Over the years there have been many different theories presented in order to explain how the personality develops within the human being. These theories have had varying degrees of popularity, validity, and criticisms.
One of the most controversial personality development theories was proposed by Sigmund Freud who is Psychology’s most prominent figure. Freud suggested in his Psychosexual Development Theory that the personality development of a human being is based on different erogenous zones. According to Freud’s theory, the personality is mostly established by the age of five and there are five different stages of development that one must complete to avoid personality problems during adulthood.
The first stage of psychosexual development is what Freud called the oral stage. This stage starts at birth and ends anywhere between age 1 and 1 ½ . During this stage the child preoccupies himself with nursing, the pleasure of sucking, and accepting things into his mouth. According to the psychosexual theory, a child’s oral character develops based on his mother’s nursing method. A child who is overly indulged during this stage will be gullible and develop admiration for others around him. A child who is often frustrated from a mother who frequently refuses to nurse him on demand will develop envy, suspicion, sarcasm, and pessimism.
The anal stage of development occurs between the ages of 1 ½ and 2 ½ . The child is said to develop parts of his personality based on potty training strategies. For example, a child who fights potty training and takes pleasure in excreting maliciously will develop a personality that is messy, disorganized, and defiant if parents are too lenient. On the other hand, a child who outright refuses to go to the potty, thus retaining the feces, will develop a personality that is neat, precise, orderly, and stingy.
The phallic stage is the most complex and crucial stage of development in this theory. It occurs as the child becomes more interested in his genitals and the genitals of the people around him. During this period he is battling an inner sexual desire for his mother, known as the Oedipus complex. He is also very envious of his father while at the same time he attempts to be like his father because of his inability to have his mother. Developing females have the same conflict that is known as the Electra complex.
According to Freud, failure to resolve these complexes would result in problems achieving close love. Fixation on the phallic stage is said to lead to narcissistic, reckless, and vain characters.
Proper resolution of the phallic stage brings a person into a period in which the sexual drive lays dormant. This period is known as the latent stage. During this time, the repressed sexual energy is put into other things such as friendships, academics, and sports. When puberty strikes, the libidal energy awakens and begins the final stage of psychosexual development.
The genital stage is the last stage of psychosexual development. As the child begins to focus on his genitals again he will get involved in heterosexual relationships. If any hang-ups exist from the phallic stage such as a continued fixation or failure to the resolve issues, then the young adult will not be able to maintain a normal relationship.