Posted by: aboutalbion | July 18, 2012

Childhood (3)

Erikson’s second stage, early childhood, lasts from around eighteen months to around three years of age.

According to Erikson, autonomy is the component of personality that has the opportunity to flourish in the second stage of life. (1968 p107f)   And by autonomy, Erikson is highlighting the emergence of genuine signs of independence, spirited preferences and aversions, and the practice of dissent towards her/his care givers.

In Erikson’s model, autonomy v shame and doubt is the issue to be resolved during this second stage.  And to promote autonomy and to reduce shame and doubt, care givers need to permit the young toddler, within certain boundaries, to investigate and control her/his surroundings.

For Erikson, shame and doubt arise when care givers harshly regulate a toddler’s efforts to show enterprise and independence.  In such a situation, a toddler learns that s/he has made a mistake and that s/he should not and cannot take initiatives.  “This stage, therefore, becomes decisive for the ratio between loving good will and hateful self-insistence, between co-operation and wilfulness, and between self-expression and compulsive self-restraint or meek compliance.” (1968 p109)  With a healthy balance between autonomy (on the one hand) and an appropriate capacity for shame and doubt (on the other hand), a toddler will exhibit a refreshing sense of determination.

Erikson believes that progress through this stage is influenced by the outcome from the first stage.  “For the growth of autonomy a firmly developed early trust is necessary.  The [toddler] must have come to be sure that [her/his trust in her/himself] and in the world will not be jeopardized by the violent wish to have [her/his] choice …”. (1968 p110)

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

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