new tasks and activities.
The child’s teacher and peer groups play a major role during this time and is a key source of the child’s self-esteem. During this stage children feel the need to gain approval, and this is done by representing competencies that are esteemed by society. For example, a child completes a science project and seeks approval from their teacher. The teach responds with verbal praise and compliments the child’s work. This leads to competency and the child will continue to express enjoyment of learning, experimenting, finishing projects, etc (Erikson handout 2017). Inferiority comes from failing or when a child doesn’t receive enough encouragement.
Parents and teachers need to constantly reassure the child to refrain from he/she feeling inadequate. In the article, Getting Noticed (2011), it talks about children being condemned for not reaching the standards, which they label as laziness. “I hope that you have stomach pains and dysentery” (Grove, 2011). Reducing the child’s selfesteem and demeaning their skills can contribute to inferiority. Other developmental experiences that contribute to inferiority are factors such as cognitive differences. If a child has a learning disability or has trouble understanding in comparison to other children this can lead to a sense of inferiority.
In addition to that because peer groups are so important during this stage it can also result in bullying. Causing the child to questions their own ability, procrastinate, or even withdraw (Erikson handout, 2017). Conclusion In conclusion, Erikson considers a lot of factors that contribute to child growth. The social stages that were mentioned includes multiple factors that are crucial in the first few years. It is a guide on what children development should look like and what is crucial at each stage. Even today, Erikson’s theory can still be applied to child development.
Although Erikson points out many important factors and is an excellent guide, Erikson’s theory cannot be applied to a lot of cultures. For example, some cultures toilet train their children at later ages. That completely disregards the importance of independence in the early childhood stage per Erikson’s theory. In addition, Erikson also doesn’t consider experiences such as gender bias, poverty, cultural differences, race, cognitive differences, etc. Each of these must be considered when analyzing child development. While there are many strengths of Erikson’s theory, the weaknesses must be considered as well.