Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development
Freud believed personality was crystallised in childhood thus proposing a series of developmental stages progressing from birth to puberty. As with other stage theories Freud’s psychosexual stages of development occur in a predetermined sequence which may overlap with each stage identifying a particular notable behaviour. Whether the individual progresses through the stage successfully without fixation he/she may develop a healthy personality; however should the individual progress unsuccessfully a fixation or regression may result in an unhealthy personality in later life (Kahn, 2002; Heffner, 2001).
The various stages are: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latency stage, and the genital stage. The initial stages are auto-erotic as the erogenous zones require primary stimulation, however as the child enters the phallic stage interest in genitalia of the opposite sex and fondling of others erogenous zones begins. Birth was also proposed as a stage of development, however not psychosexual (Kahn, 2002; Heffner, 2001).
The oral stage begins at birth and ends at approximately 18 months of age. As our primary need for interaction with our caregiver is oral nourishment it is understandable the initial erogenous zone would be the mouth. During this period the child focuses on oral pleasure through sucking and biting. If a child focuses too greatly on this action a fixation may occur creating an oral personality later in life; oral personalities are often occupied with oral activities such as tobacco smoking and nail-biting. Alternately an individual may rebel against oral activities and display pessimistic and aggressive traits in contrast to the stereotypical dependent, submissive traits of the oral personality (Kahn, 2002; Heffner, 2001).
During the anal stage the child’s focus is directed on the expulsion of faeces. The child notices the reaction of the parents regarding the behaviour and takes pleasure in the retention and expulsion of faeces. Once again this sexual pleasure is autoerotic as it requires primary stimulation. Due to societal pressures the child is forced to learn anal control via parental instruction. An anal fixated personality or anal retentive personality can occur as an after effect of excessive focus on anal control. Anal retentive personalities show obsessive qualities, particularly regarding hygiene and cleanliness. Anal expulsive personalities by comparison are messy and disorganised. The predetermined age period for the anal stage is 18 months to 3 years (Kahn, 2002; Heffner, 2001).
During the ages from 3 to 6 years the child chooses to place a focus of sexual stimulation on the genital area noting the pleasurable feelings this creates. It is during this period the erogenous zones shift from the anus to the genitals and the differences between the sexes are experienced. Sexual stimulation is primarily autoerotic during the first few years, however as of the age of approximately 5 years it is proposed the child begins to fantasise about genital to genital contact with members of the opposite sex. Freud believed young boys, during this period, develop and experience strong unconscious sexual desires for their mothers; as a result the boy sees his father as a rival for his mother’s affections. Although the young boy is in competition with his father, he is also fearful his father will castrate him should he discover these urges therefore the boy identifies with his father to both learn masculine traits, resolve this anxiety, and repress his sexual desires. This psychological development has become known as the Oedipus complex. In later years psychoanalysts proposed young girls underwent a similar complex known as...