Freud's theory of personality development relates to his theories of personality structure and motivation. His topographical model of personality organisation in psychoanalysis saw psychic life represented by three levels of consciousness. Methods of free-association, analysis of slips of the tongue and interpretation of dreams identified aspects of the unconscious mind.
The conscious mind comprises of sensations and experiences apparent to the individual. It is a small, limited aspect of personality which is conscious briefly yet can be quickly submerged into preconscious or unconscious mind.
The preconscious 'available memory' consisted of experiences which are not conscious, but can be commanded with minimum effort into awareness. It bridges the unconscious and conscious.
The unconscious is the deepest layer in the human mind. It consists of disturbing and emotionally significant ideas and memories, this influences the conscious and preconscious minds. Freud believed that behaviour is shaped and directed by impulses which are forces of the unconscious.
Freud believed that personality 'psychical apparatus' has a tripartite division known as the structural model. The components are the id is unconscious, the ego and the superego, both components of all three consciousness. Personality structure is made up of id impulses, the unconscious, all three.
The id is the biological component of personality. A mental agency comprising everything inherited as Freud believes babies are "bundles of id" the other two develop later. Sexual and aggressive instincts are fixed and inhibitions are free, laws and rules are disobeyed. It operates on a primitive basis, free from inhibition. The id is the original personality system it exposes the immediate discharge of psychic energy produced by biological drives. Psychic apparatus is fuelled by psychic energy, hence the id. However when tension is created the id seeks immediate gratification and to reduce excitement therefore the id obeys the 'pleasure principle' which regards nothing. Freud thought this as 'infantile' personality, pre-socialisation. The id was primatively a reflex however if this was true development would be hypothetical. Freud identified two mechanisms the id uses to rid tension, reflex actions and primary process, a formation of a mental image or object to satisfy the basic aim, distinction is left to the ego.
The ego is psychic energy 'borrowed' from the id to direct externally. The 'executive' of personality which engages in secondary process of thinking. The ego obeys the reality principle, preserving gratification until either object or environment condition which could satisfy it has been found. Unlike the id the ego has a moral code, however like the id it is amoral.
The superego is the final stage to morality. Developed by norms and values of society, it is divided into two sub-components, the conscience, acquired by punishment, and ego-ideal, approval and reward. It is developed when self-control replaces parental control, it controls the id and persuades the ego to change goals.
The ego holds back the unconscious which tries to break through to dominate the conscious. It uses defence mechanisms such as denial, repression, regression, protection, reaction formation and identification with aggressor.
Erikson, also a psychoanalyst, accepted Freud's tripartite theory of the structure of personality yet he focused more upon the ego and had less concern for the id and superego. He believed that the ego influences development. He also accepts Freud's three levels of consciousness.