If you remember a few weeks ago, I started a post on the Theorists of Child Development and by the end of a pretty long post, I had only covered Freud and some of his theories. I did hint that I was going to move on to Erik Erikson in a few weeks and today you get to read a fun post surrounding Erikson.
If you want to review the first part of these posts, please click here but to give you a recap, Freud is the father of psychoanalysis and he believed that the human personality was made up of three parts: The Id, the Superego and the Ego. Each one works to temper the other and the ego works the hardest to fulfill the needs of the Id.
Freud also went on to explain the stages of development which included Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital stages. Each one occurs at a specific age of development and if you are interested in learning more, please read Theorists of Child Development Part One.
So why the little recap on Freud, the main reason is that Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a psychoanalyst that not only studied Freud’s theories but expanded them. He felt that our development was affected by the social and cultural influences that are around us. He also believed that even a child who suffered during some of the developmental stages has the ability to overcome the obstacles and deficits from the earlier stages.
Erik Erikson felt that each stage in development was faced with a crisis and that successfully overcoming the crisis would help build the skills necessary to good mental health. He also believed that each resolution was a combination of both positive and negative experiences and the key was to find a balance between the two.
Many of the theories of child development are the result of Erik Erikson’s work and for the purpose of this post, I will look at the developmental stages that Erik Erikson identified and a short little explanation of each one.
Erik Erikson had 8 stages of development, but he did not focus on child development only. These stages span the entire life of a person from infancy until old age and ultimately death. For the purpose of this blog, I am going to stick to the stages of development which affect children from infancy until 18 years of age.
Erikson’s Stages of Development:
- Trust vs Mistrust: Since Erik Erikson looked at the outcome at the end of a stage, his stages are labelled differently than other theorists. He believed that the ego would suffer or benefit from each stage and gave the desired outcome to the stage. For Trust vs Mistrust, it is fairly obvious that the positive outcome would be trust while the negative outcome would be mistrust. This stage occurs between the ages of birth to 18 months and is the stage when a child learns that his needs will be met. The bonding that goes on between parent (or primary caregiver) and child is important to fostering the trust necessary to build on greater self esteem and self worth later in the child’s development. If needs are not met or the child is not held, comforted or cared for properly, mistrust begins to form and can lead to even more detrimental feelings as the child grows.
- Autonomy vs Shame: This stage occurs between the ages of 18 months and 3 years of age and as you may have guessed, this is the toddler stage where children will begin the process of autonomy. Toilet training occurs during this stage, along with many exciting and frustrating aspects of development such as dressing and feeding one self. If there is a balance of positive experiences, a child will come through this stage with not only autonomy but a strong feeling of self esteem. If the experiences are negative, such as parents becoming frustrated and angry at potty accidents during toilet training, feelings of shame will be evident.
- Initiative vs Guilt: Spanning the ages of 3 to 5, this stage is when children begin to take the initiative in activities. This may be small things or they may be large but the key is that children are taking the lead and parents are allowing them to do so (as long as everyone is safe). If initiative is not allowed or encouraged feelings of guilt may occur, and as with all the other stages, may lead to feelings of worthlessness.
- Industry vs Inferiority: Occurring between the ages of 6 and 12, children are beginning to branch out and interact with peers and at school. There are moments of industry where the child is learning and creating and there are moments when children may feel a little inferior to the other people around them. A balance between both builds on feelings of competency.
- Identity vs Role Confusion: The teen years are always confusing no matter how well the other stages of development went. During the ages of 12 and 18, children are in a limbo of sorts where they are expected to act more grown up, actually feel the need to do so, but are still limited in what they can do since they are not grown up. It is a stage where limits are tested, more than others, self identity as both an individual and a peer takes place and morality is developed on a more personal level. It is no longer a simple matter of “Because my parents said it was wrong.” Again, self esteem, self worth, independence and many other traits can be harmed if there are too many negative experiences.
Erik Erikson went on to explore stages after these but they deal with adult development and not child development. It is interesting to note that for all of these stages, Erik Erikson identified key relationships that are important in the development of the child. From infancy to the age of 6, the important relationships are with parents and family. After 6 there is a shift in relationships from family to school to peers, and although family is still important it is not the key relationship.
So that is it for Erik Erikson, in a few weeks, I will look at Jean Piaget and go over his theories. After that, I will touch on a few other theorists, although not in the length that I have done with Erikson and Freud.
Sirena Van Schaik