Developmental Task: Trust vs Mistrust

The stage of Trust vs Mistrust is the first of all stages of development described by Erik Erikson. It begins from the time of birth and lasts till the end of 12th or 18th month of age. This mainly revolves around the infant’s basic needs that are solely met by parents or the caregivers. Most of the time infants are dependent on the mother than any other person not only for his food but for sustenance and comfort as well. The development of mental and physical activities of the child are in primitive stages at this time and all his relative understanding of the world and society come from caregivers and the type of interaction with the child.

If parents treat the infant with love, show him their affection and give him warmth and feeling of being protected, the sense of trust grows. On the contrary if parents fail to provide the infant with the above mentioned elements then the infant’s view of the world is of mistrust. The important thing about this stage of development is that these are basically the primary caregivers that are usually parents, whose behavior determine the infant’s opinion about the rest of the world.

Furthermore, behind the phenomenon of development of trust or mistrust is the persistence in provision of basic needs. If child gets food, comfort and affection on regular basis, the sense of trust gets strengthens and child starts having the feeling that the world is dependable and reliable. If caregivers fail to provide the infant with these basic necessities on regular bases or show a neglectful or abusive behavior to the infant then the sense of mistrust develops. These negative experiences strengthen the opinion of doubt in the infant’s mind and he start to things that world in unreliable, unpredictable or an unsafe place for him.

The treatment given to the child during this period of life helps in development of sense of good and bad in the child. He starts to differentiate between conducive and unsafe environment. This provides the child with the understanding of what constitutes harmful circumstances. Development of sense of hope also takes place during this stage of development.

It is the behavior and action of the caregivers that determine the nature of expectations. If caregivers fail to maintain child’s nourishment, hygiene and comfort then the virtue of hope is takes a negative turn. Child becomes fearful and shows lack of trust in the world. On the other hand adequate care, regular nourishment and feeling of warmth can help in development of sense of hopefulness. Based on the foundation of trust children who developed trust in the early months of their lives are more likely to go through other stages of development successfully and mature into a more confident person later on.


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Daisy Jane Antipuesto RN MN

Currently a Nursing Local Board Examination Reviewer. Subjects handled are Pediatric, Obstetric and Psychiatric Nursing. Previous work experiences include: Clinical instructor/lecturer, clinical coordinator (Level II), caregiver instructor/lecturer, NC2 examination reviewer and staff/clinic nurse. Areas of specialization: Emergency room, Orthopedic Ward and Delivery Room. Also an IELTS passer.

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