Sigmund Freud, psychiatrist and founder of psychoanalysis, developed his psychosexual stages of development basing his finding on observations of his patients suffering from varying degrees and types of mental illness. During Freud’s time, mental illnesses were not categorised as they are today but still a mystery with much research having been done by many psychologists and psychiatrists since his time.
The child and his id
His theory on the psychosexual stages of development was rooted in his theory of the consciousness of the personality – the id, ego, and superego whereby the child was exclusively controlled by the id. The id being the immature quality of the personality that demands that needs be met immediately. The ego at this stage is not developed and the superego is just beginning to development according to the rules of the parent.
The psychosexual stages of development were based on the child’s developing instincts which Freud coined as the sexual instincts or libido. He put forth the idea that somehow the adult human whose personality seemed to become abnormal was based in not progressing normally from one stage in development to the next stage of development and therefore getting stuck in a particular stage, which then resulted in abnormal adult behavior.
Freud’s theory of the psychosexual stages of development were categorised by what erogenous zone was present at each stage and the gratification present within each stage. Interaction with the environment and the symptoms for each stage were also postulated. The erogenous zones referred to the sexual organ that supplied the psychosexual gratification.
The psychosexual stages
Freud’s psychosexual stages of development consisted of the oral stage from birth to about one and a half years, the anal stage at about one and a half years to three years of age, the phallic stage from about four years old to five years old, the latency stage from about age five to puberty, and the genital stage from puberty on or the fully developed adult.
Psychosexual stages and fixations
During each of these stages, the normal infant or child would exhibit behaviors that represented the child’s normal development such as at the oral stage the child would be mainly concerned with immediate gratification for food and thus concerned with the mother’s nipple, the source of the food. His mouth is the erogenous zone that helps his gratification at this stage. The child at this stage eats, teeths, suckles and becomes content if he is immediately gratified.
If a child became fixated at this oral stage due to lack of nourishment or care from the mother, which was also interpreted as love by the child, the child in adult life would be concerned with eating, drinking, smoking, or any activity where the mouth was used, therefore becoming obese, becoming an alcoholic or becoming any disorder related to extreme ungratified behavior in the oral erogenous zone.
At the anal stage, the child would begin to understand bowel movements and either retain or give forth according to how the parent toilet-trained the child. If the parent was strict the child would begin to retain and if the parent was loving and joyous and praised the child for his performance on the toilet the child would happily give forth.
These types of gratifications in the anal stage if they were extreme one way or the other way could result in two different types of personalities in the grown-up such as the anal expulsive personality or the anal retentive personality. The anal expulsive personality was messy and disorganized whereas the anal retentive personality at the extreme could be obsessive-compulsive, very perfectionistic, and tidy to the extreme.
During the phallic stage the child was concerned with his sexual organs and wondered why the sexual organs of the boy and girl were different. The girl would wonder why she had no penis. The boy would also wonder why the girl had no penis. The boy would start to think that perhaps the penis was cut off. The girl would begin to want to have a penis like the boy had.
These manifest ions of the phallic stage, Freud felt could result in castration anxiety by the boy and penis envy by the girl. Freud also felt that most women never got past this stage relegating the woman to a more inferior position than the male.
If a child became fixated at this phallic stage, the boy would worry excessively about castration and thus have problems with his sexuality when pursuing a relationship with the female. The girl with penis envy would want to be like the male and not identify as well with her femininity and therefore might also have relationship problems.
The latency stage was marked by no concern whatever in sexuality and this could have been due to the extreme sexual restrictions of the Victorian Age of which Freud was a member.
The genital stage was the stage of a fully functioning human being who was concerned with sexuality, love, and marriage.
Although Freud’s psychosexual stages of development are controversial among some psychologists today, they were a real breakthrough into the development of the personality in his time; and certain aspects of these stages can actually be applied to certain types of personality development and abnormal behavior in certain psychosexual cases.
Freud’s psychosexual stages of development are so well-known today that almost all people know about the anal stage and the oral stage and use these stages as a means to joke about perhaps a boss, rival, or classmate such as calling someone anal or oral.
Freud’s psychosexual stages of development laid the groundwork for future research into sexuality and personality development with many psychologists formulating further research into personality development. Both critical observations and questions were brought forth by the psychological community and Freud’s psychosexual stages of development are still being studied, discussed, and researched in colleges and universities around the world today .