Autonomy Versus Doubt and Initiative Versus Guilt - Essay Sample

3 pages
573 words
University of Richmond
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One of the conflicts that children have to face while growing is mastering autonomy versus doubt. Children will often doubt whether they can do things by themselves or rely on help from others. It is important to recognize the fact that the virtue that children battle with during such points is the virtue of will. Coincidentally, this dilemma occurs at a point or age when children are training to use the toilet. According to the Ericksons theory of psychological development, this stage lays a foundation for other successive stages. Children facing autonomy versus doubt often experience challenges in controlling situations such as using the toilet while at the same time doubting whether to rely on their parents for help. This makes most children at this stage shy away especially after defecating. The training of children to use a potty makes children doubt what they can do.

From the above example, it is possible to differentiate autonomy and doubt among children. A child between the age of 8 months and three years who successfully learns the skill of using a toilet gains independence. A child with such autonomy can make decisions on when and how to use a toilet. Children who gain such autonomy will not pee or defecate in pants. On the other hand, children who express doubt cannot make decisions since they exhibit suspicion over their abilities. A child who exhibits doubt in using the toilet is also likely to have shame. To understand this perspective, consider a child who has not learned the skill of using the toilet. Such children can mess in their pants and at the same time feel shame to move close to people. Children would understand that they need to use the toilet but at the same time have shame and doubt. The children who manage to go through this stage successfully gain confidence. I this case, success imply the ability to establish a balance between autonomy and doubt. Children who fail to establish a balance at this stage often develop a sense of incompleteness or doubt of personal abilities.

Initiative versus guilt

Initiative versus guilt is the third stage of psychosocial development as described by Erikson. It is at this stage that most children begin to have a sense of power and control over their social environment. One of the major questions that children have during this stage is whether they are good or bad. It should also be understood that the main virtue at this stage during a childs growth is the virtue of purpose. Children try to explore, develop a sense of ambition as well as direction. For instance, children begin to socialize and play with others, and care providers should encourage such initiatives. Children may choose to play with cars, choose specific friends or choose the environment to play in.

At this stage, children also choose a way to approach specific tasks such as eating. Whenever a caregiver attempts to suppress such initiatives, most children tend to develop guilt. They remain dependent on decisions provided by caregivers. For instance, if a caregiver stops a child from playing with specific children, a child may develop guilt and fear to play other children. If a child is questioned against a specific approach such as eating, most children also develop guilt. Caregivers should establish a professional approach to ensuring that children explore different initiatives while at the same time understand the difference between good and bad.


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