Even though many theories exist regarding the stages of child growth and development, one of the most respected and influential theories has been that of 20th century psychologist Erik Erikson. Focusing primarily on the psychosocial aspects of development, Erikson developed a comprehensive theory that outlines change and growth throughout the entire human life span. His theory identifies five stages of development during childhood, as well as three stages of development during adulthood.
Also known as infancy, the first stage of growth and development stretches from birth to around 18 or 24 months. During this period of development, young children will primarily learn through their sensory perceptions and their visual and touch experiences of the world around them. Infants are also, during this stage, developing their motor skills and learning about the cause and effect of their actions. A child’s most important relationship during this period is that with the maternal or primary caregiver. According to Erikson, a person’s ability to believe the world is trustworthy is rooted in the experience of consistent, loving care during infancy.
The second stage of growth and development encompasses anywhere from 18 months to 3 years of age. During early childhood, John W. Santrock explains in “Life-Span Development,” a young child will “begin to discover that their behavior is their own.” That is, young children will begin to assert their independence, declaring “NO” and making other choices autonomously. A child’s most important relationships during this period of development are with his parents or primary caregivers. Erikson theorized that a person develops the qualities of self-control and autonomy during early childhood.
Christine Switzer has been a freelance writer since 2007. She contributes to travel and regional periodicals such as "Burlington the Beautiful" and "Gloucester County On the Move,"...