Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development

Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychologist, is considered to be a heavyweight in the world of Psychology. He has propounded various theories, which even though criticized by many, paving the way for path-breaking revolutions in the analysis of mind and behavior.


One of the most controversial, yet popular theories, propounded by Freud is his theory of psychosexual development.

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He begins by explaining that each person is controlled by three subconscious forces-the ids, the ego, and the superego. The id is responsible for pleasure-seeking tendencies in an individual while the ego ensures that this tendency is fulfilled through socially appropriate behavior. The superego makes up the conscience that helps us distinguish right from wrong. It is the interplay of these forces that constitute the development of a child.

The first stage of development is the oral stage where pleasure is derived through the mouth. Sucking and feeding through the mouth stimulates a child’s pleasure-fulfillment tendency. The second stage is referred to as the anal stage where, through the control over urine and fecal excretion, the child learns self-control.

Next stage is the phallic stage where the child becomes aware of his or her genitals and slowly starts to realize his sexuality and his identity as a boy or a girl. This is the stage where the boy experiences Oedipus complex, i.e.,  feeling of enmity with the father in a bid to win his mother’s love. The girl experiences the Electra complex or a feeling of enmity with her mother to replace her as her father’s partner. Complete development from this stage is extremely necessary to have fulfilling relationships with the opposite sex in future. Succeeding this stage is the stage of latency where the child pursues myriad interests to develop in ways other than the sexual ones. His talents and skills come to the fore in this age.

The last and concluding stage in this process is that of the genitals. The child now reaches an age where he becomes acutely aware of his existence as a sexual being and develops the kind of maturity that is required to interact with the opposite sex and hopefully create a family of his own in future.

It is very important to overcome these stages completely otherwise the individual may become fixated or experience regression in the later stages of his life.

This theory has been criticized for being told only from the male perspective and being overtly sex-oriented.

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