Freud's Psychosexual Stages Of Development

Freud outlined five stages of human development : the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latency stage, and the genital stage. In each stage there is an need for gratification that must be met. Learn more about each stage and the impact of these stages on psychology.

Freud offered dynamic and psychosocial explanations for human behavior. He conceptualized what we call the psychosexual stages of development. Freud believed that there are specific stages in which an individual has a specific need, and if needs are left unfulfilled or overstimulated, according to Freud there are dramatic effects on an individual's behavior. Freud's explanation of these developmental stages provided early psychosocial explanations for an individual's deviance or abnormal behavior. Freud

outlined five stages of development: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the

latency stage, and the genital stage.

The first stage that we encounter is the oral stage. This stage occurs during the first two years of life. The mouth is the principal erogenous zone. An erogenous zone according to Freud was a particular part of the body where we seek and gain pleasure from. For example, according to Freud an infant's greatest source of gratification is sucking. It is often common to see an infant between the ages of one to two to be

constantly putting objects in his or her mouth. The anal stage occurs from age two to

three. The membranes of the anal region provide the major source of pleasurable stimulation. Toilet-training is a major issue in this time frame of a child's life. The phallic stage occurs from ages three to six. It focuses on self-manipulation of the genitals as providing the major source of pleasurable stimulation. The latency stage occurs from age six to twelve. In this stage, sexual motivations recede in importance. At this stage a child is more preoccupied with developing skills and other activities. The genital stage is the final stage of development. It occurs after puberty and extends into adulthood. The deepest feelings of pleasure come from sexual relationships with other adults. Freud believed that gratification during each stage is important to prevent an individual from becoming fixated in any particular level. Fixation, as Freud described it, is attaching

oneself in an unreasonable or exaggerated way to another individual or one particular stage of development. Freud claimed that such a fixation at one particular stage can cause bad habits or problems in an individual's adult life. There are many examples of this.

For example if a person is orally fixated (according to Freud, the are stuck in the oral

stage of development), a person may bite their nails, chew on pens. Freud also blamed

smoking on fixation at the oral stage. On the other hand, if an infant does not receive

adequate oral gratification, the individual may be prone to excessive eating or drinking in

adult life. Many psychotherapists who are advocates of this theory blame many sexual

disorders such as fetishes and pedophiles on being fixated at the genital stage.

According to this theory , there is a delicate of balance that must be met at each stage. If

an individual a strict anal stage and had a tough toilet training, Freud said that individual

was more likely to be obsessively neat in adulthood. This is where the expression "anal-retentive" comes from when describing someone that is excessively neat and

orderly. On the other hand if the child had a not so strict toilet training experience, Freud

claimed it was more likely that the individual would grow up to be a creative adult. In

general each stage of development places demands on an individual and arouses conflicts

that must be resolved. One of the most important conflicts occurs during the phallic stage

when the pleasures of self-stimulation pave the way for what is called the Oedipus complex. Oedipus, according to Greek mythology, unknowingly killed his father and

married his mother. According to Freud, each young boy symbolically relives the

Oedipus drama. He has incestuous cravings for his mother and views his father as a hated rival. Even though the father is considered a rival, the boy also fears his father. Freud suggested that the boy feels castration anxiety and as a result repressed his sexual desire for his mother . Eventually if all goes well, the boy identifies with the father and comes to have harmless affection for the mother. The Electra complex is the female counterpart. It is based on the view that each girl wants to possess her father and replace her mother. For either sex, resolution of this conflict is considered essential if a young

adult is to develop.

In a historical perspective, Freudian psychoanalysis can be seen as one of the first

systematic, psychodynamic approaches to show how human psychological processes can result in mental disorders. He demonstrated that certain abnormal mental phenomena occur during the attempt to cope with difficult problems. He also developed techniques such as free association and dream analysis for becoming acquainted with conscious and unconscious aspects of personality. These techniques are still widely used in therapy to

treat a number of mental disorders. Freud's psychodynamic perspective has come under

attack by several critics. An important criticism to Freud's stages of development is that

no scientific data supports any of the stages. This theory has also been criticized for its

overemphasis on sex drive, and also for failing to consider motives toward personal

growth and fulfillment.

Regardless of how correct it is, Freud's theory of development paved the way for

other psychologists to develop theories on how a child develops. It led scientists to take

a further look into the developmental processes of human behaviors. It also led to the start of theories that describe the abnormal behaviors of individuals.

© High Speed Ventures 2011