Sigmund Freuds Five Stages of Development

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 801 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 801|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Stage 1: Oral Stage
  3. Stage 2: Anal Stage
  4. Stage 3: Phallic Stage
  5. Stage 4: Latency Stage
  6. Stage 5: Genital Stage
  7. Conclusion


Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, introduced a groundbreaking theory of psychosexual development in children. According to Freud, children progress through five distinct stages of development, each characterized by the shifting focus of their libidinal energy. These stages, which begin in infancy and continue through adolescence, play a crucial role in shaping an individual's personality and behavior. This essay will provide an in-depth exploration of Freud's five stages of development, examining each stage's key characteristics, impact on personality, and the criticisms and relevance of this theory in today's context.

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Stage 1: Oral Stage

The oral stage, which occurs from birth to around 18 months, centers around the mouth as the primary source of pleasure and gratification. During this stage, infants derive pleasure from activities such as sucking, biting, and tasting. According to Freud, the way in which a child is fed and cared for during this period significantly influences their subsequent development. A lack of adequate nurturing and feeding can lead to fixation at this stage, resulting in oral fixation behaviors such as overeating, smoking, and nail-biting in adulthood.

Furthermore, Freud posited that the oral stage sets the foundation for an individual's trust and dependency, as the child's primary source of satisfaction comes from the caregiver. While Freud's emphasis on the role of early experiences in shaping future behavior has been criticized for being overly deterministic, contemporary research in developmental psychology has underscored the crucial impact of early attachment and caregiving on a child's emotional and social development.

Stage 2: Anal Stage

The anal stage, occurring between 18 months and 3 years of age, focuses on the child's developing control over their bodily functions, particularly in relation to toilet training. Freud proposed that conflicts arising from toilet training can have a lasting impact on an individual's personality. For instance, excessive strictness or leniency during this stage may lead to the development of anal-retentive or anal-expulsive personality traits in adulthood.

While Freud's theory of the anal stage has been criticized for its lack of empirical evidence and reliance on anecdotal case studies, contemporary research has highlighted the significance of early experiences, such as toilet training, in shaping a child's self-regulation and emotional development. Moreover, the concept of internalizing parental expectations and rules during the anal stage has been echoed in the literature on socialization and moral development.

Stage 3: Phallic Stage

The phallic stage, spanning from ages 3 to 6, is characterized by the child's growing awareness of their own gender identity and the emergence of the Oedipus or Electra complex. According to Freud, boys experience the Oedipus complex, where they develop sexual desires for their mother and view their father as a rival, while girls experience the Electra complex, desiring their father and feeling envious of their mother. Freud argued that successful resolution of these complex feelings is crucial for a child's healthy psychosexual development.

Critics of Freud's theory have pointed to its reliance on gender stereotypes and its emphasis on sexual experiences during early childhood. However, the concept of resolving conflicts related to gender identity and parental relationships has been integrated into contemporary theories of psychosocial development, such as Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, which emphasize the importance of resolving identity crises during adolescence.

Stage 4: Latency Stage

The latency stage, spanning from age 6 to puberty, is characterized by a relative quiescence of psychosexual development. During this stage, Freud suggested that children's libidinal energy is sublimated into socially acceptable activities such as school, friendships, and hobbies. While Freud's emphasis on the sublimation of sexual energy has been critiqued for its lack of empirical evidence, contemporary research has highlighted the importance of constructive and prosocial activities in promoting healthy psychosocial development during middle childhood.

Stage 5: Genital Stage

The genital stage, which begins at puberty and continues into adulthood, marks the revival of sexual desires and the emergence of mature sexual relationships. According to Freud, successful navigation of the previous stages leads to the development of a healthy adult personality characterized by the ability to form mature romantic relationships and engage in fulfilling sexual experiences. While Freud's emphasis on the role of early experiences in shaping adult personality has been criticized for its deterministic nature, contemporary research has underscored the importance of early experiences in influencing adult attachment styles and relationship satisfaction.

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Sigmund Freud's theory of psychosexual development, encompassing the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages, has sparked significant debate and discussion in the field of psychology. While some aspects of Freud's theory have been critiqued for their lack of empirical evidence and reliance on anecdotal case studies, the broader concepts of early experiences shaping adult personality and the significance of resolving developmental conflicts have been integrated into contemporary theories of psychosocial development. As such, Freud's five stages of development continue to serve as a foundational framework for understanding the complex interplay between early experiences, personality, and behavior.

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Sigmund Freuds Five Stages of Development. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“Sigmund Freuds Five Stages of Development.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Sigmund Freuds Five Stages of Development. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 May 2024].
Sigmund Freuds Five Stages of Development [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 May 28]. Available from:
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