Freud's Stages of Development

Human development is a complex and sensitive issue.  Similarly, development of a personality is another issue being profoundly studied and researched. The reason for such extensive study is that people are trying to develop the best possible personality out of every person. Consequently, scientific research has been directed toward attaining this goal. This has been attempted through singling out factors that influence development of a personality and trying to control them.

Researchers acknowledge that human beings are exceptionally sexual, and the whole process of psychosocial or psychosexual development is influenced significantly by this fact. Consequently, development of a personality is influenced significantly by human desire for sex referred to as libido. One social scientist that did remarkable scientific research on the human psychosexual development is Sigmund Freud. He also documented evidences of the close relationship that exist between psychosexual development and the human sexual drive.  His Psychosexual Theory has been the backbone of psychoanalysis regarding the effect of libido in shaping a person’s personality (Freud, 2010).

According to Freud, human beings possess inborn sexual drive (libido), which exists since birth of an individual. Freud’s theory is widely acknowledged and recognized. On the other hand, it receives its fair share of rejection among various people.  This theory also suggests that a personality is already developed before the age of five in the most people.  This theory is generally accepted in that a person’s experience during this time (before five years of age) is crucial to the growth of character in the rest of person’s life.  It also notes that a person’s experience before this age has the potential to regulate ones actions later on into life.

Freud’s theory states that psychosexual development occurs in five stages that are oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital; and the whole process is motivated by libido. This can be seen in that areas that are mentioned are ones with increased sensitivity to touch and lead to sexual exhilaration, sexual fantasies and ultimately orgasm. This shows how sexual development affects all other aspects of development. This also shows that humans are innately sexual, and sex has the ability to control other aspects of human life.

According to Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, the initial stage of this development is the oral stage. Various researchers explain this differently; for instance, some argue that the initial interaction between a baby and the world occur through the mouth. Additionally, the mouth is also a highly sensitive area of the body and triggers sexual arousal through stimulation (Freud, 2010). Between birth and the age of one year, the baby uses the mouth for activities such as sucking, feeding and even tasting. Such activities are heart-warming and satisfy various urges. Additionally, the child’s mouth gains stimulation from these activities, which are crucial in satisfying a baby’s sexual urge. 

If this process is met effectively, development of a healthy personality in a baby takes place; otherwise, the baby may become engrossed. This is well explained using the term fixation. This means that if the baby’s mouth is not stimulated adequately, he or she may live to seek oral stimulation throughout his or her life. An adult who did not have this need satisfied adequately may develop behavior such as excessive eating, smoking and also abuse of alcohol. Other activities that may be associated with the above are smoking, sucking of thumb and chewing of fingernails.

The second stage of the theory of psychosexual development is anal stage. The attention of the infant moves from the mouth to process involved in excretion. A person’s sex drive in this age is tilted toward regulation of both bowel and bladder excretion. The baby starts receiving pressure and training regarding his excretion both from the gut and the bladder.  The pressure and the response of the care giver to a baby become crucial to the development of a personality. Freud argues that this pressure affects the level of organization in adult life.

For a person who received intense and excessive pressure to control his or her bowel activities, such a person may put overemphasis on cleanliness and orderliness in adulthood. Such are people that are casually described as anal retentive.

On the other hand, some babies receive inadequate or no pressure at all concerning their excretion behavior.  These become reckless or disorganized in their adult life. For the above reason, the care givers are advised to apply controlled pressure and not to under or over emphasize bowel control. This is very crucial in order to attain optimum levels of organization in adulthood. This important stage of psychosexual development takes place in kids with age between one and three years.

The third stage according Freud’s theory of psychosocial development is phallic phase. At this phase, children’s sex drive moves to the sex organs. It is at this stage that children may begin to notice their differences on the basis of whether they are male or female.  This is after they realize that genitals are different according to sex. Freud states that this is followed by increased demand for attention from the parent of the opposite sex. This is referred to as Oedipus complex for male children or Electra complex for female children (Ryckman, 1997).  In male children, this is followed by fear of punishment from the father due to excessive attention seeking conduct toward the mother. Freud has referred to this as ‘castration anxiety’. This theory also states that some girls may experience ‘penis envy’ instead of Electra complex.

At the end of this phase, children are seen to recognize the parent of their sex more in order possess the other parent. Regarding to growth and transition to the next stage, this theory states that female children do not fully get over penis envy, and fixation occurs here.  This part of the theory has been the bone of contention between various psychologists. One of them is Karen Horney who said that it demeans women. She instead said that men continually feel lesser due to their inability to give birth. Children who undergo this stage successfully are able to develop a key desirable quality and successfully acquire characteristics of their sex. This also leads to the development of superego. Failure to undergo this stage successfully leads to crises where a child tries changing to the other sex. The changes in this stage occur to children in the age between three and six years.

Children that are between the age of six and eleven years are observed to be calm in a characteristic way. Freud’s theory states that their sexual feelings are dormant, and their libido is suppressed.   This is because of the developmental factors. The child’s reasoning moves from id to ego and superego as they develop substantially. It also happens that this phase occurs at a stage when children are preoccupied with things such as school and relations with friends.  Hobbies and other activities take centre stage in their minds (Zaleznik et al 2009).  A child’s mind is preoccupied with exploration and development of interpersonal skills, rational pursuits and self dependence that repress sexual energy. It is also at this phase that children are able to relate with people outside the family. Rather than previous phases in which a child relates to the parents only, a child in this phase develops relationships with adults outside the family.

Parents are advised to release and let go of the children so that they can develop through this phase effectively. Failure to do this can lead to the development of a personality that is socially withdrawn. On the other hand, if the child is allowed excessive freedom, an undesirable character can be developed from this fifth stage that is referred to as latent phase.

According to Freud’s theory of psychosocial development, the last phase of this cycle is referred to as the genital phase. This takes place between the age of eleven to eighteen years but can also take place throughout a person’s life from puberty till death. This stage, like all the preceding four, depends on the successful completion of the previous one.  Additionally, it cannot run smoothly unless the previous ones have been covered effectively.

 During this phase, an individual’s libido is enormous. Consequently, a person develops enormous draw toward the individuals of the opposed sex.  This stage is also unique in that the interest of other people takes center stage in one’s development.  This is very important, and successful completion of this stage leads to a welcoming and warm personality. Additionally, it leads to well a balanced personality that is not selfish or self-centered and can fit well in the society. This makes this last stage of psychosocial development be of utmost importance (Geyskens, 2005).

Despite this theory being controversial in some aspects, it has a great potential to explain and expound on some occurrences. Furthermore, some psychologists agree that it has a great extent of truth and reliability. It has also been able to draw greatly from peoples traditional and modern experiences.  This theory has aspects that are verifiable through observation and other social science methods.  However, like many other theories in the social sciences, few exceptions can occur and trigger further research, which is healthy and acceptable.

Related essays

Invite your friends
to use our service and receive 10% from every order they place