- Psychosocial Conflict: Trust vs Mistrust
- Major Question: "Can I trust the people around me?"
- Basic Virtue: Hope
- Important Event(s): Feeding
The trust versus mistrust stage is the first stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage occurs between birth and approximately 18 months of age. According to Erikson, the trust versus mistrust stage is the most important period in a person’s life.
Because an infant is entirely dependent upon his or her caregivers, the quality of care that the child receives plays an important role in the shaping of the child’s personality. During this stage, children learn whether or not they can trust the people around them. When a baby cries, does his caregiver attend to his needs? When he is frightened, will someone comfort him?
When these needs are consistently met, the child will learn that he can trust the people that are caring for him. If, however, these needs are not consistently met, the child will begin to mistrust the people around him.
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 they care for. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable.
Return to The Psychosocial Stages
Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.
Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.