Friday, May 18, 2012



According to the Erikson’s psychosocial theory, “the combination of adult expectations and children’s drive toward mastery sets the stage for the psychological conflict of middle childhood, industry versus inferiority, which is resolved positively when children develop a sense of competence at useful skills and tasks” (Berk, 2009. p. 330). This means that a child’s overall sense of self will develop in a positive manner, each time he or she successfully completes a useful skill and/or task. However, a child can also develop feelings of inferiority each time he or she is unsuccessful at completing a useful skill or task, which then leads to a lack of confidence and/or low self esteem. 

During this stage of development, peer and adult social interactions greatly determine whether the child’s sense of self will develop in an industry or inferiority direction. According to Erikson’s theory, this is because a child’s overall sense of self is based on whether peer and adult social interactions positively or negatively affect specific aspects of individual development. These specific aspects are also as follows:

Self-Concept - Children develop this mental impression of self, which is based on social comparisons that can include appearance, abilities, and behaviors that others exhibit toward them. A positive example of this is when a young boy performs with peers in a concert and realizes that he is member of a talented group of people (industry). One negative example of this is when he performs with peers in a concert and doesn’t play correctly. Fellow peers in the group than give him looks of disgust that make him question is own self worth (inferiority).

Pride In Accomplishment - This is when a child will gain a sense of inner pride because he or she successfully completed a task and/or possesses a certain skill. However, this sense of pride may be undeveloped or never gained, if the child can’t successfully complete a certain task or does not possess a specific skill. One positive example is if a young girl plays the piano and receives praise by a fellow classmate or teacher which increases her overall level of pride (industry). One negative example is when a young girl plays the piano and is told she’s the worst player in the world by a classmate or teacher. Her overall level and/or sense of pride is reduced because she realizes that she is unable to accomplish a task that others can (inferiority).

Moral Responsibility - This is determined by how a child is able to develop and choose to practice the difference between right and wrong. One example of this is when a young boy lies for a peer because the outcome will be considered more beneficial for both parties. In this example, each child may also develop an increased but skewed sense of industry, versus inferiority.

Cooperative Participation - This sense of accomplishment occurs when a child feels good about being involved and offers individual contributions in a social situation. One example of this is when a child helps the teacher grade papers (industry). One example of how this may not occur is when a child won’t or cannot participate in a class treasure hunt. This child may then be left with feelings of inferiority because he or she questions the unwilling/selfish behavior, due to possibly "missing out" on something great.

Things That Can Be Done To Help An Inferior Child Gain Confidence & Self Esteem

There are several things that can be done to help children reduce their feelings of inferiority and develop an increased sense of industry. Three of these are as follows:

1. When a child attempts to complete a new task or skill with peers, always use encouragement and praise versus demeaning and/or hurtful words. Even if a child is unable to successfully complete the task or develop a new skill like fellow peers, it is still important to praise his or her individual effort.

2. Try to select activities that are age appropriate and meaningful to the child. This can ensure that the child will be developmental able to complete the activity, and enjoy doing it as well.

3. Teachers can also encourage team studies or work times so it gives the child a chance to work together in an effort to meet a common goal with fellow peers. This may also give the child an opportunity to help peers who can’t comprehend aspects of the assigned task.
L.E. Berk. (2009). Development through the lifespan. Boston, Massachusetts. Allyn & Bacon.

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