Erikson’s Psychosocial Development
Erik Erikson describes psychosocial development as occurring in stages. He describes the different stages according to personality traits shown at the various stages.
I have interviewed and made my observations of persons at the different stages as follows: Infancy (birth to 18 months)
Trust vs. Mistrust
A one year old baby was observed during a session of breastfeeding. The baby is hungry and it is time for the mother to breastfeed him. She picks up her son and holds him gently on her lap telling him she is going to give him some milk and latches him on to her breast. The baby immediately calms down and sucks for a few minutes. While the baby is drinking, the mother looks at her son lovingly and the child fluctuates his attention from the mother to what his happening around him. The above behaviours show the affection and loving relationship between the baby and the mother who is very patient and gentle towards her son. This renders breastfeeding to be a wonderful experience to both mother and child. According to Erikson, the first stage of trust vs. Mistrust is shown in the above observations the baby fully trusts his mother who is caring for him with a lot of love, patience and predictability. Ths is shown in the fact that he calms down and is comfortable to look around him while he is feeding during the session.
Early childhood (2 to 3years)
Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
A boy of two and a half years who is still undergoing toilet training has been observed. The mother asks her son every two hours if he needs to go potty. The child is still inconsistent in his response but sometimes out of his own free will go to the potty and points to it. The mother pulls down the child’s pants and gently asks him to sit down on the potty. She tells him that he is now growing into a big boy and that she will be very happy if he uses the potty. The boy sits down for a minute on the potty whilst his mother brings his blocks to play with him while he is sitting down on the potty. After a while the boy gets bored, stands up, runs into the kitchen and picks up a packet of biscuits. The mother explains to her son that as soon as he urinates in the potty she will give him a biscuit. The child insists on eating the biscuits immediately and does not cooperate. The mother looks frustrated since she has been trying to potty train her son for the past few months without success. According to this stage of Erikson, the toddler becomes more mobile and assertive on his independence. I think that this has been shown in the above observation. The toddler seems to try to please his mother initially by sitting down on the potty. However he soon gets bored with playing with the blocks and wants to do something which he likes at the moment. When his mother refuses to give him a biscuit he protests and wants to have his own way. On the other hand the mother seems to be at a loss on what to do next since she thinks that her son needs to be toilet trained in order to be accepted at his new school. The toddler does not seem certain of what he has to do yet. He still seems to be unprepared to be potty trained though he is showing first signs. He is showing he is bored and insecure when trying to use the potty. That is probably the reason why he went to fetch the biscuit so he will do something he likes instead of something which makes him feel less confident. The mother needs to be more patient and give more encouragement to her son regarding this issue. Introducing stories of other toddlers/cartoon characters being potty trained, and maybe singing some songs might help her son be more motivated, calm and patient in his training.
Preschool (3 to 5 years)
Initiative vs. Guilt
A four year old girl was observed at play in a children’s playground whilst her mother looked on. Initially the girl clutches her mother and does not want to go to play with the other children whom she doesn’t know. The mother...
References: • Bee H.L. (1992), The Developing Child. London: Harper Collins.
• The Developmental Stages of Erik Erikson by Arlene F. Harder , MA, MFT. Retrieved from
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