Erik Erikson's: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt
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Erik Erikson's psychosocial development theory provides a framework to understand the developmental stages that a child has to go through. In this particular exercise, a psychosocial development study to understand the process of language acquisition in different cultures will lead to a greater appreciation of Erikson's theoretical framework. The link's title: “Language Development Across Cultures” focuses the spotlight on a familiar Eriksonian claim, that the acquisition of skill is dependent on the child's social environment. Researchers chose to examine the impact of social development by observing language acquisition in different cultures and socio-economic environments, and the outcome proved the claim that the interaction between parent and child is the main engine, so to speak, that drives the learning process.
According to Erikson, a toddler's environment encourages him to “stand on his own feet” (Slee, 2002). At this stage of the development process, a toddler begins to discover his or her autonomous will. Erikson's main contribution to the study of psychosocial development through this aspect of his theoretical framework can be seen in how he encouraged the parents not to be too rigid when it comes to control and discipline. Parents are conscious of their parental obligations and responsibilities, especially when it comes to child rearing. However, as Erikson pointed out, there is a tension between the need to assert control and the child's need to learn using his or her autonomous will.
In the context of child acquisition, Erikson's insights are useful when it comes to developing the correct approach, especially with regards to learning the complicated skill of verbal communication. The interplay between the child, his environment, as well as the social factors surrounding his or her psychosocial development was covered significantly in the video link.
Language Development Across Cultures
In the said video, two contrasting learning strucures were analyzed, and the interesting insight that one can get from the said study was made possible through the application of Erikson's analytical framework, specifically the caveat regarding the exertion of excessive control and discipline in order to achieve a specific result. At the onset, it was made very clear that parents in industrialized world, like those living the United States, utilize a more pragmatic approach when it comes to language acquisition.
It can be argued that parents in more affluent countries have a deeper appreciation of the purpose and meaning of language compared to those who are living in more impoverished societies. For example, Americans and Europeans perceive language not only as a basic communication tool; language is also a tool that can help them improve their status in life. On the other hand, poverty strickens the societies. In Latin America and Asia, for instance, people are concerned not with the goal of higher education, because their main concern is day-to-day survival.
Due to the insistence of parents from more affluent societies to instill a certain level of skill, the tension that Erikson described in the development stage (Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt) was made clear. It has to be pointed out that the women in impoverished villages are guilty of shaming the child and creating doubts in his or her ability to navigate life on their own, however, the context is different (My Development Lab Video Series, 2015). In these villages the use of excessive control is of a different reason, and that is to minimize the autonomy of the child so that the mothers can accomplish household chores and other activities related to their livelihood. It is in stark contrast to more affluent societies, wherein the mothers minimize the autonomy of their children in order for them to learn more sophisticated abilities related to language acquisition.
One of the most interesting realizations in this study is the discovery that the process of language acquisition was completed regardless of the strategies. The common denominator in language development across diffferent cultures is the social interaction between parent and child. In other words there is no need for a systematic and calculated method of teaching the language, as long as the child grows up in an environment wherein he or she can interact with adults. Thus, it can be argued that children in more advanced societies are going to have a more difficult time dealing with the negative backlash predicted by Erikson, when parents are unwilling to surrender control so that children are given the time and space to learn more about their autonomous will (Slee, 2002). On the other hand, the laissez faire approach to language development in poor societies may hamper the mastery of the language, and it can affect the future capabilities of the children.
Erikson's second stage of psychosocial development describes a critical stage in the life of a toddler, wherein he learns about self-autonomy. This is also the stage wherein the acquisition of basic skills is made possible through social interaction with people. In the My Development Lab Video series one can find a video clip that covers the language development process in different cultures around the world. The comparison of the social process that children in different cultures had to go through in order to acquire verbal communication skills brings to mind the tension that Erikson described when he warned against the use of excessive control or discipline in order to temper the child's desire to explore his or her autonomous will. Thus, it was argued that the negative effects of the use of excessive control could be more prevalent in more affluent societies that utilize a stricter regimen when it comes to their language development strategy. This is in stark contrast to the laissez faire attitude of parents in impoverished societies. However, the laid back approach in poorer societies may limit the capability of the children to improve their skills and improve their lives in the long run. Erikson warned of this type of tension, the need to exert control and the need to give more autonomy to the toddlers and allow them to learn using their new found autonomy.
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