Freud’s Psychosexual Stages

Whether you like him or not he is the number one figure in the history of psychology.   His contribution to developmental psychology is his Psychosexual Stages….(Rosenthal, 2005).”  “Freud believed that the development of personality and the formation of the id, ego, and superego, as well as ego defense mechanisms, depend on the course of psychosexual development in the first 5 years of life. The psychosexual oral, anal, and phallic stages occur before the age of 5 or 6; then there is a relatively calm period for 6 years (the latency period), followed by the genital stage in adoles- cence, which starts at the beginning of puberty. Freud’s theory is based on bio- logical drives and the importance of the pleasure principle; thus, certain parts of the body are thought to be a significant focus of pleasure during different periods of development (Sharf, 2015, p. 37.”

Oral Stage (1st year)

“Sucking at mother’s breasts satisfies need for food and pleasure. Infant needs to get basic nurturing, or later feelings of greediness and acquisitive- ness may develop. Oral fixations result from deprivation of oral gratification in infancy. Later personality problems can include mistrust of others, rejecting others; love, and fear of or inability to form intimate relationships, (Corey, 2015, p. 67).”

Dependent on Mom.
Occupied with sucking and the mouth (Rosenthal, 2005)
Mouth is the erogenous zone & primary source of pleasure
Oral fixations (smoking) have roots here caused by deprivation of oral gratification in infancy(Rosenthal, 2005).
“Oral personality is clinging and passive/dependent (Rosenthal, 2005).””

Anal Stage (1-3)

“Anal zone becomes of major sig- nificance in formation of personality. Main developmental tasks include learning independence, accepting personal power, and learning to express negative feelings such as rage and aggression. Parental discipline patterns and attitudes have signifi- cant consequences for child’s later personality development, (Corey, 2015, p. 67).”

Developmentally focused on toilet training & self-esteem.

“Anus is the erogenous zone, (Rosenthal, 2005).”
Parents should maintain balance between punishment & reward or conflicts can develop into an anal-retentitive or explosive temperament (Rosenthal, 2005).
Anal-retentive individuals are: “compulsive, unusually neat, frugal, obstinate, hoarder, very orderly, and condescending towards others, (Rosenthal, 2005).
 “Anal-explosive character has a messy desk at work, unclean house, and disorganized…(Rosenthal, 2005).”

Phallic Stage (3-6)

“Basic conflict centers on unconscious incestuous desires that child develops for parent of opposite sex and that, because of their threatening nature, are repressed. Male phallic stage, known as Oedipus complex, involves mother as love object for boy. Female phallic stage, known as Electra complex, involves girl’s striving for father’s love and approval. How parents respond, verbally and nonverbally, to child’s emerging sexual- ity has an impact on sexual attitudes and feelings that child develops, (Corey, 2015, p. 67).”

Child has interest in his/or own genitalia and genitalia of others.
Most controversial component of Freud’s theory = Oedipus / Electra Complex (r/t sexual feelings for opposite sex parent)
    1. Oedipus complex (boys) want all of mom’s attention and dad out of the picture.  Does what is necessary to get attention unconsciously.
    2. Electra complex (girls) Little girl wants to beat out mom for dad’s attention, but when she realizes she can’t, she identifies with aggressor – mom – to resolve this.
Castration complex – There is a fear of castration from dad….somehow causes them to repress Oedipus complex. 
Penis Envy –  “Girl develops negative feelings towards mother when she realizes she lacks a penis. This is parallel to castration anxiety in boys.” (Rosenthal, 2005).

Latency Stage (6-12)

“After the torment of sexual impulses of preceding years, this period is relatively quiescent. Sexual interests are replaced by interests in school, playmates, sports, and a range of new activities. This is a time of socializa- tion as child turns outward and forms relationships with others, (Corey, 2015, p. 67).”

Genital Stage (teens – death)

“Freud concerned himself with childhood development rather than adult development. In the genital stage, the focus of sexual energy is toward members of the other sex rather than toward, (Sharf, 2015, p. 376.”  “Old themes of phallic stage are re- vived…adolescents can deal with sexual energy by investing it in various socially acceptable activities such as forming friendships, engaging in art or in sports, and preparing for a career…. (Corey, 2015, p67).”


Corey, G. (2015). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Retrieved from:
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.
Sharf, R. S. (2015). Theories of psychotherapy & counseling: Concepts and cases. Cengage Learning.

Share This: