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Compare and contrast Freuds Psychosexual stages of development

This assignment is going to compare and contrast Freud’s psychosexual stages of development with Erikson’s psychosocial stage model. The similarities and the differences between the two models will be explained and outlined.

Developmental psychology is a study of the biological, cognitive, emotional and social changes that take place over a course of time in humans. Sigmund Freud brought about the theory of psychoanalytic development, where he believed that early childhood experiences had an outcome on later development and in adulthood. Freud’s stages of psychosexual development consist of five stages: the oral stage (0 – 1 year), the anal stage (1 – 3 years), the phallic stage (3 – 6 years), the latency period (6 – puberty) and the genital stage (puberty – maturity).

The psychosexual stages have three main parts. Each of Freud’s five stages has a physical focal point where the child’s energy is strongest and where their pleasure is obtained. The stages also have a psychological theme and an adult character type.

The oral stage is associated with the mouth area as the infant gains pleasure from sucking, swallowing, biting and chewing. The psychological theme to the oral stage is dependency as a baby can do little for itself. Too much or too little fulfilment can result in Oral Fixation. This fixation will be carried onto later life, where this type of personality may have a stronger tendency to smoke, drink, over eat and bite their nails. The anal stage is associated with the anal cavity and sphincter muscles of the bowel, which are now the main sources of pleasure. The child learns to control anal stimulation. Anal fixation can result in obsession with cleanliness and perfection. On the opposite side they may become disorganised and/or untidy. The phallic stage is associated with the genital area where this becomes the primary area pleasure. The child at this stage becomes aware of the sex differences; both boys and girls experience emotional feelings in relation to the opposite sex parent. The latency stage is the period of relative calm. The sexual and aggressive drives are less active and there is little in the way of psychosexual conflict. During this period the balance between the id, ego and superego is greater. The final stage is the genital stage and marks the beginning of adolescence. Through the courses learned during the previous stages, adolescents direct their sexual urges onto opposite sex peers.

Like Freud, Erikson also believed that personality develops in stages. While Freud’s theory was based on psychosexual stages, Erikson’s theory describes the impact of social experiences across an individual’s life span. Erikson’s psychosocial stages span across eight stages: Stage 1 – Trust vs. mistrust, Stage 2 – Autonomy vs. shame and doubt, Stage 3 – Initiative vs. guilt, Stage 4 – Industry vs. inferiority, Stage 5 – Identity vs. role confusion, Stage 6 – Intimacy vs. isolation, Stage 7 – Generativity vs. stagnation and Stage 8 – Integrity vs. despair.

The first stage of Erikson’s theory occurs between birth to one year of age. The balance of trust with mistrust depends mainly on the quality of maternal care. Lack of interaction with an adult who tends to the infants’ needs, leads to mistrust. During the second stage children develop a greater sense of personal control. Like Freud, much of the conflict during this stage centres around toilet training. Stage three focuses on preschool years where children start to interact through play and try new roles. Stage four covers early school years where children develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Stage five covers adolescence, where people explore their independence and form an identity. Stage six covers early adulthood where people explore personal relationships in order to achieve intimacy with others. The seventh stage is where the adult contributes to society and to the development of the next generation. The last stage occurs during old age and is focused on reflecting back on life and feeling a sense of integrity and feeling proud of their accomplishments.

Freud’s psychosexual theory and Erikson’s psychosocial theory are two very well known developmental concepts. Erikson was influenced by Freud’s ideas but expanded on the theory in different ways. His theory in comparison to Freud’s varied in a number of different ways.

Erikson’s theory emphasised how both early and late experiences are equally important to a person’s development and how personality continued to develop beyond puberty. Where as Freud would argue that most development took place during the earlier period of an individual’s life. Freud’s psychosexual stages consist of five stages and he does not expand any further than puberty. Erikson’s first few psychosocial stages are slightly similar to that of Freud’s stages one to three. Erikson also expands his developmental stages to eight.

Similarly to Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of determined stages and that much of people’s development occurred early in life. The psychologists also believed that a conflict had to be resolved in order to progress onto the next stage. They both agreed that human development is mainly an unconscious growth, and when development occurs it is a gradual process. With both theories similar in this sense the id, ego and super ego play important roles in development.

Freud believed that people are born with the id and as we gradually develop, the second part of our personality begins to develop, the ego. By the end of the phallic stage the superego develops. Erikson accepted this theory, but saw the ego of utmost importance. He believed that part of the ego is able to function autonomously of the id and superego. He claimed that a person’s ego gains or loses strength through the resolution of the eight developmental stages.

Erikson’s developmental theory was much more comprehensive compared to Freud. His theory describes the impact of social experiences on an individual’s lifetime, unlike Freud who described development solely based on sexuality. The stages in Erikson’s psychosocial development theory highlighted the importance of social experiences as he theorised how all the stages are unconditionally present at birth but start to expand according to one’s upbringing in their family, social development and own culture. Each of Erikson’s stages are characterised by a crisis, which is emphasised on parental and societal impact. Each crisis is defined by a pair of opposing possibilities e.g. trust vs. mistrust, and according to Erikson a healthy development requires a favourable ratio of positive to negative.

Another major difference between Freud and Erikson’s developmental theory is the outcome of the stages. Freud believed that when an individual is fixated on a certain stage, the problems associated with that particular stage would be carried out throughout his/her life. Where as in Erikson’s psychosocial stages, the outcome of a particular stage is not permanent and can be changed by later experiences.

In conclusion both Freud and Erikson have contributed to the understanding of human development in psychology. Overall, although there are some similarities between their developmental stages there are major differences that stand out. Freud’s stages were very physical where as Erikson’s highlighted the importance of social interaction in an individual’s lifetime.

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