Stage 1: Basic Trust vs. Basic Mistrust (Birth to 18 Months)
In stage one of Erickson’s theory, the first eighteen months of life is centered on the development of trust (Zaslow & Kirst-Ashman, 2007); that is, the infant must learn to trust and depend on others for food and care. According to Erikson (1985), the most important event of this stage is feeding. The infant will either develop trust if her caregiver’s presence and feedings are stable and predictable, or develop a sense of mistrust if they are not. As such, Erikson (1985) concluded that hope becomes the overarching theme of this stage with “trust born of care” (pg. 250) and highlighted the adverse effects of improper ratio of trust vs. mistrust throughout one’s life cycle.
Due to Benjamin’s unusual deformity at birth, his first encounter in life was met with rejection, hatred, and abandonment – from the doctor who advised Button’s mother that there were “places for unwanted babies” (2008), to the death of his mother and finally, his father who attempted to throw Benjamin in the river but instead abandoned him on the doorsteps of a nursing home. Although Bowlby indicated that early parental loss “increased the likelihood of and a greater vulnerability to future adversity” (as cited in Maier & Lackman, 2000, para. 2), Benjamin was fortunately discovered and rescued by Queenie, an African American woman who worked at the nursing home. Unable to have a child of her own, Queenie looked past his deformity and loved him instantly saying, “You as ugly as an old pot, but you still a child of God” (2008). Although Benjamin showed all the deformities of an eighty-year-old man, he formed a trusting bond with Queenie because of her enduring presence and predictable nourishment [feeding]. Therefore, Erikson’s theme of hope (1985) in Benjamin’s first stage of life was fulfilled. Moreover, Queenie’s stable presence and predictable nourishment [feeding] allowed Benjamin to confidently progress to the next developmental stage of life – autonomy vs. shame and doubt.
Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (18 Months to 3 Years)
During the second stage of life, the overarching psychosocial crisis is autonomy vs. shame and doubt (Erikson, 1985). This is the period when toddlers learn the essential strengths of self-will and self-control through accomplishing basic tasks independently. As such, toddlers begin to develop finer motor skills and assert their autonomy to walk, talk, and feed themselves including the chief task of this stage – toilet training. Toddlers are given many opportunities to build self-esteem and autonomy as they gain greater control over their bodies and successfully accomplish tasks on their own. However, if they are “constantly downtrodden, restricted, or punished” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2007, pg. 258) while learning important skills and notably during toilet training, toddlers will end up feeling ashamed and doubtful of their capabilities, resulting in low...