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THE STAGES OF SIGMUND FREUD’S THEORY OF PSYCHOSEXUAL DEVELOPMENT INTRODUCTION Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Viennese physician, trained in neurology that can be considered as the most influential of the psychodynamic theorists. He created an entirely new perspective on the study of human behavior, focusing on the unconscious instinct and urges rather than the conscious (Morris ; Maisto, 1998).
Freud stressed that human nature was based more on desire than reason and ones past experiences as being the major determinants of future behavior and personality development.
PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT Turner & Helms 1995 outlines that Freud devised a theory of personality that can be applied to the behavior of both child and adult. Freud theorised that there are three parts of personality, the ID, EGO and SUPEREGO. They become integrated through a sequence of stages. The ID is the source of basic biologic needs and desires.
As outlined by Atkinson et al 2000, the id is an unconscious drive and operates according to the pleasure of hedonistic principle which means obtaining immediate pleasure and avoiding pain at all cost.
The ids force operates at the unconscious level and drives the individual to desire instant gratification. The EGO is the conscious rational part of personality that emerges in early infancy to direct the id’s impulses at acceptable times and places to appropriate objects. Freud postulates that the ego exists solely to fulfill the aims of the id but that ego maturity develops as a means of restraining the ids demands.
The ego operates by the, using intelligent reasoning, it delays satisfying the id’s desires until it can do so safely. Morris ; Maisto 1998) The SUPEREGO is the center of morality and conscience which develops from interaction with parents and the demands of society, and through the ego facing the task of reconciling the demands of the id, the external environment and with the internal superego. The superego acts as an internal restraint and moral guide to the id and ego. Atkinson et al 2000 describes the superego ‘as the internalised representative of the values and morals of society and comprises the individuals conscious as well as the image of the morally ideal person or the EGO IDEAL’. Berk 2009 ocuments that according to Freud the relationship established between the id, ego and superego during early development determines the individual’s basic personality. Conflict between the id, ego and superego causes anxiety and tension. The ego alleviates these stressors by either consciously or unconsciously creating protective devices called defenses mechanisms. PSYCHOSEXUAL THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT Morris ; Maisto 1998 outlined that while treating his adult patients Freud observed that a number of them had physical disabilities and nervous symptoms with no evidence of actual physical impairment.
He noted that through hypnotic therapy when these adults talked freely about painful childhood events it freed them of such problems as paralysis and hallucinations. Using these memories he examined the unconscious motivation of his adult patients and constructed his PSYCHOSEXUAL THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT (Berk 2000). Freud, in his psychosexual theory states that infants and children experience sexual feelings, although not as an adult would for intercourse but rather for pleasure, affection and gratification.
Sexual instinct or EROS exerts a force or energy known as LIBIDO which is described as an unconscious, instinctive sex drive (Bee 2000). The libidinal energy and sexual impulses shift their focus from the oral to anal then genital regions of the body as the child matures; and represents a new stage in psychosexual development in terms of personality. The main focus of Freud’s theory emphasises that the methods parents use to manage their child’s sexual and aggressive drives in infancy are crucial for healthy personality development.
It highlighted the importance of familial relationships for child development and stressed the formative role of early experience. Bee 2000 outlines that these stages are completed in a predetermined sequence resulting in success and a healthy personality or failure leading to a ‘fixation’ which is the preoccupation with a particular stage that causes distortion or disruption of development resulting in an unhealthy personality. The three stage of development are: * The Oral Stage * The Anal Stage * The Phallic Stage * The Latency Stage * The Genital Stage The Oral Stage
This stage occurs from birth to eighteen months and the erogenous zone is the mouth, with the child gaining pleasure from sucking and biting, both of which are oral activities. The id is now directing all its attention to getting pleasure. The developmental task of this stage is weaning and developing a sense of independence (Bee 2000). Over gratification or under stimulation during this stage may lead to a fixation. If fixated the child could develop an oral personality, manifested by a preoccupation with oral activities such as smoking, overeating, nail biting or gum chewing.
Characteristically they become overly dependent upon others, gullible and are perpetual followers; conversely they may develop pessimism and aggression (Feldman 2005). The Anal Stage This stage stretches from eighteen months to three years and the libido is now attached to the anal cavity and buttocks coinciding with the period of toilet training. The child and id gain satisfaction and pleasure from either expelling or withholding feces. The ego must step in to teach the child the appropriate ways to control these urges. They develop a fascination with their excretions, looking at it or even playing with it.
If the adult expresses ideas that this is “messy” or “bad”, the child will in turn think that he/she is bad. Turner ; Helms 1995 states that the manner in which parents conduct toilet training especially the use of punishment and rewards can cause certain personality traits later. If the parent is too lenient and delays toilet training or allows the child to excrete maliciously this may lead to formation of an anal expulsive character. This individual is generally messy, reckless, careless, defiant and disorganized (Berk 2009).
Berk 2009 states that conversely, if toilet training is forced or the parent is too strict and punishes the child consistently for minor accidents, an anal retentive character develops. This personality type is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, obstinate and meticulous, but also be passively-aggressive. The Phallic Stage This stage is the most crucial sexual conflict in Freud’s model of development, occurring between three and five years. The libido is now connected to the sexual organs and both sexes gain pleasure from manipulating and fondling their genitals (Turner ; Helms 1995).
Children develop curiosity towards the opposite sex. This stage coincides with social development involving imitation, gender-role development and identification; usually during preschool interaction. The child experiences sexual feelings toward the opposite-sex parent and wish to be rid of the same-sex parent so that they may have the opposite-sex parent to his/herself. This is identified as the OEDIPUS CONFLICT in boys and the ELECTRA CONFLICT in girls. Children resolve this conflict by learning to identify with the same-sex parent. Boys fear “castration” by their fathers for these sexual feeling towards their mothers.
In this way they develop ‘castration anxiety’ and will repress these feelings to avoid punishment and reduce anxiety. The boys try to emulate their father in a process known as identification (Bee 2000). Atkinson et al 2000 defines identification as “internalizing an idealized perception of his father’s attitudes and values”. The boys become less anxious and develop their father’s characteristics and values. If resolution of this conflict is not positive boys will resent their fathers and generalize this resentment to authority figures in adulthood.
Girls develop “penis envy” and feel cheated (Turner ; Helms 1995); blame is placed on the mother as she too has no penis and sexual attachment to the father. The mother is now seen as competition for their father’s affection. For resolution of this stage their attraction must be discontinued, girls seek to repress these feeling and identify with their mothers. A strong bond may still remain between the girl and her father and the girl tends to seek a husband with characteristics and values like her father.
If these feelings are unresolved, it may lead to the girl becoming either a weak submissive woman with an unsecure personality or a strong, unusually seductive female. The identification process is critical. It means that the superego has fully developed. The relationship between the id, ego and superego at this time determines the child’s basic personality orientation. For both sexes fixation at this stage can result in a phallic character, one who is reckless, self-assured, resolute and narcissistic, being excessively vain and proud.
This character is afraid or incapable of close love and affection. Fixation can result in sexual deviances, both overindulgence and avoidance, with a weak or confused sexual identity. Freud also postulates that fixation at this stage could be a major cause of homosexuality. The Latency Stage This stage is represented as a period of rest where sexuality lies dormant from ages six to the onset of puberty at eleven. Kaplan 1998 states the boys having repressed their sexual feelings for their mother now generalise this feeling to all females.
Although, similarly girls identify with their mother, this is less severe and girls show less aversion to boys than boys do to girls. In this stage there is an increased awareness of personal identity and social interaction, especially peer group interaction. Attention is now focused on gaining skills needed for coping with the environment. The child seeks to develop character traits that are considered acceptable by society. The developmental task is ego and defense mechanism development. The Genital Stage This stage occurs from twelve to eighteen and coincides with the development of primary and secondary sex characteristics.
Sexual pleasures are again associated with the genital zone. The young adolescent boy or girl turns their attention to a ‘boyfriend or girlfriend’. This is significant because it heralds the onset of mature adult sexuality, which is the developmental task for this stage. Bee 2000 states that Freud emphasizes that not everyone works through this period to the point of mature heterosexual feelings. He believed that any unresolved issues from the Oedipus and Electra conflict will resurface in this stage hindering complete sexual maturity.
Both sexes will have issues coping with adult relationships resulting in interdependence on the related parent. Conclusion Stevenson 1996 states that as the child progresses normally through these stages resolving conflicts and moving on, the libido moves with the child. If fixation occurred at any stage the method of obtaining satisfaction or gratification which characterized that stage will dominate and affect the adult personality. Although Freud’s theory has served as a basis for the development of other theorist Kaplan 1998 states that is has also been the focal point for criticism.
Little Hans was Freud’s only documented child patient and he was seen only once with the remainder of his analysis conducted via correspondence with the boy’s father. Freud’s theory was criticised because it overemphasised the influence of sexual feelings in development and was based on the recollection of problems of sexually repressed adults. Freud theory was difficult to relate to other instances as most of his theory was subjective not objective and scientific. However, the main reason Freud’s ideas were questioned was because he created a theory of childhood based on adult subjects and did not consider cultural influences.