Thursday, April 12, 2012

Freud's PsychoSexual Stages of Development

Stage 1: Oral Stage (Birth-12mths)

We're all very familiar with this stage where babies will put anything in their mouth. They love feeding time, whether it be bottles or breastfeeding. Many babies chew fingers, toes, toys, etc. And for the most part, its pretty damn cute. The libido (sexual energy/root of pleasure) is centered in the mouth and if it isn't released, the child may grow to have an oral fixation, such as nail biting, smoking, sucking/chewing fingers and thumbs, etc. Many mothers are very quick to stop they're young child from sucking fingers or pacifiers, but its better to let them have it and break the habit at a more age appropriate time.

Stage 2: Anal Stage (12-36 mths)

Have you ever seen a baby making "poo-poo" in their diaper and it looks like it actually feels good to them? You may laugh (as I currently am, too), but defecating actually does feel extremely good to a child this age. Children this age are usually learning to potty train, so its very important that you are fully aware of how and when you train them.

At this point, the child begins to develop an ego. They come to the realization that no matter what they want to do, they have to do what they are told and cannot obtain the immediate gratification they way they did previously. That is at the heart of what makes potty training so difficult, getting a child to defecate in a specific time and place versus wherever and whenever, with no responsibility or consequence.

Potty training a kid thats too young or using a mean or demeaning method of training can lead to a child growing into an adult and becoming, yes, anal! They will have anal-retentive personalities that may lead to obsessive compulsive disorder, excessive stubbornness and may even make excessively cheap! But you cant be too liberal either, as this may result in a messy, unorganized and rebellious adult.

Stage 3: Phallic Stage (3-5/6 yrs)

As previously discussed in the portion on masturbation, children discover this way of tension release before they reach age 1. However, as stated earlier, this is a non-sexual habit for a child that age. The same applies here, though at this age masturbation is a more regular occurance, especially in a private setting. Children also become very aware of gender differences and roles, which can bring about conflicting emotions like erotic attraction, resentment, rivalry, jealousy and fear.

Because of these factors, its not uncommon for a child to "fall in love" with their opposite sex parent and feel a need to claim ownership of them. This is called the 'Oedipus Complex' for boys and the 'Electra Complex' for girls.

Oedipus is a part of an ancient Greek myth where the young Oedipus falls in love with his mother, so he kills his father in order to marry his mother. When he comes to terms with what he's done,  he pokes his eyes out and renders himself blind. Although not so literal, this touches on what young children begin to feel when they are in this stage and still lacking the superego.

In a young male child, he may begin to view his mother in a desirable way- hence, the reason why most men marry women similar to their mother- and want possess her, which draws jealous feelings towards the father. But, internally and irrationally, the boy begins to think the father will find out and separate him from what he holds most dear: not the mother. The penis. (It may sound funny, but during this stage a little boy values his penis over everything else.) So, the child's solution is to then learn how to be more like his dad by imitating the father's masculine behaviors. Not out of extreme like for the father, but in order to be like him to gain the mom or a woman like her.

Girls are little trickier, as are all things with females. The Electra complex differs in that the female child briefly desires the father but then comes to envy him because she realizes he has a penis and she doesn't, making her wish to be a boy. By now, her ego is well developed which equips her with the realization that this is impossible, so she substitutes her penis desire for a baby desire. (Which explains little girls' fascination with baby dolls) The girl blames her mother for her 'position of castration' which causes tension between mother and daughter. (This is the beginning of the 'Mom, you're ruining my life' phase that is typical of many mother-daughter relationships during the pubescent/teenage years) But eventually, the little girl releases that tension by suppressing feelings for the father and the desire to be a boy and simply learns to identify with the mother and adapt to the female gender roles.

(Unsuccessful resolution of this step could result in a closer adaptation to male gender roles, which can play a huge part in the attraction part of sexuality. Meaning? Your child may learn to desire the same sex by still desiring to BE the opposite sex.)

Latency (6-Puberty)

In this stage, the child's libido is dormant. Mainly, because this is the age when a child goes to school all day. They are more focused on learning new things, meeting new people and developing socially rather than sexually. Because of the lack of libido, children tend to socialize more with same sex children and have little to no desire to even intermingle with children of the opposite sex. Boys think girls are gross, Girls think boys have chiggers and cooties. All is well at this age.

Stage 4: Genital (Puberty-Adulthood)

This is the phase that ALL parents fear. This is where the hormones kick in and children start to sprout adult bodies and develop more adult feelings and relationships with their opposite sex peers. In fact, most of their relation to their same sex peers stem from feelings of the opposite sex, which creates a repetitive cycle of emotions and changes and pressure that can lead to many negative outcomes.
Especially, if the child isn't presented with the proper sex education information.

In Freud's opinion, the time of adolescence is one of sexual experimentation which if resolved successfully will lead to loving intimate one-on-one relationships in our 20s and beyond.  He also believed the the proper outlet of the libido in this stage is through heterosexual intercourse. Anything else was deemed as a 'sexual perversion' and a sign that fixation and conflict was not resolved at a specific stage.

In example, if a child has not resolved the oral fixation early on this may result in sexual pleasure mainly by way of kissing or oral sex instead of intercourse. The same goes for the anal phase, however in the phallic phase it appears when they reach a heterosexual/homosexual crossroad that alot of modern children deal with at a higher rate than their parents/grandparents did. The confusion of roles and unresolved feelings of conflict coupled by a lack of communication and valid information may serve as a stepping stone into sexuality experimentation, beginning in middle school well into college and adult years.

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