The Sexual Development of Children

Like other forms of development, sexual development begins at a young age. This is the theory argued by psychotherapists namely Sigmund Freud. This was partially highlighted in his study of ‘Little Hans’. Freud noted five main stages of what is termed ‘Psychosexual Development’.

The Oral Stage
This is first stage that is in place between the ages of 0-18 months. Pleasure is sought through the mouth mainly through sucking.

Conflict may result from changing from breast feeding to bottle feeding.

When this stage is not fully fulfilled people tend to have oral fixations such as smoking, drinking or biting ones nails. Those who do not fulfill this stage also tend to be dependent and/ or passive. One the other hand, they may defy these features and become pessimistic and aggressive

The Anal Stage
This stage is in place between the ages of 18 months-3 years. Pleasure is received from the retention and elimination of feces.

Conflict may result from potty training.

When this stage is not fully fulfilled people may become anally retentive; obedient and over-obsessed with cleanliness and meticulousness. However, they may turn to the other extreme. They may become anally expulsive; disorganized, messy and defiant.

The Phallic Stage
This stage is in place between ages 3-6. The main source of pleasure becomes the genitals through masturbation.

The conflict that arises as part of the Phallic stage is the Oedipus Complex. Children develop a lust for the parent of the opposite gender and want to dispose of the parent of the same gender.

Failure to resolve the Oedipus Complex (or the Electra Complex in girls) and move on the next stage can result in a confused sexual identity, promiscuity or avoidance of sex in later life.

The Latency Stage
This stage is place from age 6 to puberty. This is the stage in which there is little sexual development or conflict. Children interact with other children.

The Genital Stage
This stage is in place from puberty onwards. The source of pleasure is again the genitals but people then tend to focus their attention on people of the opposite gender.

This is the stage that one would have reached if they successfully resolved all the previous stages. At this point the person should be a well balance individual and be able to love.

This theory was allegedly proved by Freud’s study on Little Hans. Freud attempted to prove that Han’s fear of horses was the result of the Oedipus Complex.