A strong foundation in Child Development is a must for any candidate who is desirous of clearing CTET (Central Teacher Eligibility Test). In its new format, the CTET has become even more application oriented. You must have an in-depth understanding of Child Development concepts to crack the questions that are designed to test your conceptual clarity.
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Theories of Child Development constitute an area that is most significant from the exam perspective. Keeping that in mind, we have chosen to discuss Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development today.
Theory of Psychosocial Development
Erikson’s theory explains the effect of social experience across an individual’s entire lifespan. Erikson focused his attention on the role played by relationships and social interaction in an individual’s growth and development.
Erikson proposed that an individual’s personality develops in 8 sequential stages from infancy to adulthood. In each of these stages, the individual faces a psychosocial crisis that may have a negative or positive impact on his/her personality development. Erikson maintained that these crises have a psychosocial nature. Each crisis involves a conflict between the individual’s psychological needs (i.e., psycho) and the needs of the society (i.e., social).
As per this theory, the successful resolution of each conflict makes the individual acquire a basic virtue. If the developmental stage is handled effectively, the individual will develop a sense of mastery that is sometimes referred to as ego quality or ego strength. However, if the stage is managed unsuccessfully, the individual emerges with a sense of inadequacy and a diminished ability to complete the subsequent stages. Thus, each of the stages in this theory is associated with acquiring competence in an area of life.
Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust
• Stage: Infancy
• Critical Event(s): Feeding
• Duration: Birth till 18 Months (One and a Half Years)
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Hope
The infant is entirely dependent on its caregivers. The establishment of trust is based on the quality and dependability of the adult caregivers. Infants will develop a sense of trust when the care and affection they receive from caregivers is consistent and reliable. This sense of trust will be carried with them further and they will feel emotionally secure even in other relationships.
If the infant’s needs aren’t met consistently, anxiety and mistrust may develop. Caregivers who are unreliable, rejecting of the infant or emotionally unavailable contribute to the sense of mistrust in the infants placed under their care. Inability to develop trust results in fear and a feeling that the world is unreliable and inconsistent. Successful development is about striking a balance between the 2 opposing sides. When this happens, children acquire the virtue of HOPE.
Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
• Stage: Early Childhood
• Critical Event(s): Potty / Toilet Training
• Duration: One and a Half to 3 Years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Will
During this stage, children focus on acquiring greater personal control over physical skills so as to a gain sense of independence, e.g.: Potty Training. When children are encouraged to achieve independence, they become confident of their ability to survive in this world.
However, if children are excessively controlled, disapproved of, or not provided the chance to assert themselves, they start feeling inadequate and may thus become exceedingly dependent on others. They may develop low self-esteem and a feeling of doubt or shame in their abilities.
Children who complete this stage effectively feel confident and secure, whereas those who don’t are left with a feeling of self-doubt and a sense of inadequacy. Erikson was of the view that acquiring a balance between autonomy and shame and doubt leads to the development of the ego quality: WILL. It is the belief in children that they can act with purpose, within reason & limits.
Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt
• Stage: Preschool
• Critical Event(s): Play and Exploration
• Duration: 3 to 5 Years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Purpose
During this stage, children begin asserting control over the world through social interactions and directing play. It’s a time of vigor in action and behavior which the parents may find overly forceful. Since children regularly interact with their peers at school, it offers them an opportunity to build interpersonal skills by engaging in various activities.
By planning games, activities and role plays, children acquire a sense of initiative. They become confident in making decisions and their capacity to lead others. Success during this period gives rise to a sense of PURPOSE in children. Children who are overly forceful and tend to exert too much power face criticism from parents and other adults, which may give rise to a sense of Guilt.
Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority
• Stage: School Age
• Critical Event(s): School
• Duration: 5 to 12 Years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Competence / Confidence
During this period, the child’s peer group assumes higher significance and becomes a key source of self-esteem. Now, children feel the urge to gain approval by exhibiting certain competencies that the society considers important. They start acquiring a sense of pride in their achievements. Successful completion of this stage gives rise to the virtue of COMPETENCE. Competence is the result of children developing a belief in their ability to handle the tasks that have been assigned to them.
However, if they are unable to develop a skill they think the society values highly (e.g., being athletic), it may lead to a feeling of inferiority. But, a certain degree of failure could be essential for a child to develop a sense of modesty. Overall, a balance must exist between competence and modesty.
Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion
• Stage: Adolescence
• Critical Event(s): Peer Group Interaction & Social Relationships
• Duration: 12 to 18 Years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Fidelity
During this stage, teens tend to re-examine their personal identity and develop a sense of self. The adolescent tries to analyze and find out the values, ideals and beliefs that define who he or she is. Ego identity, a conscious sense of self, develops through interaction with the society.
Erikson maintains that adolescents mayn’t feel fully comfortable about their body till the time they adapt to and come to terms with the physical changes that are characteristic of this stage. Successful completion of this stage leads to the virtue of FIDELITY that has been described by Erikson as the ability to live by the expectations and standards of the society. Fidelity can be seen as the ability to commit oneself to others by accepting them even in the face of ideological differences.
Inability to create a sense of identity within the society (“I am not aware of what I want to be in future”) may result in role confusion, where the individual is not sure about one’s role or place in the society. An overall identity crisis could be the result of failure in this stage. A teenager may begin to rebel or start experimenting with various lifestyles in a response to this identity crisis or role confusion. Further, pressuring an individual into a certain identity can compound the sense of unhappiness and lead to establishing a negative identity.
Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation
• Stage: Young Adulthood
• Critical Event(s): Commitment & Intimate Relationships
• Duration: 18 to 40 Years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Love
Young adults begin to share themselves more intimately with others to form loving and intimate relationships. They look for relationships so as to be in long term commitment with someone other than a member of their family. Successful completion of this stage is characterized by the ability to have meaningful and lasting relationships with others.
Erikson maintained that a healthy sense of personal identity was critical for forming happy and committed relationships. Shunning intimacy and avoiding commitment in relationships could result in loneliness, isolation, and even depression. The virtue of LOVE is the outcome of success in this stage, whereas a failure here leads to a feeling of isolation and sadness.
Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation
• Stage: Middle Adulthood
• Critical Event(s): Parenthood and Work
• Duration: 40 to 65 years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Care
Adults, in this stage, experience the need to create and nurture things that will survive after them. This urge to ‘leave your impression’ or to ‘make your mark’ in the world after you are gone has been referred to as ‘Generativity’. It involves being productive at home and work and also contributing actively to the community.
Feelings of usefulness and accomplishment are the hallmark of successful completion of this stage which results in the virtue of CARE. However, an inability to contribute effectively leads to one’s shallow participation in the world. Such an individual could feel disconnected with the society at large and experience stagnation and futility.
Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs. Despair
• Stage: Maturity / Old Age
• Critical Event(s): Reflection on Life
• Duration: 65+ Years
• Basic Virtue / Outcome: Wisdom
During this time, people look back and reflect upon the events in their lives to find out if they are satisfied with the way they have lived. Looking back on life, senior citizens experience the need to feel a sense of contentment. The ones who are content with their achievements experience a sense of ego integrity and an overall feeling of peace.
Erikson was of the view that we experience remorse if we see our lives to be unproductive. The inability to achieve our life goals can give rise to a sense of hopelessness. The virtue of WISDOM, even in the face of death, is the result of successful completion of this stage. However, the ones who remain unsuccessful in this period experience a great deal of bitterness and regret.
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Psychosocial development as explained by Erik Erikson is among the most prominent theories of Child Development. The contents of this update are relevant to students targeting teaching exams such as CTET, State TETs, KVS, DSSSB and NVS.