Theorist for Child Development

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Eirkson’s psychosocial theory consists of eight separate stages or the eight stages of man. However only the first four stages apply to children aged between 0-12 years of age.

The first stage; trust Vs mistrust, which is experienced during the first year of life and is demonstrated by how well the child feeds, how they child sleeps. A young child must firstly develop a loving, trusting relationship with their caregiver, or could develop a sense of mistrust towards that carer. (Erikson, 1950)

The second stage, Autonomy Vs shame and doubt, this stage occurs during the late toddler years around 1-3 years of age and this stage begins when the toddler discovers that ‘their behaviour is their own’, they start to show independence. During this stage, the child’s energies are used to enhance the development of their physical skills, including walking and running skills and holding and grasping objects. The child learns to control their behaviours and skills but may develop shame and doubt if not handled well.

The third stage; Initiative Vs guilt, is visible during the preschool years of childhood, from age three to age six. During this stage, children are encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour, their body and their personal items such as well as pets. When a child is irresponsible and feels anxious, the feeling of girt may evolve. By having this responsibility, a child’s initiative increases and guilt reduces by a sense of accomplishment. Children begin to become more self-confident and tend to make more initiative towards the things they do, however if this accomplishment is not achieved children may have feelings of guilt. (Erikson, 1950) As children experiment in imaginative and creative play they also experiment with the kind of person they can develop into. Initiative is the ‘sense of ambition and responsibility’ and this develops when parents are supportive towards their child’s found feelings of purpose and direction. (Berk, 2000) If parents demand too much self-control, this will lead to guilt.

The fourth stage; industry Vs inferiority and this stage begins at age six and will end approximately at age eleven. Throughout this stage children are using up their energy for maturing their skills to master knowledge and their intellectual abilities. (Santrock, 1997) In this stage, children are attending primary school and need to use their intellectual and physical skills, to gain positive feelings of them. (Nixon & Aldwinckle, 1997) If the child’s efforts go unnoticed and unrewarded, it can result in feelings of inferiority and possible incompetence. At this stage, children also have the need to work cooperatively with others.

How can this theory influence care-giving practices?

Trust Vs Mistrust:

Carers should be sensitive and caring towards the child. A carer must ensure that the child’s needs are met quickly and understandingly, the infant will feel safe and secure with the carer. For example if a child begins to cry, the carer assists the child quickly, caringly the child will feel safe, and a sense of trust will develop within that child.

However, if a carer leaves a crying child for a long period and does not try to calm them down, the child will develop a sense of mistrust. Carers should understand and know the individual needs of each child and respond appropriately to different cues. When this is achieved, the atmosphere of the room is relaxed.

Autonomy Vs Shame and Doubt”

As this stage occurs during the toddler years, children of this age are consistently moving around; therefore, carers need to maintain the limit of safe and acceptable behaviours. Although if limits are too strict, to the point where a child is not allowed to climb or run around in case they hurt them selves, this may lead to a child having doubt in themselves and their...
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