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Freud's Psychosexual Stages

Freud's Psychosexual Stages

Description:

This lesson will explore the four stages of Freud's psychosexual development theory. Freud's belief that adult personality traits can be traced to one's fixation in one or more of the stages will be examined. 

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This lesson will look at the stages of psychosexual development by examining:

  1. Psychosexual Development
  2. Oral Stage
  3. Anal Stage
  4. Phallic Stage
  5. Latency
  6. Genital Stage
  7. Controversies

1. Psychosexual Development

Within psychoanalytic theory, Sigmund Freud emphasized the importance of early experiences in our development. He stated that much of personality comes as a result of pleasure-seeking energies, or libido, and how they are focused during different stages of development. Based on this theory, Freud's Psychosexual stages are:

  • Oral
  • Anal
  • Phallic
  • Latency

  • Genital

Term to Know

  • Freud's Psychosexual stages
  • Stages of development identified by Freud that impact personality development.

It's important to realize that when talking about psychosexual stages, it is referring more to pleasure and not necessarily sex. These stages involves any kind of pleasure-seeking behaviors.

Freud said that successful completion of each of these four stages leads to a healthy individual, whereas unsuccessful development leads to certain fixation. A fixation is a lasting focus on a particular stage of development. Each stage is focused on a particular the first three stages occur during early areas of childhood.

Term to Know

  • Fixation
  • Too much or too little stimulation of erogenous zones (sexual libido) during specific stages causes attachment/personality flaws.

2. Oral Stage

The first stage, from 0 to 1 year of age, is the oral stage. This is when the focus is on the mouth for pleasure. This is because a lot of the behaviors the child is performing involve the mouth, like sucking or eating. Because of this, a certain amount of trust with the parents must be developed since they are the providers for food. This is also the stage for weaning from either the bottle or the breast occurs; the child needs to be taken away from those sucking sorts of motions.

Term to Know

  • Oral Stage
  • Sexual energy is focused on the mouth.

A fixation that might develop at this time if something goes wrong in development at this age. Fixation at this stage can lead to problems later in life related to the mouth.

ExampleProblems with drinking, eating, or smoking.

A person also might develop:

  • Oral dependency- a passive nature to them, and they require a lot of attention from people around them.
  • Oral aggressive tendencies- causes a person to be very argumentative and angry about things.

3. Anal Stage

The next stage, from 1 to 3 years of age, is the anal stage. In the anal stage, the focus for the child is on excretion, either their bladder or their bowels. During this stage, toilet training is the most important thing that's going to be occurring.

Term to Know

  • Anal Stage
  • Sexual energy is focused on the anus/bladder (controlling bodily wastes).

The parents need to be very aware of how they are training the child. Being too harsh or too supportive and lenient can have unintended consequences at this time. If development goes correctly, however, it will lead to feelings of accomplishment or pride.

If i fixation occurs at this stage, a person can either be:

  • Anal retentive- very rigid or obsessive. They will be a person who can't let go of things.
  • Anal expulsive- A person that is very messy, disordered, or destructive.

4. The Phallic Stage

The next stage, from 3 to 6 years of age, is the phallic stage, where the focus becomes on the genitals for the child. A child recognizes the difference between males and females. A child notices this primarily in their parents because those are their models for what constitutes a man and a woman. This is characterized in this stage by a certain conflict with the parent of the same sex, for the attention of the parent of the opposite sex.

Freud referred to this as the Oedipus or the Electra complex. This conflict eventually resolves itself. The child begins identification with the parent of the same sex, and sees themselves in that role with the parent of the opposite sex.

ExampleA boy becomes more identified with the father, which is to say they see themselves as the father in their relationship with their mother.

Term to Know

  • Phallic Stage
  • Sexual energy is focused on the genitals.
  • Identification
  • Unconscious modeling of one's self upon another person.  Allows for identity to group values and attitudes as well as a feeling of connection, similarity, and idealization.

Successful completion at this stage leads to development of an appropriate view of people of the opposite sex. A fixation, however, at this period would result in person becoming overly ambitious or trying to dominate the opposite sex.


5. Latency

While there are four stages in psychosexual development, Freud also recognized a period called latency. Latency is thought to occur between the ages of six and puberty, and is a time of lessened sexual development.

Term to Know

  • Latency
  • Child's sexual energy is dormant.

It has not really stopped, but it is not as important as the other stages. The focus during this time is on social and intellectual development.


6. Genital Stage

The final stage that Freud recognized is the genital stage. This stage begins at puberty, and continues through the rest of a person’s life. The genital stage is recognized by an increased level of sexual energy and interest in the opposite sex. It is important to note that while this stage is focused on the genitals, it's different from the phallic stage. The sexual energies are focused more in relation to others.

  • Term to Know
    Genital Stage
  • Sexual energy is focused on the genitals.

Issues at other stages also come back during the Genital Stage. This is a time when they can be resolved, so there are no further issues through the rest of their lives. If resolution doesn't occur, then those fixations can last for the rest of their lives. If there is resolution at this period, or successful completion of the genital stage, then the person can be capable of full love and can be a well-balanced and caring person.


7. Controversies

There is a lot of controversy about these stages. Many people say that Freud was not necessarily scientific in his analysis of these stages. Much of his research was based on case studies and anecdotal evidence, and not actual experimentation.

Another criticism is that lot of the focus of the psychosexual stages is male-centered. He had an idea, during the Phallic Stage, of penis envy. This means that a woman develops a feeling of inadequacy or inferiority that they carry with them for the rest of their lives; this is something that a lot of women psychologists disagree with.

Finally, a lot of these stages are developed by Freud's own experiences and opinions.

ExampleHis mother was 20 years younger than his father, and she considered Sigmund Freud to be her favorite child. This may have developed into the ideas of envy of his father at the Phallic Stage and the idea of the Oedipus complex.


Summary


Sigmund Freud developed an idea within the psychoanalytic theory of four stages of psychosexual development. Successful completion of each stage would lead to a healthy individual. If any issues occurred, then a person could develop a fixation. 

The oral stage is the first, and pleasure here is focused around the mouth because of sucking or eating. Problems in development here can lead to oral dependency or oral aggressive tendencies. The anal stage is second, and the focus is on excretion. Problems in this stage can lead to a person becoming anal retentive or an expulsive. The phallic stage is next, and the focus is on the genitals as children begin to recognize the difference between male and female. A person here can develop and Oedipus or Electra complex. 

There latency stage is a period of where energies are focused elsewhere. The genital is the final stage, and is where issues in previous stages are resolved. Lastly, there are many controversies associated with these stages such as them not being based on actual experimentation.

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Erick Taggart

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Freud's Psychosexual stages

    Stages of development identified by Freud that impact personality development.

  • Fixation

    Too much or too little stimulation of erogenous zones (sexual libido) during specific stages causes attachment/personality flaws.

  • Oral Stage

    Sexual energy is focused on the mouth.

  • Anal Stage

    Sexual energy is focused on the anus/bladder (controlling bodily wastes).

  • Phallic Stage

    Sexual energy is focused on the genitals.

  • Identification

    Unconscious modeling of one's self upon another person. Allows for identity to group values and attitudes as well as a feeling of connection, similarity, and idealization.

  • Latency

    Child's sexual energy is dormant.

  • Genital Stage

    Sexual energy is focused on the genitals.