Initiative vs. Guilt – Erik Erickson Stage Three [Summary]

A Summary of Erik Erickson’s Stage Three: Initiative vs. Guilt

Erik Erickson developed the theory of psychosocial development. It consists of eight distinct stages spanning from infancy to adulthood. The successful completion of each of these stages will result in a healthy person and basic virtues.

This post focuses on the third stage of Erickson’s theory, which is Initiative vs Guilt. This crucial stage of development occurs in pre-school years between the ages of three and five years.

This stage of psychosocial development begins as children enter preschool, whereby they start to act independently and come to the realization that the world is trustworthy. At this stage, children learn how to exert power over themselves and the world as a whole. Children begin asserting control over the environment they are in by taking initiative in activities such as facing challenges, planning and accomplishing tasks.

Furthermore, the child contemplates on the question “Am I good or bad,” and it is the responsibility of the caregiver to help them make appropriate choices. During this stage, caregivers need to tread carefully since once they are dismissive, they may cause children to feel ashamed and discouraged. On the other hand, caregivers may become frustrated when they come to the realization that the children want to exercise more control on things that impact them directly.

Erickson recognized that play and imagination are the means by which children learn about themselves and their social world. Hence their initiative strengthens when allowed to play and try out new skills by being given independence and toys to play with. These lead to the creation of social groups among children as they learn how to engage and cooperate with others to achieve shared goals.

Also, as a result of exploring their environment children start asking “why” questions and continually reconciling their need do more things that merit social approval. Hence children will be compelled to engage in activities that will result in approval and praise from the caregiver.

On the other hand, when a caregiver ignores a child’s need to engage in imaginative and physical play, they experience the dismissal as a source of shame and embarrassment. Being threatened, criticized and ignored excessively by caregivers can lead to the development of a sense of guilt and they may see themselves as a nuisance, resulting in the lack of self–initiative.

It is fundamental that caregivers encourage creativity and exploration while continually guiding the child in choosing the available options for play and imagination development.

Consequently, discouragement and lack of concern from caregivers contribute to the child feeling ashamed and dependence on others to offer initiative. As preschool children get to accomplish tasks on their own due to their newly discovered independence, some go beyond their abilities and accomplish self-set challenges. Success in such endeavors leads to children working and leading others, initiating projects and maturing with a sense of direction which plays a fundamental role in the kinds of risks they are willing to take.

On the other hand, children that don’t get continuous encouragement and are inhibited by caregivers from accomplishing self-set tasks develop frustrations. The symptoms for these may be observed as negative behavior such as possessing low energy, getting depressed easily and demonstrating slumped postures.

Such children may become very aggressive and develop behaviors such as yelling, hitting and throwing objects, and consequently, they may emerge with fear of trying out new things. Whatever they undertake they may feel they are doing something bad and tend to interpret mistakes as a sign of personal failure.

Work Cited
“Simply Psychology.” Simply Psychology. N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Apr. 2017.
“The Psychology Notes Headquarter.” N.p., 2017. Web. 2 Apr. 2017.