Aims | The Child | Task of teaching | First steps to integration
- Child   development   and learning
- Piaget
- Vigotsky
- Erikson
- Self-  regulated   learning
- In closing
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The child: psychological and pedagogical considerations


A psychosocial approach: Erik Erikson


Sigmund Freud’s theories have had profound effects on the study of development. Freud acknowledged a variety of human motives, but focused mainly on the libido, the pleasure-seeking impulse. His theories about these unconscious drives have influenced modern thinking about emotion, motivation, and personality development. Freud felt that there are three parts to the personality - the id (instinctual), the ego (realistic), and the superego (moral-ethical).The ego controls perceived dangerous impulses by means of various mechanisms of defense.


Just as Freud’s focus was on the id, Erikson (1963) is primarily concerned with the implications of the ego for human development. For Erikson, human development can only be understood in the context of one’s society, and he stresses the relationship between the ego and the social forces that influence it at different periods of a person’s live.


Erikson divided the life span into eight stages of psychosocial development. Each stage is characterized by an emotional crisis with two possible outcomes, one favourable and one unfavourable. The resolution of each crisis determines subsequent development. The first four stages are particularly relevant to our focus on young children.


Table 1-The first four stages of Erikson’s psychosocial development

Central life crisis

Positive resolution

Negative outcome

Trust vs. Mistrust, (birth to eighteen months)

Reliance on caregiver who has become an “inner certainty as well as an outer predictability” leads to development of trust in the environment.

Fear, anxiety, and suspicion. Lack of care, both physical and psychological, by caregiver leads to mistrust of environment.

Autonomy vs. Doubt,

(eighteen months to three years)

Sense of self as worthy. Assertion of choice and will. Environment encourages independence, leading to pride and good will.

Loss of self-esteem. Sense of excessive external control causes doubt of self and others.

Initiative vs. Guilt, (three to six years)

Ability to learn, to initiate activities, to enjoy mastery and achievement.

Inability to control newly felt power. Realization of possible failure leads to guilt and fear of punishment.

Industry vs. Inferiority,

(six years to puberty)

Learns value of work; acquires skills and tools of technology. Competence helps to order things and to make things work.

Repeated frustration and failure lead to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, affecting view of life.

(Adapted from Erikson, 1963)


As Puckett and Black (2000:85-86) emphasized “certainly, it is more desirable for children to grow up having a sense of basic trust in themselves as competent and effective individuals than to become insecure, distrusting, (…). The ability to see tasks to be accomplished and to proceed with them rather than relying on the permissions and directions of others is far more productive than a fear of reprimand, embarrassment, or failure so intense than taking the initiative is left to others. The desires to know, know how, and to do well are traits far more self-fulfilling and success-oriented than feelings of incompetence, reluctance, and perhaps rejection of diverse experiences and new knowledge”.


So it is an important goal for early education to develop healthy personalities and to value early childhood experiences and relationships.