Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory

*includues the 5 psychosexual stages and the Oedipus and Electra Complexes

The 5 Psychosexual Stages

In order:

1. The Oral Stage
2. The Anal Stage
3. The Phallic Stage
4. The Latency Period
5. The Genital Stage

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The Oral Stage

Age Range: Birth to 1 Year

Erogenous Zone: Mouth

During the oral stage, the infant's primary source of interaction occurs through the mouth, so the rooting and sucking reflex is especially important. The mouth is vital for eating, and the infant derives pleasure from oral stimulation through gratifying activities such as tasting and sucking. Because the infant is entirely dependent upon caretakers (who are responsible for feeding the child), the infant also develops a sense of trust and comfort through this oral stimulation.

The primary conflict at this stage is the weaning process--the child must become less dependent upon caretakers. If fixation occurs at this stage, Freud believed the individual would have issues with dependency or aggression. Oral fixation can result in problems with drinking, eating, smoking or nail biting.

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The Anal Stage

Age Range: 1 to 3 years

Erogenous Zone: Bowel and Bladder Control

During this stage, Freud believed the focus of the libido was on controlling bladder & bowel movements. Conflict at this stage is toilet training, the child has to control their bodily needs. Control leads to sense of accomplishment & independence.

According to Freud, success at this stage dependends on the way parents approach toilet training. Parents who utilize praise & rewards for using the toilet at the right time encourage positive outcomes. Freud believed positive experiences served as basis for people to become competent, productive & creative adults.

If parents' punish/ridicule/shame a child for accidents, inappropriate responses result in negative outcomes. If parents take a lenient approach, Freud suggested the individual has a messy, wasteful or destructive personality. (anal-expulsive personality) If parents are strict/begin toilet training early, Freud believed the individual is stringent, orderly, rigid and obsessive.(anal-retentive personality)

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The Phallic Stage

Age Range: 3 to 6 Years

Erogenous Zone: Genitals

During the phallic stage, the primary focus of the libido is on the genitals. At this age, children also begin to discover the differences between males and females.

Freud also believed that boys begin to view their fathers as a rival for the mother’s affections. The Oedipus complex describes these feelings of wanting to possess the mother and the desire to replace the father. However, the child fears that he will be punished by the father for his feelings, a fear Freud termed castration anxiety.

Eventually, the child begins to identify with the same-sex parent as a means of vicariously possessing the other parent. For girls, however, Freud believed that penis envy was never fully resolved and that all women remain somewhat fixated on this stage. Psychologist, Karen Hornet disputed this theory, calling it inaccurate and demeaning to women. Instead, Horney proposed that men experience feelings of inferiority because they cannot give birth.

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The Latent Period

Age Range: 6 to Puberty

Erogenous Zone: Sexual Feelings Are Inactive

During the latent period, the libido interests are suppressed. The development of the ego and superego contribute to this period of calm. The stage begins around the time that children enter into school and become more concerned with peer relationships, hobbies and other interests.

The latent period is a time of exploration in which the sexual energy is still present, but it is directed into other areas such as intellectual pursuits and social interactions. This stage is important in the development of social and communication skills and self-confidence.

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The Genital Stages

Age Range: Puberty to Death

Erogenous Zone: Maturing Sexual Interests

During the final stage of psychosexual development, the individual develops a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex. This stage begins during puberty but last throughout the rest of a person's life.

Where in earlier stages the focus was solely on individual needs, interest in the welfare of others grows during this stage. If the other stages have been completed successfully, the individual should now be well-balanced, warm and caring. The goal of this stage is to establish a balance between the various life areas.

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The Oedipus Complex

The Oedipus complex is a theory put forward by Freud stating that during the Phallic stage males unconsciously becomes attracted to the parent of the opposite sex (the father), therefore seeing the same-sex parent (the mother) as a rival and want to dispose of them.

It is called the Oedipus complex after an ancient greek legend about Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother.
    The little boy may interpret punishment given by the father as a rival for the mothers affections. Taking this as evidence the father is aware of his feelings toward the mother.

The Oedipus complex is important in the gender development of boys as to reduce the anxiety caused by his fear for the father figure, the little boy attempts to become like the father, a happening Freud called ‘identification with the aggressor’.

This has 2 outcomes:
- Reduction of the castration anxiety; also obtaining pleasure from being like his father as this is the person his mother loves.
- Achievement of gender identity through copying the behaviours of the father.

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The Electra Complex

The Electra complex is a psychoanalytic term used to describe a girl’s romantic feelings toward her father and anger towards her mother. It is comparable to the Oedipus Complex

According to Freud, during female psychosexual development, a young girl is initially attached to her mother. When she discovers that she does not have a penis, she becomes attached to her father and begins to resent her mother who she blames for her "castration." As a result, Freud believed that the girl then begin to identify with and emulate her mother out of fear of losing her love.

While the term Electra complex is frequently associated with Freud, it was actually Carl Jung who coined the term in 1913. Freud actually rejected the term and described it as an attempt "to emphasize the analogy between the attitude of the two sexes."

Freud himself used the term feminine Oedipus attitude to describe what we now refer to as the Electra complex

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Evaluating Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Theory

  • The theory is focused almost entirely on male development with little mention of female psychosexual development.

  • His theories are difficult to test scientifically. Concepts such as the libido are impossible to measure, and therefore cannot be tested. The research that has been conducted tends to discredit Freud's theory.

  • Future predictions are too vague. How can we know that a current behavior was caused specifically by a childhood experience? The length of time between the cause and the effect is too long to assume that there is a relationship between the two variables.

  • Freud's theory is based upon case studies and not empirical research. Also, Freud based his theory on the recollections of his adult patients, not on actual observation and study of children
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