Posted by: aboutalbion | July 17, 2012

Childhood (2)

Erikson’s first stage, infancy, lasts from birth to around eighteen months.

 According to Erikson, trust is the component of personality that flourishes in the first stage of life.  And by trust, Erikson means ‘an essential trustfulness of others as well as a fundamental sense of one’s own trustworthiness’. (1968 p96)

 In Erikson’s model, trust v mistrust is the issue to be resolved in the first eighteen months of life, and the practice of reciprocity (with care givers) is the means to achieving this desirable end.  It is in the practice of reciprocity that a baby experiences feelings of security which manifest themselves in trust.  In general terms, Erikson seems to be hinting that some care giver’s transactions foster trust, and other care giver’s transactions foster mistrust.  The task is to augment trust without completely extinguishing the potentiality for mistrust.

If care givers can give the new-born child a degree of closeness, regularity, and structure, then the child will develop the feeling that the world is a secure place, and that people are loving and dependable. Through the parents’ reactions, the child also learns to trust her/his own body and the biological impulses that overtake her/him.

Erikson wishes to emphasise that the amount of trust that a baby develops in her/his maternal encounters during this first stage “does not seem to depend on absolute quantities of food or demonstrations of love, but rather on the quality of the maternal relationship”. (1968 p103)  In Erikson’s view, “mothers create a sense of trust in their children by that kind of administration which in its quality combines sensitive care of the baby’s individual needs and a firm sense of personal trustworthiness …”. (1968 p103)

An indication that a baby is progressing in the first stage is when the child isn’t unduly distressed by the need to wait a short time for the fulfilment of her/his needs.  Erikson suggests that a baby’s developing sense of personal trustworthiness can be witnessed when s/he appreciates that her/his mother does not need to be watching her/him all the time, and that her/his mother will not leave her/him.

[Erikson, Erik H (1968) Identity: Youth and Crisis.  London: Norton.]

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