Script: The Basics of Psychology for Christian Ministry
Homework Assignments

1.3.1 1st year of life: TRUST OR MISTRUST

Compared to other species human babies are born at a very immature stage of development and take exceptionally long to reach full independence. At birth, humans are completely helpless. In some ways, being born is a little bit like moving into a half-finished house. During the first months after birth, the baby’s brain matures to a point where it can begin to form an awareness of itself in its new environment and start interacting with it.

Complicating the matter is the fact that, unlike in mammals, human child-rearing is not minutely driven by complex instinctual patterns of behavior. In contrast to their animal counterparts, human mothers are woefully unprepared for the task they are facing. No prep class or readiness test is needed to become a parent. As a result, the newborn baby faces a highly uncertain environment depending heavily on the readiness of its caregivers to quickly learn how to provide for its needs. This, of course, is dependent on a wide variety of factors, such as emotional maturity and resilience of the parents, the level of family and community support, or economic conditions.

The growth task for the infant during the first year of its life is to “get a feel for the world.” If the baby finds that its needs for nurture are reliably met, a sense of basic trust sets in. It learns that the world is trustworthy, and that good things can be expected. Of course, this is different from the differentiated idea we adults have when we think of trust. It is basic trust – a little bit like the first layer of paint on a canvas that defines the color of the background. If the foundational experience “feels” safe and welcoming, then the baby’s world becomes a place where good things can be expected by default.