December 2022 Newsletter – Keeping Child Development in Mind During the Holidays: Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson’s work focused on the development of humans from a social-emotional lens. His theory contains 8 stages that evolve throughout the human lifespan. The first five stages cover birth through age 18.

  • Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust – Infants begin to trust their caregivers when their needs are met with consistency and warmth. If this fails to occur, mistrust will develop.
  • Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt – Toddlers are exploring their independence. When this is encouraged, children begin to trust their abilities and build confidence. If independence is discouraged, children could develop self-doubt or feelings of shame about their abilities.
  • Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt – Preschoolers continue to explore independence as they set goals and work toward them. When supported, children will develop positive feelings about their skills and will continue to take initiative. If these efforts are discouraged, a child may experience feelings of guilt and avoid taking initiative.
  • Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority – Young school-agers who are supported in their efforts will experience feelings of competence. If children do not experience positive feedback for their efforts, feelings of incompetence and inferiority can emerge.
  • Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion – Teens are working to develop their sense of self and determine who they are in relation to others and their environment. When supported, teens will develop a strong sense of who they are. If not supported, they may be confused and struggle to establish a strong sense of self.

Understanding how supporting children through these stages of development is extremely important.  It is natural for toddlers to seek autonomy; preschoolers seek opportunities to set and achieve goals; school-agers want to feel like competent human beings. And according to Erickson, it is vital that these efforts are nurtured and supported.

All of this development continues during the holiday season – there is no pause button. Unfortunately, a toddler who wants to get dressed independently for the holiday party may not align with their parent’s vision or timeline.

Caregivers need to understand how their responses to children’s actions impact the development of children during these critical stages. Provide lots of opportunities for children to work on these skills in your learning environment.  Share this developmental information with families along with some tips for how to encourage trust, autonomy, initiative, and competence during the holiday season.


For the main article Keeping Child Development in Mind During the Holidays, CLICK HERE

For the article Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, CLICK HERE

For the article Executive Functions, CLICK HERE