Human development: Freud

Revision cards outlining Freuds psychosexual theory in health and social care unit 12 (human development: factors & theorists), including the stages, structure of the self, application to other areas of development and an evaluation of the theory

  • Created by: Emma
  • Created on: 09-01-12 21:18

The structure of the self

Freud believed that there were 3 parts to the personality; the id, the ego and the superego.

Id: Made up of basic drvies and often referred to as the 'pleasure principle'. It motivates people to gratify desires immediately.

Ego: Allows people to delay gratification when necessary; enabling us to look for appropriate opportunities to gratify these desires. Sometimes referred to as the 'reality principle'.

Superego: Thought of as a person's moral beliefs about which behaviours are right and wrong and is often known as the 'morality principle'.

It is important to gain a balance between these 3 parts to avoid conflict

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Evaluation of the structure of the self

The idea is reasonably plausible, and the reliegious idea that 'there is good and evil in each person' existed long before Freud. However, Freud's theories cannot be tested.

It maty also be seen as stating the obvious, simply saying that we often have conflict between our moral beliefs and our basic drives.

A further criticism is that some people don't show sexual, dominant or aggressive drives (the three forms of instinctual energy). An example of this is nun's, who choose to remain celibate.

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Psychosexual stages: Oral stage

Freud claimed that the oral stage lasted from birth to one year, and during this time the infant gained ****** pleasure from the mouth, by chewing or sucking objects (particularly the mothers breast), equivalent to the sexual satisfaction gained by adults.

During this stage, the childs personality consists only of the Id and therefore babies need immediate gratification when hungry or uncomfortable.

Due to a process called fixation, if a child experiences conflict during the development through the primary psychosexual stages, they often retain some features of that stage. Fixation during the oral stage can lead to 'oral behaviour' in adulthood, such as smoking or showing oral aggression, like sarcasm.

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Psychosexual stages: Anal stage

Freud stated that this stage lasted from 1-3 years of age, and the main pleasure source was the anus, where pleasure could be gained by the control of bowel movements (either retaining or expelling these). Frued believed that the ego developed here, and so as children become self-aware, they also become aware of the world and are then able to delay gratification.

Fixation during this stage may result from conflict during toilet training, and can lead to traites such as obessive tidiness and preoccupation with money.

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Psychosexual stages: Phallic stage

The phallic stage begins at around age 3 and continues to the age of 6. During this stage Children begin to gain ****** pleasure from theiir genitals.

The superego also develops here; giving children their own set of moral beliefs.

This stage is also where boys go through the Oedipus complex; where they develop envy and hatred towards their father, due to an unconscious sexual desire to be with their mother. The reverse happens to girls, and is known as the electra complex. He also believed that girls develop 'Penis envy' and boys develop 'castration anxiety' with both terms being self explanatory.

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Evaluation of psychosexual stage theory

The only evidence in support of this theory is weak, often in the form of case studies, so findings cannot reliably be generalised to all cultures.

Also, whereas some of it seems plausible (e.g. we know that babies **** objects) but there is no evidence suggesting they gain satisfaction from this. Although many facts are consisten with the theory, they aren't sufficient proof that the thoery is accurate.

Some of Freud's theory may be based on an error he made; he misinterpreted his clients descriptions of sexual abuse as sexual desire, and the reality of sexual abuse wasn't widely recognised during this time. Freud's research was also conducted using self-report, and therefore may not be scientific.

Society was also very different during Freud's time, and today people are far more open about sexual feelings than in previous generations.

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Application to atttachment

Freud explained attachment to the mother as a result of feeding (particularly breastfeeding) which gives the child in the oral stage ****** pleasure.

This is similar to the learning theory explanation and can also be criticised by the fact that children often attach to figures who don't feed them, or indeed don't provide other aspects of care to them.

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Application to pro and anti social behaviour

Freud believed that moral beliefs are acquires by identification with the same sex parent (boys= father, girls= mother). Freud explained individual differences as variations in the moral beliefs of parents; some pass on helping and co operation (pro social behaviour) whereas others value aggression and hostile competitiveness (anti social behaviour).

Freud also stated that the moral behaviour exhibited a person related to the strength of their superego; a powerful superego may lead to moral behaviour dominating the desires of the id, leading to prosocial behaviour being displayed. likewise a particularly strong id may lead to more antisocial behaviours being displayed.

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Evaluation of behaviour explanation

An issue with this is that is assumes there is only one influential person for moral development, which is unlikely as it ignores the idea of other agents of socialisation. It also doesn't explain how boys who grow up without fathers still develop moral beliefs.

The idea that the strength of the personality parts (e.g. the id) varies between individuals is plausible and is supported by the study by Dabbs et al, showing a consistency between Freuds theory and the influence of biological factors

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The development of sex differences in behaviour

Freud didn't provide a specific explanation for this; however his theory of psychosexual stages does this. For example, children identify with their same sex parent during the phallic stage. As well as acquiring moral beliefs, they may also acquire beliefs about gender-appropriate behaviour- boys may aspire to become like their father, where girls identify more with their mother.

Boys often do grow up with similar interests to their fathers, so traditionally this may mean that boys become interested in cars and sport, and girls become interested in domestic activirt

However, children who are reared without a same-sex parent still display the usual sex differences in behaviour, suggesting that there are other influences besides parents.

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Evaluation: positive features

The idea of an unconscious mind is plausible and helps to explain misunderstanding and conflict during everyday life. For example trivial feuds may escalate due to the unconscious desire to dominate other people.

If people were aware of the true reasons behind their behaviour, they may be less likely to exhibit this; as people wouldn't be proud of arguing with other people simply because they enjoy it. The unawareness of their motivations allow people to get satisfaction from conflict.

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Evaluation: negative features

A main drawback of Freuds theories is that they aren't testable; and not everybody demonstrates evidence of instinctual energies.

It can also be seen as biased or sexist,, due to the idea that boys have a stronger superego, without evidence of this.

It also overstates the importance of the parental role, leading to incompleteness due to the absence of roles of other factors (e.g. agents of socialisation and maturational influences)

Also, much of Freud's research is done by case study; making it an unrepresentative sample.

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Implications for child rearing

Freud emphasises the importance of parents rather than care providers during child development. It also suggests parents should avoid conflict, particularly during breastfeeding, weaning and toilet training in order to prevent children retaining unhealthy personality traits

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