Stages of Personality Development

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Stages of Personality Development
The Psychodynamic Approach
Which of Freud’s ego defense
mechanisms is operating here?
(Check the answer at the bottom of page 424.)
© Scott Adams/Dist. By United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
Stages of Personality Development
Freud proposed that personality develops during childhood through a series of psychosexual stages. Failure to resolve the conflicts that appear at any of these stages
can leave a person fixated—that is, unconsciously preoccupied with the area of pleasure associated with that stage. Freud believed that the stage at which a person became
fixated in childhood can be seen in the person’s adult personality characteristics.
In Freud’s theory, a child’s first year or so is called the oral stage
because the mouth—which infants use to eat and to explore everything from toys to
their own hands and feet—is the center of pleasure during this period. Personality
problems arise, said Freud, when oral needs are either neglected or overindulged. For
example, early or late weaning from breastfeeding or bottle feeding may leave a child
fixated at the oral stage. The resulting adult characteristics may range from overeating
or childlike dependence (late weaning) to the use of “biting” sarcasm (early weaning).
The Oral Stage
The anal stage occurs during the second year, when the child’s
ego develops to cope with parental demands for socially appropriate behavior. For
example, in most Western cultures, toilet training clashes with the child’s freedom to
have bowel movements at will. Freud said that if toilet training is too harsh or begins
too early, it can produce an anal fixation that leads, in adulthood, to stinginess or excessive neatness (symbolically withholding feces). If toilet training is too late or too lax,
however, the result could be a kind of anal fixation that is reflected in adults who are
disorganized or impulsive (symbolically expelling feces).
The Anal Stage
According to Freud, between the ages of three and five, the focus
of pleasure shifts to the genital area. Because he emphasized the psychosexual development
of boys, Freud called this period the phallic stage (phallus is another word for penis). It
is during this stage, he claimed, that the boy experiences sexual feelings for his mother and
a desire to eliminate, or even kill, his father, with whom the boy competes for the mother’s
affection. Freud called this set of impulses the Oedipus complex, because it reminded
him of the plot of the classical Greek play Oedipus Rex. (In the play, Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.) The boy’s fantasies create so much fear, however, that the ego represses his incestuous desires and leads him to “identify” with his father
and try to be like him. In the process, the child’s superego begins to develop.
According to Freud, a girl begins the phallic stage with a strong attachment to her
mother. However, when she realizes that boys have penises and girls don’t, she supposedly develops penis envy and transfers her love to the father. (This sequence has been
called the Electra complex because it echoes the plot of Electra, another classical Greek
play, but Freud never used this term.) To avoid her mother’s disapproval, the girl identifies with and imitates her, thus forming the basis for her own superego.
Freud believed that unresolved conflicts during the phallic stage create a fixation that
is reflected in many kinds of adult problems. These problems can include difficulties
with authority figures and an inability to maintain a stable love relationship.
The Phallic Stage
THE ORAL STAGE According to Freud,
personality develops in a series of psychosexual stages. At each stage, a different part of the body becomes the primary
focus of pleasure. This baby would
appear to be in the oral stage.
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