Freud’s Legacy in Understanding Individual Development
Category : Psychological theories and approaches
Freud’s Legacy in Understanding Individual Development
Sigmund Freud is among the most controversial personalities and holds the frequently influential yet debatable contributions in the field of psychology. Indeed, Freud’s significant theories and ideas on individual and personality development are mainly focused on the sexual aspect. The concept of psychosexual development consists of five (5) separate yet interrelated phases including oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. According to Freud’s ideas, personality develops beyond five (5) years of age where sexual desire is a fundamental feature, thus, involving formative drives, instincts and appetites resulting to the formation of adult personality as part of the entire individual development (Bateman & Holmes 1995). Looking on the overall stages of development of every individual, I argue that Freud’s psychosexual development theory is limited and just a part of the overall package of human development.
This paper discusses the limitations of Freud’s psychosexual development theory in contrast to some theories of human development particularly on the aspect of personality (e.g. Erikson’s psychosocial development theory). However, it also addresses the important contributions to the general understanding of individual development.
Freud’s Psychosocial Development Theory
The psychosexual development theory introduces five (5) separate yet interrelated phases of human sexual development including oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital (Myre 1974; Bateman & Holmes 1995). In brief terms, oral phase starts at 0-8 months of an individual through the mouth as the erogenous zone and results to orally aggressive or orally passive fixation. The next phase – anal, commences at the period of 18-36 months, works on bowel and bladder elimination, and results to anal-retentive or anal-expulsive fixation. Next, the phallic phase begins at 3-6 years, involves the genitals and results to Oedipus complex (male) and Electra complex (females) as fixation. Latency phase comes next from 6 years up to puberty, focuses on dormant sexual feelings and results to no fixations but in some special cases, fixation may come in form of extreme sexual discontentment. Lastly, the genital phase continues from puberty and beyond, focuses on sexual interests and maturity and results to insufficient libidinal energy and inability to maintain relationships as types of fixation.
In argument, Freud’s psychosexual development theory is a part of the overall package of human development. Frued’s key concepts on his theory of development, (i.e. the id, ego, and superego, and the infantile sexuality) is broadly acceptable but the idea that personality is dependent on the basis of sexuality was rejected, particularly by Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development (Erikson 1950; 1964; 1963; 1968). Erikson, an American psychoanalyst, came up with his theory of psychosocial development as an expansion and adaptation of Sigmund Freud’s theory of development (psychosexual stages). Erikson also disapproved of Freud’s concept of originology that carries the idea that all mental illness is marked out by early experiences during childhood (Hoare 2005). The issue of childhood and its development rests Erikson’s belief that a human’s early days is a key aspect of personality development. This is in contrast to Freud’s ideas that personality develops beyond five years of age; more so, Erikson extends it beyond the entire lifespan of an individual. Aside from the perceived limitation of Freud’s theory, many feminist advocates disprove the idea of psychosexual development (Torrey 1992). Yet, Freud is amenable in saying that he lacks understanding on female sexuality in general.
Freud’s Significant Contributions
Sexuality is a body-mind experience (Ridley 2006, p. 322) and a fundamental aspect of the individual development. The concept of psychosexual development as attributed to Freud is the foundation in the understanding of the development of human sexuality. Perhaps, this could be the most basic yet important manifestation of the value the theory. It is because adequate understanding of sexuality is important at any age (Metz & Miner 1998).
According to most literatures (Green 1974; Hines 2004), human psychosexual development involves three (3) major components, which includes the following: core gender identity and the sense of self as male or female; sexual orientation and erotic interest of the opposite and/or same sex; and gender role behaviors and the myriad characteristics that are associated with being male or female or that differ on average for males and females (Hines et al. 2004). Through Freud’s psychosexual development theory, each individual is enlightened on the basis of understanding sex and sexuality as an important feature of overall human development.
In conclusion, Freud’s psychosexual development theory is indeed focused on human sexuality yet the extent of this belief is argued to be limited and plainly a part or feature of the overall human development if linked on other theories of development (i.e. Erikson’s psychosocial development theory). Its importance rests on the fact that it serves as the prime basis in understanding the concept of sex and sexual development. Freud and its contributions to psychology, no matter how controversial they maybe, are great leaps to the eventual unveiling of mysterious nature of every individuals.
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