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What are the Psychosexual Stages

What are the Psychosexual Stages

Instinct theory may also be illustrated with reference to the psychosexual stages of development proposed by Freud (sometimes termed his genetic or orthogenetic hypothesis). Three areas (erotogenic zones) of the body sensitive to sexual sensations – namely the mouth, anal region and genitals  – become the focus of libidinal satisfaction. Although biologically determined, the phases relating to these zones also reflect environmental influence: for example, in parental attitudes to potty training or masturbation.  Each phase brings up conflicts for the developing child and a person’s basic ways of relating to the world are proposed to be determined by such early experiences.

If any stage of libidinal development is not negotiated successfully, the libido is incompletely released and may become “dammed”, leading to difficulties in later life. Unsuccessful passage through the stages tends to occur when there is either too little or too much gratification. Under-gratification exists when a child is denied an opportunity for drive satisfaction (e.g., premature weaning), leading to a desire for what was missed. Over-gratification equates to over-indulgence (e.g., giving the child a bottle or pacifier at any indication of upset) and a reluctance to move ahead (because everything is “on a plate”). In either case, a fixation may develop – a reference point to return to (regression) in later life during times of stress. Freud used the analogy of an army invading a foreign land (= child development), leaving garrisons of soldiers in large towns (= fixation) and proceeding towards the capital city; if strong opposition (= stress) is encountered along the way, the army naturally retreats to the last big garrison (= regression).

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