Crain, William (2011). Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications (6th Edition). Upper Saddle
River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Identifying Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development as either favoring nature or nurture is
quite a difficult task because according to Erikson, the emergence of the various developmental
stages is determined by biological maturation (nature) as well as social expectations (nurture).
For example, the important role of nurture in Erikson’s theory is demonstrated by the
emphasis placed on infant-caregiver interactions and in particular whether the infant
experiences consistent and reliable care giving in order to establish a basic sense of trust
in their caregiver. (Crain, 2011, p.283)
However, nature also appears to be important in Erikson’s theory as demonstrated by the
following quote: “.
..maturation ushers in a sense of autonomy during the second and third
years. (Crain, 2011, p. 287)
The fact that Erikson believed that both nature and nurture played a fundamental role in
development is made clear by the following passage from Crain (2011): “Erikson defined
the conflict as that of autonomy versus shame and doubt. Autonomy comes from within;
biological maturation fosters the ability to do things on one’s own- to control one’s own
sphincter muscles, to stand on one’s own feet, to use one’s own hands and so on. Shame
and doubt, in contrast, come from an awareness of social expectations and pressures” (p.
In contrast to Freud’s theory of development in which biology drove development and children
were passive; according to Erikson’s Psychosocial theory of development, children actively
explore their environment
The eyes, first part of a relatively passive system of accepting impressions as they come along,
have now learned to focus, to isolate, to ‘grasp’ objects from a vaguer background, and to follow
them.” (Erikson, 1963, p, 77 as cited in Crain, 2011, p.283).
“If development were just a matter of gradual quantitative change, any division into stages would be
arbitrary. Erikson’s stages, however, give us a good sense of how behavior is qualitatively different at
different points. Children at the autonomy stage sound very different from those at the trust stage, they are
much more independent.
..Behavior has a distinctive flavor at each stage” (p.297)
Each stage contains a developmental task that an individual must successfully resolve in order to
achieve optimal psychological development.
For example, the developmental task during the first stage of infancy is trust/mistrust and