What Are the Psychosexual Stages According to Freud

Psychosexual Stages: oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latent stage, puberty and genital stage.

The first stage of personality development occurs during the first year of life when the infant’s principle source of pleasure is in sucking. In the so-called oral stage, pleasure is derived both from stimulation of the mouth and, later, from biting. If this particular urge is highly satisfying for the infant, his later personality may reflect this in the form of gullibility, or he may be eternally optimistic. On the other hand, if oral satisfaction is frustrated, the individual may show oral aggression in the form of sarcasm and argumentativeness.

During the anal stage, from1 to 3 years of age, the anus becomes the focus of pleasure. The child enjoys both expelling and retaining the feces, and if the parents create difficulties by attempting to toilet train the child too early or by being too harsh in such training, the child may learn to punish them by either refusing to defecate or by defecating at times and places other than those approved by parents. In this case, Freud believed the child involved may become obstinate and stingy if he has been retaining feces as a way of striking back at the parents, or he may become cruel, destructive, and disorderly, if he has been defecating at times and in places disapproved of by the parents. On the other hand, when the parents show approval of the child’s behavior in desired toilet habits, the idea that producing feces is important may be the basis for later productivity and creativity.

From 3 to 6 years of age, the genitals become the focus o0f pleasure, and hence, this is called the phallic stage. In this period, the boy goes through the Oedipus complex, while the girl goes through the Electra complex. Both terms, incidentally, are derived from Greek mythology.

Initially, both boy and girl love the mother, since she is primarily associated with need satisfaction. The father, however, is regarded as a rival for the mother’s attention. During the Oedipal period, these feelings are intensified in the boy. He desires to possess the mother for himself and may indicate desire to marry her when he grows up. Freud felt that boys of this age actually desire sexual relations with the mother and envy the father for his relations with her. The boy literally wants to take his father’s place. His craving for the mother, however, brings out fears of castration by the father, and such fears may be intensified when he sees the female genitals. This is the case, Freud believed, because his erotic feelings or impulses toward the mother center in the genital organs.

According to Freud, it is this anxiety or fear over castration by the father that finally brings about a resolution of the Oedipus complex. Because of this fear, the boy represses his strong desire for the mother and identifies with the father.

In the case of the girl, the details just presented are virtually reversed. The girl physically desires the father and sees the mother as the hated rival. Unlike the boy, however, who gives up his striving for the mother because of castration fears, the girl, Freud believed, never does give up her striving for the father completely. Instead, her desire for the father is transferred later into the desire for a husband and possibly for a male child.

At about the age of 6, all children enter into what is referred to as the latent stage. In this stage, sexual urges toward the parents have been largely repressed and activities center about nonsexual objects. Interest in sexual activities and heterosexual adjustment do not appear until puberty to the genital stage.


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