Psychosocial Development Essay

February 6, 2004

PSY 1002A

According to Erik Erikson, there are eight stages of psychosocial development. The first four are Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, and Industry vs. Inferiority. It is Erikson’s belief that individuals progress through these stages sequentially throughout one’s lifetime. Each stage is characterized by a conflict, which must be worked through in order for healthy development to occur. Failure to achieve resolution impedes later development, but can be corrected in another stage.

The first stage, Trust vs. Mistrust, happens at birth to one year old. Babies learn to trust or mistrust their caregivers, depending on the degree and regularity of care, love, and affection offered. This may or may not be true. My middle daughter tended to gravitate towards her father, regardless of the fact that he was not her primary caregiver. She just liked him better than me!

The second stage, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, occurs during the ages of one to three years old. At this stage children begin to want to do things for themselves. Overprotective parents may thwart their child’s efforts at independence, thus teaching the child shame and doubt about their efforts to exert their own will. Despite the fact that this line of thought is convincing, I have a few doubts about it. Although all three of my daughters’ favorite word was “NO”, they applied the word to every situation, even if they wanted the item in question. If the user of “NO” was me, some accept it, while some did not.

The third stage, Initiative vs. Guilt, happens from three to six years old. At this stage, children begin to initiate activities, plan and undertake tasks, and enjoys their developing motor skills . If not allowed to pursue these skills, the child may develop a sense of guilt about their activities. This one I agree with. When my daughters would develop a new skill, such as setting the table, and were corrected on how the table should be set, they tended to flatly refuse to do it. They would cry that they were going to do it wrong. It became more a matter of whether or not they could do it, rather than how they did it.

The fourth stage, Industry vs. Inferiority, takes place at six years old to puberty. Children begin to feel pride in their accomplishments in this stage. They may feel they are inferior if not encouraged. I also agree with this opinion. At this age my daughters entered school. As they learned, they began to compare themselves to other children in their class, feeling inferior if others learned a skill quicker than they did . For example, my oldest daughter excels at the violin, but considers herself stupid because algebra eludes her.

There are many differing theories about how children develop language skills. The Learning Theory, which emphasizes language being learned through reinforcement, and the Nativist Position, which stresses the point that language and grammar are learned easily and naturally in stages, are two of these opposing theories.

Scholars that believe the Learning Theory, maintain that language is acquired in much the same way that other behaviors are learned. Through reinforcement and imitation, parents are able to shape the way their children learn. Parents selectively criticize incorrect words, while reinforcing the correct ones with praise, approval, and attention. Because children tend to learn by example, this particular approach is useful in teaching the child what is acceptable to say, and what is not. On the other hand, imitation can not account for certain patterns of speech, such as telegraphic speech, or systematic errors, such as overregulation. Parents also tend to reward children for the content of what they say, rather than correct grammar.

Scholars who subscribe to the Nativist Position, believe that language develops in stages that occur in a fixed order, at approximately the same time in most normal children. Babies have an instinctive ability to recognize and distinguish phonemes that are in any language.

The Nativist position is better able to account for the fact that children throughout the world go through the same language learning stages at approximately same age, as well as the mistakes that all children seem to make as they learn.