Psychosexual development is an important element of the psychoanalytic theory. According to Sigmund Freud, human beings are driven by primary instincts, mostly sexual and aggressive. Since we are born, we all possess an instinctual libido, a sexual appetite. Freud believed that personality is established by the age of five. Early experiences play an important role in personality development.
Sigmund Freud proposed five psychosexual development stages. The stages are called psychosexual because Freud believed that each is dominated by the prominence of its own particular erogenous zone. The personality during each stage revolves around the significant erogenous zone.
Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is very famous and one of the most controversial.
1. Oral stage
The oral stage is from birth to about one year of age. In this case the erogenous zone is the mouth. According to Freud, the baby does not just receive nutrition from the breast but also achieves gratification from the experience of sucking. In this case, sucking satisfies the sex drive.
If the baby receives comfort and love from his mother, he will complete this stage. Otherwise, if the mother does not feed the baby regularly a neurosis may develop. The baby becomes obsessed with achieving the gratification of what he feels deprived. The neurosis has a great impact on the personality development. The baby will fixate at the oral stage; he will not progress fully to the next stages. He grows up to be an oral personality.
2. Anal stage
Freud called the second stage of psychosexual development the anal stage because in this case the erogenous stage is the anus. The stage from one to three years is experienced only by those who did not fixate at the oral stage.
At this age a child starts using the toilet. If his parents give him too many rewards for this action the child may come to feel possessive about his defecation. As a result, the child will get pleasure thanks to his feces.
If the parents are too strict, the child could fixate. A child who had received a strict treatment from his parent during the anal stage could develop into an anal expulsive personality and grow up to be messy and irresponsible. Alternatively, the child could develop into an anal retentive personality, growing up to be obstinate, over-orderly, and righteous.
The ego appears for the first time during the anal stage. From now on the id will no longer have direct rule over every action.
3. Phallic stage
The phallic stage is from three to five years of age. The erogenous zone becomes the region of the genitals. Freud believed children possess sexual feelings. According to the Freudian theory, children direct their sexual feelings at the parent of the opposite sex and try to annihilate the parent of the same sex.
In the case of boys, Freud called this the Oedipus complex. The boy starts to feel attraction for his mother and consider his father a rival. He feels like his father should not exist. The child is afraid of a particular kind of punishment from his father – castration. The boy may suffer from castration anxiety.
In the case of girls, we talk about the Elektra complex. It is slightly different because girls do not suffer from castration anxiety from obvious reasons. Freud suggested that girls believe that they have already been castrated. As a result they suffer from penis envy.
During this stage, the superego appears for the first time. The moral norms of the parent are assimilated into the child’s personality.
If a girl fixates at this stage, she might continue to suffer from penis envy. A boy who fixates at the phallic stage might continue to fear castration. As a consequence, boys and girls may become frigid lovers.
4. Latency stage
The latency stage develops from age six until puberty. During this period the libido interests are suppressed. This stage is defined as a period of calm. At six years old the child enters into school and becomes more interested in developing relationships. The latency stage is important in the development of social skills.
5. Genital stage
Freud called the last stage of psychosexual development the genital stage. The stage begins during puberty and last for rest of a person’s life. People start to develop a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex. If the previous stages were completed, the individual should now be well-balanced.
Sigmund Freud proposed five interesting stages in order to explain the psychosexual development of human beings. His theory was criticized mostly because it is too vague and it is based just on case studies and not on empirical research.