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Freud's Psychosexual Development and Erickson's Psychosocial Development

Updated on February 20, 2017

The Freudian Matrix

The early Freudian theory of psychosexual development consisted of four stages culminating in maturity at adolescence. This theory has been criticized as simplistic and overly deterministic in it's surplus emphasis on childhood events and their immutable effects upon an individual's personality.

Freud's stages were as Follows:

The Oral stage is contained within the first year of life and divided into two sub-stages. The Oral-Receptive stage pertains to a babies initial means by gaining pleasure, through the oral interaction of breastfeeding. The later Oral-Sadistic phase, which comes with the development of teeth is an early defense against an uncertain environment. The infant's reaction to breastfeeding and subsequent weaning can impact the quality of relationships later in life. Freud theorized that our lifelong oral orogeny, (i.e. pleasure from kissing) has its genesis in this stage.

The Anal stage, occurring during year one through two, is also broken into two parts. The early anal phase and late anal period. The early stage is characterized by defecation as an act of aggression. The later stage transforms the act of defecation into a source of pride and pleasure for the child. They may feel accomplishment at what they have, "created," and may present it as a gift and Freud theorized that the way in which this gift is received is a formative factor in personality. A positive reception engenders generosity and a punitive reception can lead to obsessive or narcissistic traits.

The Phallic phase occurs during years 3 and 4. At this stage, auto-arousal becomes almost a universal for children as the genitals become a principle erogenous zone. How parents react to this and children's experience of this reaction can either engender shame or a healthy sexuality in the developed adult.

Around age 5 until puberty, Freud believed children entered a latency period characterized by a lack of Psychosexual progress.

The Genital phase is reached at puberty in which sexual desire is directed outward toward others, and the erogenous zones consolidate so as to allow the genitals to be the primary erogenous zone.

The Genital phase is ongoing throughout life after sexual maturity is reached. Freud spoke of a subsequent period of Psychological maturity, that can be completed after the four Psychosexual stages are successfully navigated but he regarded healthy completion of these stages and the attainment of Psychological maturity to be a rare occurrence and thought people often became encumbered with neuroses as a result of frustrations during these stages. He wrote little on this stage of Psychological maturity but it may be inferred that he was referring to a healthy structuring of the Id, Ego, and Superego. This healthy balance would allow for the Ego (the realistic part of the personality that arbitrates between the Ego and the Superego) putting commensurate limits upon the Id (the aggressive and hedonistic part of the personality) while fostering a relative equanimity with the Superego (the part of the personality that recognizes social mores, norms, and expectations).

Erickson's Expansion on Freudian Theory

Erick Erickson revised and expanded the model of development into a model still highly regarded by Social scientist and Human Developmentalists today. There are a few concepts to understand before proceeding through this eight-stage model.

The model hinges on 8 developmental milestones, or identity crises, which must be resolved by the individual. These should not be regarded as crises is a traumatic sense but rather as pivotal turning points in life with which we all must contend. These crises are resolved either in a syntonic manner leading to a basic strength or a dystonic manner that can result in such an enervation of this basic strength so as to produce a core pathology. The successful resolution of these stages does not exist as a polar dichotomy but rather on a healthy continuum that somewhat favors the syntonic over the dystonic. His epigenetic principle states that if one crisis is not resolved adequately then all the subsequent stages of crises may suffer in turn and be consequently poorly resolved.

Stage 1—Infancy: This stage occurs in the first year of life and presents a crises between basic trust and basic mistrust based upon the Infants full sensory perception of their world. If they are consistently attended to by their primary caregiver then they will develop the basic strength of hope. By experiencing both want and amelioration of want the infant will develop a future expectation regarding a world imbued with satisfactory outcomes. If they do not develop sufficient hope, based on reliable attention to their needs they will develop the core pathology of withdrawal. This stage correlates to Freud's oral stage but was expanded by Erickson to become the oral-sensory mode.

Stage 2—Early Childhood: This is a period in which autonomy contends with shame and doubt. It Is a time of experimentation in which children try to do many things for themselves and inevitably fail at some attempts. if parents are properly encouraging they will move through this stage with a healthy balanced view of their abilities and develop the basic strength of will. If they are repeated shamed in their attempts, or continually undermined by over-assistance in their endeavors they may develop the core pathology of compulsion. The desire to control the functions of the body during the second year which Freud recognized is mirror by Erickson's expanded anal-urethral-muscular mode.

Stage 3—Play Age: This is a period in which initiative and guilt are in competition. Young children may have a childhood desire to marry one of their parents and as this is contrasted with guilt surrounding social taboos they will hopefully emerge with the basic strength of a refined sense of purpose. The core pathology of an excessive amount of guilt manifests itself in inhibition. Erickson expanded Freud's Psychosexual phallic stage here to the Genital-locomotor mode during which the spirit of playfulness and drama is developed.

Stage 4—School Age: This covers from around age 6-12 and is a time of significant social growth. Children learn to accomplish tasks and prepare for work through the tasks of school and continuing play. The crises is between a syntonic feeling of industry and a dystonic concession to inferiority. The basic strength that will emerge if the syntonic is favored is competence. If the dystonic is favored they may regress to a core pathology of inertia. Erickson, like Freud saw this as a period Psychosexual latency.

Stage 5—Adolescent: The crisis presented at puberty is one of identity versus identity confusion. Teenagers are discovering how they want to be and what they believe within a social context. They either are affirmed by peers and by the situations established within these contexts and develop the basic strength of fidelity or if they are repudiated by their peers and overly obstructed by their parents in their goal-formation this may lead to the basic pathology role repudiation. In consideration of the recalcitrant nature of teens it is not surprising that some repudiation by their parents can actually strengthen fidelity. Erickson said little about sexual maturation.

Stage 6—Young Adulthood: Intimacy, based upon a stable self-identity and the ability to engage in a relationship defined by mutual trust with another is contrasted with an inflexibility of identity based on a tentative sense of self which leads to isolation. If intimacy is favored the basic strength of love will develop. If the dystonic element, isolation is favored, the core pathology that may result is exclusivity. Erickson called the Psychosexual stage of intimate sexuality at this stage the genitality mode.

Stage 7—Adulthood: During adulthood, the crises of generativity, the production of new work and ideas, is in contention with stagnation. The desire to guide the next generation becomes of utmost importance at this stage if it is resolved syntonically and the basic strength of care emerges. If on the other hand, adults become narcissistic and self-involved they may develop the core pathology of rejectivity. Erickson's contention was that the inadequate resolution to this crises of adulthood resulted in the provincialism and sectarianism that has fueled much of history's wars and atrocities. Going beyond Freud, Erickson maintained that there was an instinctual drive toward perpetuating the species and he called this the Psychosexual procreativity mode.

Stage 8—Old Age: The syntonic element of old age is integrity and the dystonic element is despair. Integrity is a strong and comprehensive sense of self resulting in the basic strength of wisdom. As people age many of the things they identified themselves as change and many of the things they associated their lives with are lost and without a well developed self of identity the core pathology of disdain emerges. The last Psychosexual stage is classified as generalized sensuality mode. This represents an expanding range of pleasure encompassing all the senses and an increased partaking in the experiences more frequently relegated to the opposite sex.

Universality of Psychosocial Development

The individual moves through these stages, ever increasing their sphere of influence. Beginning with a relationship with the primary caregiver in infancy, this sphere expands to include the breadth of humanity.

Erickson believed that this model was neither temporally nor proximally limited to a specific culture but rather encompassed a universal human nature. The importance of one stage building upon another can be seen if we look exclusively at the basic strengths resulting from each conflict. Hope is a necessary condition to establish the will to move toward a purpose. A sense of personal competency is needed to establish fidelity towards one's belief and identity. A stable fidelity towards one's identity is necessary for a healthy trusting sense of love. And without the nurturing of love, first for another and increasingly toward humanity, on the whole, there will be no care to impart wisdom to the next generation.


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