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Erik Erikson's Stages of Development

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Erik Erikson's Stages of Development

I have chosen to describe Erikson's theory of adolescent development because I tend to lean towards Freud's idea of development. Erikson takes Freud's ideas, but goes a step further by putting more weight on society and culture in the development of adolescence.

Erickson is most famous for his work in expanding Freud's theory of stages. Erickson believes we develop through a predetermined unfolding of our personalities in eight stages. Our advancement to the next stage depends if we can successfully tackle the entire social and culture needs in the current stage. It is not to say that we cannot move on to the next stage, but our progress through each stage is in part determined by our success, or failure, in all the previous stages.

Every stage involves tasks that are developmental and psychosocial in nature. For example, my daughter, who is in the first grade, has to learn to be productive, and her productivity is learned from her peers and her teacher through her social interactions. She will also learn to be productive through my wife and myself. The interactions that we have with her, in my opinion, will have a bigger impact in her social interactions and development at school.

Erickson allows each stage to have "optimal time." Though we cannot stop the aging process or the pace of life, he believed we should not rush a child from childhood to adulthood. Like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, if each need or stage is successfully met, then we can go to the next stage/level. When we pass each stage successfully, we strengthen our psychosocial skills that will help guide us through the next stage.

The first stage is called Trust vs. Mistrust. It is from birth to about 2 years of life. During this stage the infant begins to develop trust, but at the same time, has a sense of mistrust. A great example of this stage is when a child readily goes into family member's arms, but when a stranger tries to hold them, tends to shrink away. They pull back until a person they are familiar with makes them feel at ease with the stranger. For the child to successfully go to the next stage, they must be able to feel that if something goes wrong, it will work itself out into a favorable condition. If the infant successfully masters this, this will make it easier for them to get through the bad times that arise in life.

The second stage is called Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. This goes from the age of 1 year to the age of three. In this stage, the child starts to achieve a degree of autonomy. This is done by the parent(s) allowing the child to explore and manipulate their environment, and at the same time, be firm but tolerant of the child's exploration. This way, the child will develop both self-control and self-esteem. It is important during this stage that the parent(s) do not block the child from exploring, or allows the child to do as they please with no limits. This could bring on shame and doubt.

During these years, also known as the terrible twos, a child believes they can do anything. If the parent(s) can keep that attitude in the child while also setting up boundaries, then this stage has been successfully met, and aside from taking on this attitude into adulthood, the child is ready for stage three.

The third stage is called Initiative vs. Guilt. The age of this stage goes from 3 years of age to five. Initiative is the positive response to challenges, taking on responsibilities, learning new skills, feeling purposeful. During this stage, it is important for parent to encourage their children to try out their ideas. My daughter had an idea to catch the rabbits that were eating up our garden by digging holes around the vegetables they were eating. Of course, the holes she dug at the age of three were not deep enough to catch a rabbit, nonetheless, her idea had merit, and we let her execute her plan. At three, a child is starting to learn guilt, but the realization of guilt usually comes through around the age of five. My daughter had a habit of throwing objects when she was between two and three. She threw our camera into a lake at three, and did not know what she did wrong at the time. But when she was five, she took a toy that was dear to my son and broke it on purpose. She displayed guilt at this age, because she understood her actions and the following consequences.

Again, the importance of balance is key to the success of this stage. We need to allow the child to develop a sense of responsibility, thus giving them a sense of initiative, and at the same time, they need to understand guilt when they do something wrong.

The fourth stage is called Industry vs. Inferiority. The age of this stage goes from the age of 6 to puberty. This is the time for learning. I know this first hand, because both of my children attend Elementary school, and everyday they tell me what they have learned, and of course, they are surprised to know that I actually have knowledge of these things they believe they are teaching me. At times, I act as if the knowledge they are dispensing too me is new. I want to encourage them to learn. It is also important in this stage that teachers must show a caring attitude to the child to encourage their willingness to learn. Also, the importance of acceptance with peers starts to become a huge factor. When my children where in kindergarten and first grade, they would kiss me goodbye when I dropped them off, now they hate this ritual. They are very concerned about the impact this would have with their peers and the ridicule they would face if others saw their Dad kiss them.

During this time in their lives rules become important, as does the feeling of success, be it playing with their friends or getting a good grade in school.

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