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Freud's theories of psychosexual development

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 4,379 snorlax

    Freud's Psychosexual Stages of Development

    According to Sigmund Freud, what we do and why we do it, who we are and how we became this way are all related to our sexual drive. Differences in personalities originate in differences in childhood sexual experiences. In the Freudian psychoanalytical model, child personality development is discussed in terms of "psychosexual stages". In his "Three Essays on Sexuality" (1915), Freud outlined five stages of manifestations of the sexual drive: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital. At each stage, different areas of the child's body become the focus of his pleasure and the dominant source of sexual arousal. Differences in satisfying the sexual urges at each stage will inevitably lead to differences in adult personalities. Conflicts between the sex drive and rules of society are present at every stage. A proper resolution of the conflicts will lead the child to progress past one stage and move on to the next. Failure to achieve a proper resolution, however, will make the child fixated in the present stage. The latter is believed to be the cause of many personality and behavioral disorders.


  • I don't agree at all with Freud's reasoning. I don't think you can categorise development into such compartments based on sexual impulses. Number one, the oral phase is seen as an early stage of the Oedipal complex (which I hold very little truck with). Why? Because a baby sucks on the mother's breast. I would have thought the nutritional (and survival) aspects of this act would hold more prevalence. Think about it, babies who didn't want to suckle would be a poor bet in evolutionary terms. And suckling goes back to the time of the dinosaurs with the first mammals. So in my opinion Freud's argument is flawed in this oral stage as he reasons that baby's do it because of a sexual need. However I think baby's do it because they are "programmed" to do it. So-called "oral fixation" behaviours are nothing more than behaviours, nail-biting is not a preoccupation with your mouth, it's trimming your nails using the nail clippers you're always carrying.

    As for "Bowel movement and and the withholding of such movement" as being a gratifying behaviour I've a newsflash: baby's have no control over their sphinctor muscle for a long period of early life. They soil themselves because they can't help it. They learn to control it and withold the need to go because if you just defecate where you stand all the time you are going to introduce diseases into your living area. So being able to hold it and doing it where it's not near your food and relatives is a good thing. Yet again not just humans do this.

    The phallic stage makes some sense to me as of course people are sexual creatures (I've yet to come across a case of full body mitosis in humans :D) and as the genitals develop (not as dramatically as in puberty) obviously the child will recognise the feeling of touching them as being pleasurable. They are designed to be pleasurable after all.

    Latency? I don't think all children just switch off and don't act to some extent sexually until they hit puberty. I know I didn't. I think it's more of a build up thing, it's always there in you but once you hit puberty and the hormones kick in it's like a dam bursting and it's all you can think about.

    As for the genital stage, like the phallic stage it makes sense to me. As your body and body chemistry is changing you're going to enjoy what sexual experiences you have but I disagree that any problems at this stage are due to problems encountered in the early stages. Yes early experiences (I'm not just talking about trauma but less severe and indeed positive things) will influence it but the mind is a tricky thing and it can't be that simple in my opinion.

  • Freud's theories don't really hold any weight anymore. They are impossible to test or disprove and with Psychology very much adopting a scientific method of enquiry most psychologists disregard them as unfounded speculation.

  • Good books to read in this regard are Richard Webster's excellent "Why Freud Was Wrong" and Frederick Crews "Unauthorised Freud". However, I wouldn't underestimate Freud's lingering influence within psychotherapy ... despite the lack of evidence for effectiveness.

  • I've studied a good bit of Freud and I can appreciate his reasoning in relation to psychosexual development,especially when it comes to oral fixations being derived from failure to progress past the oral stage.

    I find it quite logical that people who do not develop properly throughout this stage would turn to smoking and nail-biting etc.

    However,I always had a problem with the "sarcasm" part. I just don't buy it tbh!

  • More good critiques of Freud include Fred Crews' "Freud Evaluated" (A huge tome by MacMillan Press but very comprehensive) and for a searing indictment of Freud's inept handling of one of his most famous cases, and the source of a lot of his subsequrnt theorising, you should read the excellent "Remembering Anna-O" by Mikkel Bosch-Jacobsen.

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  • If that's not enough to read, try Adolf Grunbaum's 'The Foundations of Psychoanalysis' which is a famous critique. Be warned, the writing is quite dense and it can be difficult to work through.