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Erik Erikson and Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) said we develop in psychosocial

stages.  In his theory, eight stages of development unfold

as we go through the life span.  Each stage consists of

problems we must face.  These problems are believed to be

turning points of increased vulnerability and enhanced potential.

The more the person resolves their problem successfully, the

healthier developed they are.


Trust vs. Mistrust is Eriksonís first psychological  stage, which is experienced in the first year of life.  At this stage

 a newborn requires a feeling of physical comfort and minimal amount of fear.  Trust during this time sets the stage for a lifelong

expectation that the world will be a good and pleasant place to live.


Autonomy vs. Shame is Eriksonís second stage of development, this occurs in late infancy and toddler hood.  After gaining 

trust in their peers, infants begin to discover their own actions.  They star to assert them selves as an independent.  If infants are

 restrained from doing so they may develop a sense of shame and doubt.


                            Aspects of the Psychosocial Domain    





*The 1st emotion that can discerned with a newborn is  distress.

*They gradually acquire the capacity to cope with or manage

                     emotionally arousing situations.

*A social smile occurs about six weeks of age.

*Emotional responses become increasingly immediate.

*Babies will cry at first, due to over excitation of the nervous system.

*Newborns are pre-adapted to respond to facial stimuli, speech

                sounds, and to look toward auditory stimuli.



  *can recall past events, anticipate outcome, and behave intentionally.

  *An infants emotional reactions respond to events with particular meanings.

  *Infants will notice events caused by their behaviors and repeat these behaviors if the  outcome is positive.

*They tend to have an inclination to fall in step with their caregiverís behaviors.

*Infantís social behavior becomes increasingly organized around their principle caregivers.

7 to 10 Months: Stranger Distress- Babies react negatively to strangers.

8 to 9 Months: Separation Anxiety- A child is fearful of being left by the caregiver.

10 to 14 Months: Stranger Wariness- Fear of unfamiliar people.




Learning Theory: a newborns personality is molded as parents reinforce or punish their childís various spontaneous behaviors.

  *Infants tend to imitate personality traits of their parents, even if they are not directly reinforced for doing so. Personality is formed and permanently fixed in the early years of child hood.


                               Temperament: refers to an infantís general style of behavior. 

  This includes a variety of behavioral characteristics such as

  general activity level,  irritability, and proneness to distress, reactivity, and inhibition.     




Easy Babies: High biological regularity readily approached new objects and people, highly adaptable, mostly positive in mood.

Slow-to-warm-up Babies: Moderate regularity, mildly negative reactions to novelty, but adapted after repeated exposure.

Difficult Babies: Biologically irregular, tend to withdraw from novelty, low in adaptability, and intense, mostly negative mood.



Secure Attachment: They use their mothers as a secure bases for exploration, seek and receive comfort from them, and show positive emotional responses to them.


Anxious Attachment: when infants are unable to use the caregiver as a secure base for exploration.


People: Parents and Baby - Photo, Photos, Pictures, PhotographsAnxious-resistant Attachment: Infants have trouble

separating from their mothers to explore, yet show

ambivalence toward contact with them.


Anxious-avoidant Attachment: Infants separate readily

from their mothers and avoid them when mothers return

after a brief separation.


Disorganized-disoriented Attachment: Infants have no consistent way of interacting with their caregivers.  Often

the result of abusive in the infant-caregiver relationship.


  *Attachment between parent and children becomes easily recognizable toward the end of the first year.  A secure attachment

 tends to predict curiosity, social competence, and self- assurance later in childhood.  Where as insecure attachments tend to

 correlate with less successful adaptation in these areas.


            Care giving Steps for Parents of Newborns and Infants

  *Respond to childrenís cues and clues; notice their rhythm and moods.

*Respond when they are upset as well as when they are happy (in words or actions), and what they are trying to do.

*Hold and touch them, play with them in a way that lets you follow their lead.

*Move in when children want to play, and pull back when they seem to have enough stimulation.

*Recognize that each child is unique.

*Keep in mind that from birth, children have different temperaments, that they grow at their own pace, and that this pace varies from child to child.  At the same time, have positive expectations about what children can do and hold onto the belief that every child can succeed.

*When a child is enrolled in childcare, a parent should become involved.  They should keep in close touch with their childís care providers or teachers about what they are learning.

*The best way to encourage a child to grow is to give them warm, consistent care so that they can form secure attachments to those who care for them.

*The infantís attachment to their mother or primary caregiver is imperative.  Young children who receive highly erratic care are more prone to becoming very dependent and anxious later in life. 

*Children who receive persistently unresponsive care are more likely than other children to shut down emotionally and to act in ways that keep others at a distance.

*Infants who experience warm, responsive care giving are, later in life, more empathetic with peers. 

*When they are responded to early in life, they learn something basic about what it means to be connected with other people.

*Early care giving that is sensitive and emotionally responsive can indeed buffer the effects of high-risk environments.  It can promote positive change for children who have experienced poverty and abuse.

Note to all Parents: When all is said and done, in the end, it is not the amount of care given but the quality in which it is given that is important.