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Freud's theory of psychosocial developmENT


In the seminar part we will present Freud's theory of psycho-sexual development. We will present his views and, on the basis of them, try to illuminate the human past and the basic elements - the factors, its development, the building blocks of its personality and its establishment. In addition to the three components of the personality, among other things, according to Freud, libido-sexual drive is also important as the basis for all instincts; or libido as an energy occupation, which I devote to the objects of my sexual endeavors (S. Freud 1977, 387-388). - Freud presents us as a sexual instinct, dividing it into phases that represent periods of child psychosocial development, on the basis of the construction of his personality, identity.


Freud's view of human nature is the "transformed view" of Thomas Hobbes's doctrine of original sin. The main drive of this psychoanalytical theory is the emphasis that people are driven by the strong biological needs that need to be met. The latter are usually unwanted. Freud saw the child as a selfish one, driven by two types of instincts: Eros and Tanatos. Eros (life instinct) should promote survival by directing vital activities: breathing, feeding, sexing and satisfying other physical needs. On the other hand, Tanatos (the instinct of death) sees in people as a devastating force, expressed through warfare, sadistic aggression, murder, and even masochism (Shaffer R. David 2004, p. 39).


Freud and his work


Freud was a neurologist who designed his theory of human development through the analysis of the history of his patients. In his work he intended to reduce nervous symptoms and anxiety with the method of hypnosis, free association and the analysis of dreams. The latter was crucial because the patients were able to issue signs of unconscious motives that they undermined. By analyzing these motives and events that led to the suppression, Freud assessed that human development is a conflicting process. According to Freud, the way in which parents managed to satisfy these sexual and aggressive instincts is crucial for shaping children's personality (Shaffer R. David 2004, p. 39).


Three components of the personality:


Freud's psycho-sexual theory tells us that he has three dimensions of personality: Id, Ego and Superego. They develop and integrate into five psycho-sexual phases.


Id is all that is present at birth. His only task is to satisfy innate biological instincts. If we think about it, little kids are the whole Id. If they are hungry or divorced, they cry for as long as their needs are not met. Moreover, they are not known for their patience.


Ego is a conscious, rational component of a personality that reflects the child's learning, memory, etc. skills. For example, when a hungry child begins to remember and understand how he gets food. The latter is primarily the search for the mother and the first words ("cookie").


Superego is the last component of the personality, or in other words, the seat of the news. It develops between 3 and 6 years when the child is free from parental moral values ​​and standards. Here children do not need more parents to tell them that they have done right or wrong. They will feel bad, embarrassed and wrong when doing their unethical behavior (Shaffer R. David 2004, p. 39).



The theory of psychosexual development


Freud distinguishes the following developmental stages according to the direction of the instinctive energy of the libido:

ORAL PHASE (1st year of child development): Libido focuses on the mouth area. The infant satisfies oral stimulation: sucking, feeding, swallowing, biting. Characteristic is the symbiosis between mother and child: close interconnection and dependence. The child works according to the principle of comfort, demands immediate satisfaction of needs (id).


ANAL STAGE (2-3 years of child development): Libido is directed from the mouth to the anus. Primary excretion and elimination of excretion is primary. It is important to adopt a "kahlico" (toilet training), as this is the first major requirement that the child is placed before, the first situation when he can really judge himself, how much to subordinate, how much to do for himself, no one can force him for the first time or prevent him. The child's satisfaction with elimination is therefore linked to a sense of independence. Parents are asked before judging how much they are silent and how easily they feel comfortable. This conflict encourages the development of the ego, as the child learns that the needs of meeting the needs need to be adapted to the situation. The child is excommunicated by symbiosis with his mother, becoming independent ("the first period of time").


PHALLICAL PHASE (3-6 years old): The libido focuses on the area of ​​the sexual organs. During this period, exploration (viewing and research of genitals) and child masturbation is a normal development phenomenon. The child discovers the sex and begins to act like a sexual being, clarifying the concepts that his mom is a woman and his father is a man, and he is a little man / woman. He is interested in everything related to gender differences, the birth of children and sexual organs.


Oedipus complex (in boys in the unconscious area) & Elektra complex (in girls) (Sigelman K. Carol 2011, page 40)


The boy is becoming more aware of his gender and begins to identify with his father, while at the same time his affection for his mother increases. Mother is the first object of the libido for each child, and at this stage, the boy's libidinal tendency intensifies. Becoming possessive, he begins to experience his father as a rival and wants to displace him in his role to his mother, remove him (castrated?). But as the father is a strong, dominant figure (authority), the son fears that in this struggle for the mother's love he will win, and punished him. The worst sentence at this stage would be castration ("castration fear"). In reality, it is supposed to be a projection: the son wants to castrate his father, which is unacceptable, so these impulses are attributed to him. The situation is resolved by identifying a child with a same-sex parent, accepting his child's sexual identity, and incestuous and aggressive aspirations undermining subconsciousness. The resolution of the Oedipal situation influences a later attitude towards the authorities, since during this period the envy against authority and resistance against it arises for the first time. It also influences the structuring of the superstitious (internal parenting norms) and subsequent partnership relations. Complications at this stage may later lead to an excessive need for confirmation by others due to lack of self-confidence, a strong attachment to a parent of the opposite sex, perhaps searching for a much older partner who would take on the role of a mother or mother. father, problems in creating a gender identity (eg a man does not find himself in the role of a partner, father or mother) ...


LATENCE (6th to 11th year of child development): Oidip's situation is resolved. When children go to school, instinctive tendencies move into the background (sublimated, socialized), the child becomes independent of the parents, important peers become important. The superego develops rapidly, distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Priority, diligence, tracking instructions, relationships with peers come to the forefront, looking for contacts with the same sex, and mostly rejecting contact with the opposite sex.


GENITAL PHASE (adolescence): The libido is initially still focused on same-sex partners, relationships are tighter, homosexual experimentation is possible, masturbation occurs again. Over time, most libido shifts to the opposite sex, and the adolescent begins to establish heterosexual relationships. Thus he moved from partial satisfaction, bound to individual erogenous zones, to complete satisfaction. The main object of the libido becomes a partner. Superego develops and becomes more flexible: the adolescent checks the rules of behavior, finds their different significance, performs the selection (some rules are accepted, some modify, some reject). Productivity is developing in different areas (Sigelman K. Carol 2011, p. 38).


Here it is interesting that Freud was focused on the phallic or "Oedipus phase". He thought that at this stage, the father came into the child's psychic life. According to him, children are bisexual until this stage. Here, little boys learn that as their father's penis. This is followed by a desire for the mother, and consequently they become the rivals of their fathers. In girls it is a physically different story because they develop a sense of superiority and fear of castration (Williamson Mary 2004, p. 209).


Function of the libido

The Libido does not appear to be a definitive one, nor does it grow further in its own similarity, but passes through a series of other phases that do not seem to be similar to each other, that is, it is a repeated development, rather than a butterfly caterpillar. The turning point in development is the subordination of all sexual partial instincts to the primacy of genitals and thus the subordination of sexual reproduction function (S. Freud 1977, 311).


In Freud's theory, the deepest psychological significance of sexual reproduction is contained in the replacement or symbolization of body parts and organic pleasure. For men, the ability to reproduce is to master a woman and possess the mother, and to overcome castration fear. For a woman, pregnancy and consequently children, some kind of compensation for the missing penis and alleviating the envy of the penis. For a man, the act of fertilizing a woman, the restaurant of a mother, is as if the mother healed from the inside where she had been destroyed in the fantasy earlier. For a woman, however, pregnancy means the mother's cure through identification with her (C. Gostečnik 2005, 114-115).


In his book, Freud describes the result of a dream analysis. He mentions that wishes in dreams are often perverted, maybe even incestuous, or reveal no intentional hostility towards close relatives of relatives. Fredu says that these inclinations are infantile, conscious life is already abandoned by the installation of libido and the occupation of objects that, when dreaming, prove to be present and in the specific sense of the ability to function (S. Freud 1977, 320).




We have found that human development is characterized by many factors. As children we were exposed to the development process, in which Freud included the libido, as the driving force of all the instincts. Although it sees it as being inherited, it can be quietly said that it is the product of many elements in which interpersonal relations play a key role, ie the affection of people, of different identities, of personality, each with a different establishment. These different views of people have shaped us into beings that seek proximity; there is mutual attraction among us - a sympathy that is a sign of love. If we translate the latter phrase into Freud's words, we are attracted to beings that satisfy needs, because in each other we are looking for satisfaction of these needs.

Authors: Staš Žnidar, Rok J. Nemeček




  • Shaffer R. David, 2004, Social and PersonalityDevelopment, Wadsworth Publishing,

  • Sigelman K. Carol, 2011, Life-Span Human development, WadsworthPublishing,

  • Williamson Mary, 2004 The importance of fathers in relation to their daughters psychosexual development v: PsychodynamicPractice, Volume 10, Number 2

  • Sigmund Freud, 1977, Lecture on Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Ljubljana: DZS

  • Christian Gostečnik, 2005, Psychoanalysis and religious experience, Ljubljana: The Franciscan Family Institute

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