Developmental Stages

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Personal Portrait

Nikki Davis

June 4, 2010

HS 5002, Section 02

Dr. Angeline O’Malley

Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development describes the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. He believed that personality develops in a series of stages. In his theory he explains eight stages through which a healthy developing human should pass from infancy to late adulthood. According to Erikson (1950), “Each stage builds on the successful completion of earlier stages. The challenges of stages not successfully completed may be expected to reappear as problems in the future”.

In Erikson’s first stage, infancy (birth to 18 months), he centers on the concept of trust vs. mistrust where the infants basic needs are being met. During this stage, the child’s relative understanding of the world and society comes from parents/primary caregiver. Infants are especially dependant for food, sustenance, and comfort. According to Erikson (1950), the major developmental task in infancy is to learn whether or not other people, especially primary caregivers, regularly satisfy basic needs. If caregivers are consistent sources of food, comfort, and affection, an infant learns to trust that others are trustworthy. If they are neglectful, or perhaps even abusive, the infant instead learns mistrust in that the world is in an undependable, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous place. As an infant, I was fortunate to experience the love and nurturing that was needed to gain trust from my caregivers. My mother would rock me to sleep while singing or reading to me. As a result, I developed a passion for music and reading. My parents made me feel like everything was going to be alright. I still believe no matter what happens that eventually everything is going to be alright.

In Erikson’s second developmental stage, Early Childhood (18 Months to 3 years), he asserts that a child begins to explore his surroundings after they gain control of eliminative functions and motor abilities (Harder, 2002). A child has the opportunity to build self-esteem and autonomy as he gain more control over our bodies and acquire new skills (learning right from wrong). In this stage the parents or primary caregivers help the child by being patient and encouraging, which fosters autonomy in the child. Parents or caregivers who are highly restrictive are more likely to instill in the child with a sense of doubt and reluctance to attempt new challenges. My parents allowed me to explore but not to the point where my safety was in jeopardy. They popped my hand if I reached for the socket, floor heater, ashtray, or anything else that was in harm’s way. It was during this stage of my life that I received praise for things that I accomplished; for instance, using the potty and putting my toys away. I learned how to master certain skills for myself.

Erikson believes that the third stage, Play Age (3 to 5 years), is essential to a healthy child. It is during this time that children really learn what they live. They want to imitate adults and others around them. This is the stage where most healthy children begin to broaden their skills through active play of all sorts, including fantasy. They also learn to cooperate with others and to lead as well as follow. Young children in this category face the challenge of initiative versus guilt. Nevertheless, Erikson (1968) said that at this stage children usually become involved in the classic “Oedipal struggle” and resolve these struggles through “social role identification”. As a result, the child can be immobilized by guilt. According to Erikson (1950) the child is fearful, hangs on the fringe of groups, continues to depend unduly on adults, and is restricted both in the development of play skills and in imagination. As a child, I remember walking in my mother’s shoes when she was not wearing them. We played dress up and pretended...
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