Sigmund Freud is often hailed as the father of psychoanalysis and is generally recognised as one of the most influential and authoritative thinkers of the twentieth century. Freuds' stages of development came about largely from his work with adult patient regression. His theories have been criticized heavily over the years mainly due to their lack of any true scientific methods, however Freud's theories still remain in the forefront of psychoanalytical theory today.
Psychoanalytic Stages Of Development
Oral Stage – From birth through to around eighteen months of age. This stage focuses around the mouth (oral). A child’s experience and sensations are focused upon sucking, and later, biting. During this stage a child’s needs for oral experiences take precedence over all others. Freud suggests that if a child is frustrated or overly stimulated then the child may become fixated. Part of the child may remain in the oral stage as development progresses, development is arrested. This means that the child’s personality will show some characteristics of the previous stage of development. According to Freud it is not genetics or maturation that causes development of traits but it is problems in the early interaction between child and the child’s parents, particularly in the oral stage.
Anal Stage – Once a measure of control over the elimination of waste is achieved, the libido (The energy emanating from the sex instinct), becomes attached to the anal cavity from about eighteen months to three years. The anal stage can be broken into the anal expulsion and the anal retentive sub stages. A child in the anal repulsion stage finds pleasure from expelling waste from the body. In the anal retentive stage a child finds gratification in withholding the body’s waste products.
Phallic Stage – Beginning around the age of four the child’s libido attaches itself to the genital organs, the penis in males and the clitoris in females. During the first few stages, there is little difference in the development between boys and girls, however the phallic stage show great variation in the experiences between the two sexes. According to Freud, a male child in the phallic stage will develop a strong sexual attachment to his mother and seek to push the father away as a rival for his mother’s affections. Freud called this the Oedipus Complex. A boy in this stage will, at the same time, realize that he is at a disadvantage in competing with his father due to difference in size and will repress his feelings towards his mother in fear of his fathers retribution should he discover the boys true feelings. The case of the female child is more complicated. Freud proposed a similar situation, dubbed the Electra Complex. The female child begins attached strongly to her mother but will turn her attention to her father once she realizes that she does not have a penis. Appropriation of blame for this lies with the mother and the young girl will subsequently attempt to take her mothers place in her fathers affection. Penis envy develops during this stage and the desire to possess the male organ. Because there is little fear of retribution from her mother for these feelings the girl will continue to identify with her mother, and continue building upon the relationship pre-phallic stage.
Latency Stage – The latency stage begins once the child has resolved the Oedipus situation. This stage lasts from around six years of age until puberty. A child in the latency stage will have his/her sexuality lie dormant. Once the boy identifies with his father he tends to imitate him at every turn. Boys who have repressed their feelings towards their mother tend to generalize this to all other females, thus the sexes segregate and boys will play with boys and girls will play with girls. The resolution of the electra complex is much less abrupt than that of the Oedipus complex and as such girls, whilst still exhibiting an aversion to boys, will do so on a considerably less intense level.
Genital Stage – This stage begins at puberty. The young male will seek a girlfriend, and the young female will seek a boyfriend. This stage continues to develop until the child reaches mature adult sexuality.