The Importance of Autonomy Compared to Shame and Doubt

As I read my Lifespan Development book, I came across many different psychological theories psychologists had created to explain the different stages throughout infancy and toddlerhood.  Autonomy fits into Sigmund Freud’s “anal stage” ideas, from his psychosexual development theory, that states that the parents have a hard time finding a balance when the child becomes interested in their genital region.  They must allow the child to learn some independence, however, too much independence can affect their future thoughts relating to the anal stage.

Shame and doubt ties into autonomy when the parents must step in to correct or guide the child.  For example, if a toddler is constantly taking her clothes off or touching her genital region, the caregivers must find a way to step in and wrong the child, without scolding or raising their voice.  Maybe the child had just learned to use the toilet or dress on their own? It could be possible that they are stuck in a point where they do not understand why it is inappropriate to rip off their clothes in the middle of the grocery store.

Shame and doubt is introduced when the parent/parents fail to keep calm about the situation.  By yelling or scolding the child, the child feels a sense of “shame and doubt” which can cause them to avoid the parent, which could even possibly cause the child to become distant or mistrust the parent.  If a child is feeling shame and doubt, this could cause the child to rebel in the future.  Confusion for the child may set in if they were never guided between right and wrong.  Leaving the child with too little choice can cause compulsivity.  A child’s temperament can be greatly affected as well.  Too much shame and doubt can cause the child to respond inappropriately.

Another way to express this balance is to refer to it as self-control.  It is important for a child to develop self-control earlier in life because they can prepare for social interactions with other children.  Too much control can cause a loss of self-esteem.  If a child is too sheltered or not taught enough self-control, he/she may feel shame and/or doubt towards his/herself.  These feelings can cause a person to lack confidence, as well as act awkwardly in public.  If a child is taught self-control, they will have a better self-esteem.

At this new and exciting stage in my life, I have looked back and thought about all of those who have taught me to be the person I am today.  I’m thankful that my parents had guided me and talked to me about situations, without scolding or causing me to feel shame.  I feel that i have the proper amount of autonomy because I can always “say no” in situations that make me uneasy or uncomfortable.  Although I am happy with the person I’ve grown to be, I feel that it is wrong to say I do not need any more guidance.  We are all human, we are all learning, and we all make mistakes.


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