The concept of personality is one of the most discussed in psychology. There are several psychological theories that accentuate and discuss the stages of the personality’s development by focusing on different aspects that can be considered as influential for the personality’s progress. Eric Erikson is the author of the theory of personality development, which bases on the influence of social factors that determine eight stages of the development process.
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Eric Erikson’s theory is often compared with the theory provided by Sigmund Freud, who influenced Erikson’s visions in spite of the fact that his theory depends not on the factors of personal sexuality, but on the social experience and influence of parents. To analyze the peculiarities of the psychological development of children, it is necessary to examine the first four stages described in Erikson’s theory.
Thus, to work out the stages and the factors which can be considered as decisive for their development, Eric Erikson focused on such notions as the ego identity, personal identity, and social identity. According to Erikson, social interactions can be discussed as the key aspects of the progress of ego identity, personal identity, and social identity. Moreover, a successful personal development at each stage depends on the peculiarities of overcoming definite conflicts that determine these stages (Moony). The psychological growth at a definite stage influences the development of a personality at the next stage (Giorgis and Glazer). The first four stages which are associated with the age of children are the periods of infancy (birth-18 months), early childhood (toddlers, 2-3 years), preschool (3-5 years), and school (6-11 years) age (Erikson).
Infancy (birth-18 months)
The first stage of development is based on the conflict between an infant’s feelings of trust and mistrust. Erikson discusses this stage as the fundament for the progress of the other stages. That is why parents are responsible for care for their children because it is necessary for them to feel safe and secure at this stage. Children depend on their parents, and the quality of care and maternal relationship can influence the child’s feeling of trust in the world greatly. In order to avoid children’s further mistrust and fears, it is necessary to pay much attention to the communication between parents and children, their visual and touch contacts. Erikson accentuates the fact that the main concept of this stage is hope as a result of trust (Erikson).
Early Childhood (2-3 years)
At this stage, children become aware of themselves as independent personalities. That is why the main conflict of the period is based on the relationship between autonomy and shame. Children’s autonomy appears in their necessity to control their actions (toilet training, body functions). However, the opposite side of this process is a feeling of shame, which can be affected by the inability to cope with this or that skill and function (Moony).
The children’s progress at this stage results in the development of their self-consciousness and independence in controlling definite aspects of their lives. Thus, Erikson concentrates on the development of the notion of will like the basic one (Erikson). Children begin to choose food and toys, revealing their independent preferences. This stage is important for forming the children’s feeling of confidence in their actions (Giorgis and Glazer).
Preschool Age (3-5 years)
The third stage of the development process greatly depends on the second stage because children’s world perceptions and their ability to control in this period play a significant role in their social interactions. The sense of independence and control transforms during the process of playing. Children begin to play the roles of adults, which are the results of the visions of life and social interactions between people. Moreover, it is important for children to express the initiative while playing in order to emphasize their autonomy and definite abilities. The main conflict of this stage is between initiative and guilt.
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The feeling of guilt appears when children experience some difficulties with expressing initiatives and playing active roles. Erikson also focuses on the significance of the sexual aspect of this phase (Erikson). During preschool age, children can experience many challenges connected with their social identity and which can result in the development of such complexes as ‘Oedipal struggle.’ The major concept of this period is purpose. That is why children begin to ask many questions about the reasons and purposes of these or those actions and phenomena (Moony).
School Age (6-11 years)
School-age reveals the significance of such a concept as competence. During this period, children begin to develop their creative and learning skills. That is why they need the support of their parents and surrounding in spite of the fact the authority of parents begins to decrease. When children’s abilities and actions are encouraged, the sense of industry develops. This sense is in conflict with the feeling of inferiority, which can become a result of the lack of support and belief in children’s skills. Thus, at this stage, the feeling of confidence should be supported with the feeling of competence in doing such socially significant actions as learning and creating (Moony).
According to Eric Erikson, the first four stages of the personality’s development are extremely significant because they form the base for the further personality’s progress, and they are influential for the development of each next stage. A possible person’s successes and failures can be a result of the peculiarities of these stages’ development.
Erikson, Eric H. Identity and the Life Cycle. USA: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994. Print.
Giorgis, Cyndi and Joan Glazer. Literature for Young Children: Supporting Emergent Literacy, Ages 0-8. USA: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.
Moony, Carol G. Theories of Childhood: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget and Vygotsky. USA: Redleaf Press, 2000. Print.