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Initiative Versus Guilt

According to Erik Erikson’s classic theory of identity development, children aged around 3–5 years are confronted with the third identity crisis—namely, initiative versus guilt. This crisis builds from the fact that during this period of the life span, children’s cognitive and physical capabilities allow them a greater freedom to explore and enact goal-directed action than before. As such, children now possess a greater potential to initiate actions in a manner focused on achieving their goals, often including greater exploration of their environments.

However, along with these newfound opportunities comes the specter of guilt for failing to achieve sought after goals, or alternatively, for achieving goal-directed actions that, unfortunately, lead to worse consequences than previously expected. Successful resolution of this crisis though leaves young people with a ...

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