top of page
  • Fe Robinson

Can you be autonomous when you wish?

Two weeks ago I blogged about stage one of Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development model, today I’m introducing the second stage - Autonomy vs shame/doubt. Developmentally, we move into this stage of development between 18 and 36 months of age, when we are focused on development a sense of self-control.

We are trying to work out whether we can do things for ourselves, and when/how we are reliant on other people. Kids want to pick out their own clothes, decide for themselves what they will eat, and of course are getting to grips with using the toilet.

It’s at times an infuriating stage for parents, when their little one wants to do all sorts of things for themselves, taking an eternity, just in the moment when care-givers may need them to be quick. Managing this boundary is part of the learning, can the child have some control, or are they continually caused to comply?

This is an essential development stage. As we move through it, we learn self-reliance, gain confidence in our skills, and learn that we can have some influence over both ourselves and the world. Navigated successfully, we are confident and secure. This sets us up for success socially, academically and in other ways, we believe in ourselves. Where we are not able to move through this stage, we can be left with a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt that can penetrate many areas of life, and last a long time.

This struggle with inadequacy and self-doubt is not just one for toddlers. There are many adults with work to do to complete the work of this developmental stage, gaining a freedom to believe in themselves and their ability to influence the world. This helps to manage boundaries in relationships, because self-belief leaves you free to trust not only in yourself, but also in your opinion of others. If these patterns are a challenge for you, psychotherapy may be helpful.


Fe Robinson

bottom of page