CHILD PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT: Freud’s theory of Psychosexual Development
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CHILD PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT:
Freud’s theory of Psychosexual Development
There are many theories that have been advance on personality development, but Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is considered as one of the most intriguing theories that were conceptualized.
According to Sigmund Freud, people are born pleasure-seekers. This pleasure is sought through the erogenous zones (body parts particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation): the mouth, anus and genital regions. He implied that what we do and why we do it, what we are and how we became is a result of a child’s sexual experience.
Freud outlined a child’s personality development into five stages of psychosexual development (although, we will only be discussing the three stages in this paper-the oral, anal & phallic). In each development, a child develops needs and demands that must be fulfilled. If these desires are not met, frustration occurs; while overindulgence leads to a child’s reluctance to progress beyond the stage. According to Stevenson (1996), “…frustration and overindulgence lock some amount of the child's libido permanently into the stage in which they occur; both result in a fixation. If a child progresses normally through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, then little libido remains invested in each stage of development. But if he fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction which characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality.” (The Freud Web, 1996, para.1)
Libido, according to Freud, is “…a psycho-physical process, having both bodily and mental manifestation.” (Jones, 1953, 282) Furthermore, Professor Evan Pritchard, PhD (1998) lectured that libido is the term applied by Freud for psychic and sexual energy, and that how it is expressed depends on the stage of development. In each stage, there are frustrations. When these frustrations are not dealt with successfully, the libido will be attached with that stage of development more than it should be. To develop the libido successfully, a person must not overuse the libido in one stage, because then there will be less for other stages, and that these overuses will manifest in later behavior.
The first stage in psychosexual development is the Oral Stage. The oral stage begins at the child’s birth. In this stage, the erogenous zone that is in focus is the oral cavity or the mouth. It is through the mouth where an infant learns the pleasure of nursing-sucking his mother’s breast and accepting things through the mouth. Also, not only does a mother’s breast give out food and drink, but it, too, represents the mother’s love. “Because the child's personality is controlled by the id and therefore demands immediate gratification, responsive nurturing is key. Both insufficient and forceful feeding can result in fixation in this stage.” (About, 2003, 1) Manifestations of fixation include: smoking, overeating, nail biting, biting personality through sarcasm and constant chewing on things like pens or gums.
In addition, Freud’s theory predicts: “The overindulged oral character, whose nursing urges were always and often excessively satisfied, is optimistic, gullible, and is full of admiration for others around him. The stage culminates in the primary conflict of weaning, which both deprives the child of the sensory pleasures of nursing and of the psychological pleasure of being cared for, mothered, and held. The stage lasts approximately one and one-half years.” (The Freud Web, 1996, para.3)
On the other hand, the second stage in psychosexual development is the Anal Stage. In this stage, the erogenous zone in focus is the anus. ‘By producing them [the contents of the bowels] … [the infant] can express his active compliance with his environment, and by withholding them his disobedience.’ (Freud, 1905)
It is in this stage of development wherein the child experiences his first encounters of rules and regulation because of the advent of bowel training wherein a child is being toilet trained. This results to “…a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from expulsion of bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, which represent the practical and societal pressures to control the bodily functions...The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet. If the parents are too lenient and the child manages to derive pleasure and success from this expulsion, it will result in the formation of an anal expulsive character. This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant. Conversely, a child may opt to retain feces, thereby spiting his parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up feces on his intestine. If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal retentive character. This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive. The resolution of the anal stage, proper toilet training, permanently affects the individual propensities to possession and attitudes towards authority. This stage lasts from one and one-half to two years.” (The Freud Web, 1996, para.4)
Id, by the way, is the motivational force that demands immediate satisfaction. It is ruled by the pleasure principle that demands satisfaction now without thinking of the circumstances and possible undesirable effects. If the demand/urge is not satisfied / discharged, the id will then result to an act of wish fulfillment. Now Ego, on the other hand, results from the eventual understanding that not all needs can be gratified immediately, thus, adhering to the reality principle. The ego borrows libido from the id so his wants may be feasibly satisfied. This results to the child’s formation of self, instead of an incorporation of urges and needs. Finally, the Superego, takes shape when the external source of repression is internalized because he has now taken in himself the concept of right and wrong based on the rules he had encountered. To enforce these rules, the superego uses guilt and self-reproach, while if a person does something acceptable to his superego experiences pride and self-satisfaction.
The third in the stages of psychosexual development is Phallic Stage. This period starts about age 4-5 years, and it in this stage, the erogenous zone in focus is the genitalia. As the child becomes more interested in his genitals, and in the genitals of others, conflict arises. The conflict, labeled the Oedipus complex (The Electra complex in women), involves the child's unconscious desire to possess the opposite-sexed parent and to eliminate the same-sexed one.
The groundwork for the oedipal phase is the peaking of human infantile sexuality at age five or six-a vestige of an earlier biological timetable. Other contributing factors include the high level of helplessness of human infants, the resulting high attachment needs, and the prolongation of development phases. Unsuccessful resolution of the oedipal phase may result when the mother's dominant status is lowered. (Jonas & Jonas, 1975).
On the other hand, the electra complex is said to be the counterpart of the Oedipus complex that occurs upon the realization that girls don’t have penises, and so this develops into what is called the penis envy. This realization results to hostility of the daughter to her mother, because of the belief that it was her mother who castrated her. “This realization coupled with the knowledge that her mother doesn't have a penis leads to her thinking her mother unworthy, and becoming attracted to her father, as he does have a penis. Just as with boys, girls begin to suspect the same sex parent knows about their attraction to the opposite sex parent, and they hate them for it. These feelings go round and round for awhile until the point when the girls renounce their feelings for their fathers and identify with their mothers." Pritchard, 1998)
Freud, Sigmund. (1989). The Future of an Illusion. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Gleitman, Henry. (1990). Basic Psychology. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
Jonas, AD and Jonas, DF. (1975). “A biological basis for the Oedipus complex: an evolutionary and ethological approach”. The American Journal of Psychiatry. Am J Psychiatry 1975; 132:602-606. Retrieved December 16, 2003 from http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/132/6/602.
Jones, Ernest. (1953). The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. New York: Basic Books Publishing Co., Inc.
Pritchard, Evan, PhD (1998). Personality: Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development. Retrieved December 15, 2003 from http://io.uwinnipeg.ca/~eptrich1/pers.htm
Stevenson, David B. (1996). Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development. Retrieved December 15, 2003 from The Freud Web Brown University Website: http://188.8.131.52/science/freud/Psychosexual_Development.html
Stoodley, Bartlett H. (1959). The Concepts of Sigmund Freud. Glencoe, IL:Free Press
Wollheim, Richard. (1981). Sigmund Freud. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1981
Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development. Retrieved December 15, 2003 from http://psychology.about.com/library/weekly/aa111500a.htm
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