Freud's 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development

Freud’s 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development (Explained)

Psychosexual Stages

Freud’s personality theory also describes psychosexual stages of development theory. He describes different stages of human development from infancy to adulthood.

It is called psychosexual because each stage is described on the basis of sexual energy or libido on the several parts of the body called ‘erogenous zone’. Freud recognized five stages of psychosexual development they are:

  • Oral stage
  • Anal stage
  • Phallic stage
  • Latency stage
  • and, Genital Stage

Understanding individually,

The Oral Stage

From Birth To 1 Year

The oral stage of psychosexual stages lasts from birth to 1 year. In the oral stage, the infant derives pleasure from the mouth through sucking or swallowing. Later, the toddler uses teeth for biting and chewing. If the child enjoys mouth or oral needs such as swallowing very much, s/he may fixate on this stage and be ‘oral receptive personality.’

This is manifested in later personality development. Such children may develop overeating, smoking, chewing pencils, and excessive dependency may be seen as personality characteristics. If the oral needs are frustrated or delayed without caring children need to eat. The child’s personality may be arrested or fixated and become an ‘oral aggressive personality in which the child enjoys verbal aggressive expression in later life.

The Anal Stage

1 To 3 Years

The second stage of psychosexual stages of personality development is the anal stage. This stage remains from 1 to 3 years when parents begin toilet training for their children. Children enjoy expulsion or retention of faces as they gain muscular control. Their erogenous zone shifts from mouth to that anus.

The training child receives during this stage later develops his/her personality. In the early anal stage, children enjoy the expulsion of faces. If a child is fixated at this stage is referred to as anal-expulsive. These children are cruel, disorderly, and messy in later life. If a child receives demanding and strict parental training may create a fixated personality that is overly rigid, obstinate, suborn, and orderly or excessively generous and undisciplined later as adults. This referred to as anal-retentive.

The Phallic Stage

3 To 6 Years

The third stage of psychosexual stages is the phallic stage. The phallic stage covers about 3 to 6 years of age. The erogenous zone shifts from the anus to the genitals. The child enjoys touching genitals. This is the period the child develops a sexual attraction to the parents of the opposite sex.

Boys develop the Oedipus complex, loving their mummy and seeing their father as a competitor. As a young boy, the child fears that his father will punish his sexual desires towards his mother by removing his genitalia which is called castration anxiety. To overcome his fear the boy represses his sexual desire for his mother and begins to identify with his father. This the critical period for the development of the superego. The boy then tries to copy his father’s behavior, values, attitudes, etc. which will lead to successful resolution of the Oedipus complex and the male sex role for further development of personality.

Girls develop Electra complex, loving their father and wish to get rid of the mother. For the young girls, they have “penis envy” as they sense that they do not have a penis. The girls blame their mummy (mother) for that cause, as a result, transfers her love to the father to compensate for her loss of the penis. The girl realizes that society will not allow fulfilling her desires toward her father and represses her sexual desires and begins to identify with her mother. This act is an important part of superego development. Copying the role of the mother leads to the successful resolution of the Electra complex.

In some cases, girls do not completely identify with mothers because of the dominant inferior feeling than men. This may be the reason that a different identity grows in such girls than of normal girls.

The Latent Stage

6 To 11 Years

The fourth of psychosexual stages is the latent stage. This stage lasts from 6 to 11 years. In this period the sexual interests are usually suppressed until the beginning of adolescence. Freud has given importance to academic, social, and moral development. For example, riding, playing, and school work. They dislike excessive parental affection and are fond of both parents.

The Genital Stage

Above 11 Years

The last of psychosexual stages is the genital stage. Above 11 years of age genital stage is seen with the reappearance of oral, anal, and phallic stages. This stage can be further divided into two parts:

  • Homoeroticism: in which children prefer to play with the same sex. Girls with girls, boys with boys. They are very egocentric. This may be because society opposes opposite sex attachment too early in life.
  • Heterosexuality: in which sexual interest becomes stronger and the erogenous zone remains in the attraction toward the opposite sex. The heterosexual relationship is seen working as a foundation for adult sexual behavior.

However, progress to the genital stage is normal if fixation has not occurred at the earlier stages of the development. If such fixation has occurred before, the development toward a better personality may be blocked and result in a psychological disorder of maladjustment.


The description Freud has provided to psychoanalytic theory went on several criticisms, which gave rise to the Neo-Freudian perspective. These Neo-Freudians denied the concepts of id, a fixation, or the psychic energy with the libidos. They argued that these concepts can not be measured scientifically. His emphasis on sexual motives instead of ego as well as social aspects of personality also created confusion. The psychodynamic theory has been greatly utilized in the treatment of psychological disorders. However, the contribution of psychoanalysis theory has played in psychology cannot be ignored.

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