Freudian Stages Of Development

Basic description and explanation of Freud's Psychosexual stages

Most people have heard of Sigmund Freud. Most also know about the Oedipus complex. However, there was a lot more to Freud than just that particular complex (which, actually, is frequently misunderstood).

Freud had a series of stages that he called "Psycho-sexual development." Each stage concentrates on a particular part of the anatomy, and each has implications for adult life.

Stage 1, from 0 - 2 years, is the oral phase. At this age, babies learn about the world by putting things in their mouths. They see toys or cookies or anything, and the first thing they'll do is put it in their mouth. If a person becomes fixated (stays in) at this stage, s/he will exhibit oral behaviors as an adult, like smoking, compulsive eating, etc.

Stage 2, from 2 - 4 years, is the anal phase. This is when children are beginning to potty train, and become aware of this part of their anatomy. There's a lot of focus on it because of toilet training, and a child (who doesn't cooperate) can react one of two ways: anal retentive, or anal expulsive. The anal retentive child refuses to use the toilet at all, because he cannot go where he pleases. As an adult the anal retentive person is fussy, meticulous, overly organized, and sometimes anti-social. The anal expulsive child reacts violently, by soiling his pants or other areas, in protest against using the toilet. He proves he will put his feces anywhere he likes. The anal expulsive adult is brash, unorganized, and often unconcerned with others' feelings.

Stage 3, from 4 - 6 years, is the first genital stage. At this age, children become aware of their genitals and frequently masturbate. How they react depends on how their parents react, should they catch them in the act. If their parents are upset, they may find the genitals dirty and shameful. If their parents ignore the behavior, it may or may not have consequences.

During stages 2 and 3, the Oedipus and Electra complexes occur. The Oedipus complex is easily described as "when a young boy wants to kill his father and marry his mother," and it is so named after the Greek myth, Oedipus Rex. However, the complex is not so literal.

A young boy, according to Freud, idolizes his mother and therefore feels a type of attraction to her. He is jealous of the attention she gives his father; he wants all the attention for himself. He must get over his resentment of his father, and learn to emulate him instead, in order to get past this complex. He must also begin to see his mother in a more human light.

Most people can recognize young children going through an "idolizing" stage with the parent they are least like (the opposite-sex parent), and even being jealous of the attention the same-sex parent gives him/her. Others might disagree and say this occurs because the opposite-sex parent is a novelty, and jealousy occurs because children are very self-centered at a young age. Regardless; Freud saw it as a sexual focus.

Stage 4, from 6 - 12 years, is what Freud called the 'latency period.' He thought no psychosexual development occurred during this time.

Stage 5, from 12 - 18 years, is the second genital phase. This is when puberty is occurring and children reach sexual maturity. Their early attempts at sexuality will guide their adult behavior. Children that are shunned may grow up to be isolated, or to behave wantonly. Children that are exposed to healthy sexuality will grow up as functional, whole adults.

Freud thought that all development was complete by the time a person reached adulthood, and that any tendencies the person had from their early years would always show through. Psychologists today disagree with this approach to development; they believe that it continues throughout life.

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