Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development David B. Freud advanced a theory of personality development that centered on the effects of the sexual pleasure drive on the individual psyche. At particular points in the developmental process, he claimed, a single body part types of child development particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation.
These erogenous zones are the mouth, the anus, and the genital region. A child at a given stage of development has certain needs and demands, such as the need of the infant to nurse. Overindulgence stems from such an ample meeting of these needs that the child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage. The child, of course, preoccupies himself with nursing, with the pleasure of sucking and accepting things into the mouth. The oral character who is frustrated at this stage, whose mother refused to nurse him on demand or who truncated nursing sessions early, is characterized by pessimism, envy, suspicion and sarcasm. With the advent of toilet training comes the child’s obsession with the erogenous zone of the anus and with the retention or expulsion of the feces. In this stage, the child’s erogenous zone is the genital region.
As the child becomes more interested in his genitals, and in the genitals of others, conflict arises. In the young male, the Oedipus conflict stems from his natural love for his mother, a love which becomes sexual as his libidal energy transfers from the anal region to his genitals. Unfortunately for the boy, his father stands in the way of this love. The boy therefore feels aggression and envy towards this rival, his father, and also feels fear that the father will strike back at him. On the Electra complex, Freud was more vague.
The complex has its roots in the little girl’s discovery that she, along with her mother and all other women, lack the penis which her father and other men posses. Her love for her father then becomes both erotic and envious, as she yearns for a penis of her own. She comes to blame her mother for her perceived castration, and is struck by penis envy, the apparent counterpart to the boy’s castration anxiety. Fixation at the phallic stage develops a phallic character, who is reckless, resolute, self-assured, and narcissistic–excessively vain and proud.
Freud also postulated that fixation could be a root cause of homosexuality. Freud saw latency as a period of unparalleled repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses. During the latency period, children pour this repressed libidal energy into asexual pursuits such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships. The less energy the child has left invested in unresolved psychosexual developments, the greater his capacity will be to develop normal relationships with the opposite sex. If, however, he remains fixated, particularly on the phallic stage, his development will be troubled as he struggles with further repression and defenses. Thanks to Herwig Neefs of Belgium for correcting a error. Parenting articles, news and tips on raising happy, healthy, successful kids and teens.
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