However, mastery of a stage is the main tasks of psychological development at preschool age required to advance to the next stage. The outcome of one stage is not permanent and can be modified by later experiences. Erikson’s stage theory characterizes an individual advancing through the eight life stages as a function of negotiating his or her biological forces and sociocultural forces.
Is it okay to be me? Is it okay for me to do, move, and act? Can I make it in the world of people and things? Can I make my life count? Is it okay to have been me?
Existential Question: Can I Trust the World? The first stage of Erik Erikson’s theory centers around the infant’s basic needs being met by the parents and this interaction leading to trust or mistrust. Trust as defined by Erikson is “an essential trustfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one’s own trustworthiness. The infant depends on the parents, especially the mother, for sustenance and comfort. According to Erik Erikson, the major developmental task in infancy is to learn whether or not other people, especially primary caregivers, regularly satisfy basic needs. If caregivers are consistent sources of food, comfort, and affection, an infant learns trust — that others are dependable and reliable. If they are neglectful, or perhaps even abusive, the infant instead learns mistrust — that the world is an undependable, unpredictable, and possibly a dangerous place.
Existential Question: Is It Okay to Be Me? As the child gains control over eliminative functions and motor abilities, they begin to explore their surroundings. Parents still provide a strong base of security from which the child can venture out to assert their will. The parents’ patience and encouragement helps foster autonomy in the child. Children at this age like to explore the world around them and they are constantly learning about their environment. At this age children develop their first interests. For example, a child who enjoys music may like to play with the radio.
Children who enjoy the outdoors may be interested in animals and plants. Highly restrictive parents, however, are more likely to instill in the child a sense of doubt, and reluctance to attempt new challenges. As they gain increased muscular coordination and mobility, toddlers become capable of satisfying some of their own needs. If caregivers encourage self-sufficient behavior, toddlers develop a sense of autonomy—a sense of being able to handle many problems on their own. But if caregivers demand too much too soon, or refuse to let children perform tasks of which they are capable, or ridicule early attempts at self-sufficiency, children may instead develop shame and doubt about their ability to handle problems. Existential Question: Is it Okay for Me to Do, Move, and Act?
Initiative adds to autonomy the quality of planning, undertaking and attacking a task for the sake of just being active and on the move. The child is learning to master the world around them, learning basic skills and principles of physics. They learn how to zip and tie, count and speak with ease. At this stage, the child wants to begin and complete their own actions for a purpose. Guilt is a confusing new emotion. The development of courage and independence are what set preschoolers, ages three to six years of age, apart from other age groups. Young children in this category face the challenge of initiative versus guilt.
Within instances requiring initiative, the child may also develop negative behaviors. These negative behaviors are a result of the child developing a sense of frustration for not being able to achieve a goal as planned and may engage in negative behaviors that seem aggressive, ruthless, and overly assertive to parents. Aggressive behaviors, such as throwing objects, hitting, or yelling, are examples of observable behaviors during this stage. Preschoolers are increasingly able to accomplish tasks on their own, and can start new things.