Freud’s Development Theories essay

Sigmund Freud is known also known as the father of psychoanalysis in an internationally acclaimed psychologist for his authoritative contribution to the field of psychology. He lived between 1856 and 1939 and by the time of his death he had redefined old concepts and brought in a new and radical conceptual and theoretical framework that has been used to shed more light on the process of psychological development. One of his most important theories is the Theory on Psychosexual Development.

In this theory, he advances the role of sexual pleasure in the developmental stages of a child. He identified “a succession of stages in which specific zones of the body provides gratification by being successively endowed with libido, a pleasure seeking energy” (Joseph H. , 1996, 28). He also pointed out that at every stage of a child’s development, a kids behavior is mostly centered and obsessed with certain parts of the body from which such a kid derives immense sexual pleasure.

These parts identified are the mouth, arms and the phallus or the genitals. At each of the stage identified “the child’s libido centers on behavior affecting the primary erogenous zone of his age. ” This is to mean that he or she can only focus on the pleasure of the next stage after “resolving the developments conflict of the immediate one” (David B, 1996) These stages as identified by Freud include the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency period and the genital stage. Each and every child hence predictably passes through these stages.

Due to the nature of the society and the mode of upbringing, a child may be scolded or reprimanded for his or her obsessive attention to any one of these erogenous zones. This result to what Freud refers to as fixation. Fixation in psychology refers to the act of being obsessively attached to an object. Such a fixation can be extended late into adulthood and affect the personality of an individual. The first of those is the oral stage which commences immediately from birth up to a period of 15 months. At this stage gratification is solely centered on a kid’s mouth.

The child explores the surroundings with the mouth as the key instrument. The baby can only eat, drink and cry. At this stage “the baby easily learns to experience the world by putting what he can in his mouth, hoping that whatever it is will give him the same satisfaction that the breast once did. ” (Pamela T, 2000, 55) A look at young kids reveals that they test everything they come across with their mouth. Different gadgets that can fit into a mouth end up there. Freud says that this is because they derive some sexual pleasure from doing this.

At such an age, the mouth is the most erotic zone to a child, hoping that everything will give him the same pleasure he derives from the mother’s breasts. The baby too at this stage is quite possessive of the mother due to the intense sexual attraction to her. As the child develops, due to that possessiveness, he wishes the father could go away so that he could have the mother to himself. This is the beginning of the Oedipus complex. Oedipus principle simply, according to Freud, is the desire of a child to get rid of her father so as to sleep with her mother.

According to Freud, children if weaned of their mother’s breasts too early or too late will not be able to get over the developmental conflict in this stage and may develop a fixation. Fixation at this stage would be an obsessive urge to stimulate the mouth hoping to use it as an instrument of pleasure derivation. This can be done through smoking, drinking or thumb sucking. At this stage only the id is fully formed but the ego and the super ego have not developed yet. This means that a child does not have a sense to his actions, all what he does is dictated by the pleasure principle.

The second is the anal phase. There occurs a thin line of integration between the oral and the anal stage. The anal stage is marked by the demonstration of self independence by the child. The child is no longer obsessed by the mother and learns to shake his head in defiance as the sense of self autonomy takes shape. At this stage, the child derives pleasure from emptying his bowels. This, in the words of Pamela T. , (2000, 55) is “the pleasure the child takes in his excretory functions. ” The child take pleasure in either holding or expelling feaces.

There occur conflicts in this stage between the id and the ego. The id becomes satisfied when the child excretes even in the defiance of his parents while the ego urges the baby to hold and conform to the expectations of the parents and by extension the society. This is an important stage in personality formation. Children are either able to develop what some scholars have come to refer to as the anal retentive or repulsive character. Such a child, according to (Raymond J, 2002, 44) “is said to develop the anal triad of frugality, obstinacy, and orderliness.

” Anal-expulsive character on the other hand (44) is a “personality type characterized by compulsive behavior, especially related to orderliness and cleanliness”. Both such personalities are as a result of fixations either retention or excretion. The phallic stages occur from the age of four to seven years. It is the most controversial of all the Freud’s model. The focus of attention and the tool of pleasure are the genitals. In this stage “the baby becomes aware of his genitals as a source of stimulation, exploring his own body in the normal course of events through masturbation” (Pamela, 2000, 55).

At this stage, there are a lot of conflicts that are occurring. The intensification of the Oedipus conflict is one such example. The boy intensifies his desire for his mother while he envies and becomes jealous of the father for his role in the mother’s life. The id would like to get rid of the father but the ego understands the realistic nature of such a venture. The child also develops fear that the father will castrate him should he come to know of the secret longings. This conflict is resolved by the boy later warming up and identifying with his father.

The child is able to repress his sexual desires for his father due to castration anxiety. The boy envies his father and wants to become like him. It is this way that he discovers his proper sexual and gender role. The Oedipus conflict hence aids in the development of the super ego. The boy now has an understanding of the existing morals and values; the need to conform to such morals is not as a result of fear of being reprimanded but is as a result of a super ego. While boys have an Oedipus complex, girls are embroiled into the Electra complex where they have a secret sexual desire for their fathers.

This concept is shrouded with vagueness. An explanation of it is that they discover that the girls as well as the mothers do not possess the penis which is the tool of envy. She is envious of her dad blaming her mother for the lack of a penis thus developing what is referred to as the penis envy. Later however, the girls start identifying with the mother. Fixation at the phallic stage can result to a person possessing a phallic character. If not addressed, it further results to an individual being “incapable of close love” which according to Freud “could be a root cause of homosexuality” (David B.

S. , 1996) The next stage is the latency phase. This is a period of relative calm as the sexual interests are repressed and maintained at a dormant level, “the libido finds alternate means of exerting its power as the child derives satisfaction in the pursuit of knowledge. “(Joseph H, 1996, 30). If all the subsequent stages had been handled effectively, then this is a stage of developing a strong personality and self esteem. Sexual energy is directed to other social matters such as schooling as the stage occurs between the age of seven and twelve years.

At such a stage, a child is very active physically and is able to suppress the sexual desires experienced earlier in life. Both boys and girls are also able to resolve the conflict they have with their bodies and sexual desires. The sexual urges possessed by the id are resolved by the ego through repression and identification. A child is able to block the memories of his or her inadequacies and starts to identify with the parent of his or her own sex. The sexual urges re-emerge later as puberty creeps in. The genital phase is the last stage as far as Freud’s psychosexual development theory is concerned.

It commences from the puberty stage up to mid-teenage-hood. Robert B. (1992, 43) identifies this status as “the goal of normal development, and represents true maturity. ” This is a stage characterized by the re-emergence of the sexual desires defining the earlier stages, only which this time it is a more mature approach. Pleasure at this stage is derived from sexual objects or activities. There is a sense of independence from parents and bonding with people of the opposite sex becomes common. Core to the Freud’s psychosexual development are three concepts, the id, ego, the super ego as observed above.

According to Chris Jenks (1996, 72) the id “is that libidinal repository of insatiable desire”. It has to be repressed so that the kid can adapt to the demands of the family and the society. The id is formed in the oral stage and results to aggressive impulses. The ego stands at a dialectical opposition to the id. It is formed in the second stage of development and represents common sense. Super ego on the other hand comprises of the conscience and it checks on the ego bringing in a feeling of guilt. It is formed in the third stage toward the end of the Oedipus complex.

In addition to the psychosexual theory of development Freud also came up with the theory of defense mechanisms. This focuses on the way the id, ego and the super ego resolve the resultant conflicts. Id defense mechanism protects one from anxiety. In this, Freud identifies three types of anxiety. Moral anxiety is the fear of going against the set rules. Reality anxiety is the fear of bad real occurrence like snake bites while neurotic anxiety is the fear that id impulse will become dominant in the mind. Defense mechanism ranges from denial, regression, displacement, identification amongst other.

The theory of psychosexual development has received immense criticism from various corners. It is criticized for its sexist undertones. It is claimed that “Freud’s theories were often informed by his own introspection and self analysis, and thus were infused with an inherently male perspective” (Psychotherapy Resources, 2007). Scientists have largely criticized the theory for it lacks to produce adequate empirical evidence to support the claim. There is also the assumption that the Oedipus complex is universal. His theory is largely influenced by cultural values.

Though the listed stages can be demonstrated in children as the progress from birth to early childhood, there is no ample evidence that they represent the development phases of children. It has been hailed though for being a useful insight into the developmental stages of a child’s life and the various hurdles and conflicts that must be resolved.


David B. Stevenson, 1996. Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development Brown University. Retrieved on October 14, 2008 from http://www. victorianweb. org/science/freud/develop. html By Raymond J. Corsini, 2002.

The Dictionary of Psychology. Published by Psychology Press. Pamela Thurschwell, 2000. Sigmund Freud. Routledge. Joseph H. Di Leo, 1996. Child Development: Analysis and Synthesis. Psychology Press. Robert B. Ewen, 1992. An Introduction to Theories. Psychology Press. Chris Jenks, 1996. Childhood. Routledge. Psychotherapy Resources, 2007. Psychosexual Development: Criticism of Freud’s theory of psychosexual development. Retrieved on October 14, 2008 from http://www. psychotherapy. ro/resources/constructs/psychosexual-development-criticism-of-freuds-theory-of-psychosexual-development/