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Human development: a psychological, biological, and sociological approach to the life span

The first stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development occurs between birth and one year of age and is the most fundamental stage in life.

Because an infant is utterly dependent, developing trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child’s caregivers. At this point in development, the child is utterly dependent upon adult caregivers for everything that he or she needs to survive including food, love, warmth, safety, and nurturing. Everything. If a caregiver fails to provide adequate care and love, the child will come to feel that he or she cannot trust or depend upon the adults in his or her life.

If a child successfully develops trust, he or she will feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who are inconsistent, emotionally unavailable, or rejecting contribute to feelings of mistrust in the children under their care. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable.

Of course, no child is going to develop a sense of 100 percent trust or 100 percent doubt. Erikson believed that successful development was all about striking a balance between the two opposing sides. When this happens, children acquire hope, which Erikson described as an openness to experience tempered by some wariness that danger may be present.