Freud psycho sexual development


Sigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalysis, a branch of psychology that focuses on treating mental illness by analyzing various stages of growth and types of human behavior.  

Freud formulated his five stages of psychosexual development in terms of Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital stages.

The psychoanalytic theory believes that all humans have unconscious desires, feelings, and memories. By studying human development, Freud believed childhood trauma and experience form the basis of unwanted behavior and repressed emotions in adulthood, including the development of a person.  

Freud later formulated the psychosexual theory of development that includes five stages of development from his studies. 

Introduction to the Freudian theory for porn addiction:   

The Theory of Psychosexual Development, by Freud, claims that as we grow up, we pass through five critical phases, which are defined by our sexual drive, also called libido, focusing on specific erogenous zones.

Depending on the proper fulfilment of the focus of our libido, the three components of our mind, i.e., id, ego, superego, may be kept in or thrown out of balance, leading to addictions, neuroses, and perversions.

Not to forget that if our experience during these phases was traumatic, we might develop fixations, such as neurosis, dependencies, addictions, or depression later in life.  

The researchers speculate that children are becoming exposed to material outside of everyday life, which may alter their latency and possibly change their ego development. This change during the latency stage may be related to unhealthy sexual development, which could influence sexual behavior in young adulthood.   

The researchers have chosen to identify erotic convulsion during latency: excessive exposure to sexually explicit material (SEM). The researchers have defined excessive exposure to SEM to be the over-activated behavior that creates traumatic psychological consequences, including ego dystonia within the latency period.

This area of developmental disruption may be related to the use of SEM, online sexual behaviors, and sexual dysfunctions in young adulthood. SEM is often used as a euphemism for pornography.  

Freud hypothesized that children enter a latency period that halts erotic inspiration to seek external stimuli. He emphasized throughout his publications the significance of the latency period and that any form of disruption in this period could have detrimental effects on average psychological growth.  

Freud also described the latency period as a time of unprecedented repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses.  

Let us now understand the five psycho sexual developmental stages in Freudian Theory  :

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Freud’s psychosexual theory states five stages of human development:  

These psychosexual stages capture the main growth points of a person from infancy to adulthood and focus on different aspects of wants, needs, and desires. 

Here are three terms Freud used within this theory: 

  • Libido: Sexual drive or instinct  
  • Fixation: when a person’s libido is stuck in a particular stage of development through overindulgence or disruption 
  • Erogenous Zone: are the mouth, the anus, and the genital region. 

The basis of Freud’s theory suggests that a person’s body has several erogenous zones, believing a person’s libido, i.e., sex drive, would increase over time and look for satisfaction through different types of behaviors using these zones, such as thumb sucking or sex.  

Depending on what happens in each stage, a person will quickly move from one stop to the next or develop fixations (getting stuck) based on overindulging or disruption. 

In addition to the five stages, Freud also explained conscious and unconscious desires through the id, ego, and superego. 

  • Id: the impulsive part of us has desires and will do anything to fulfill them. 
  • Ego: A intermediary between the id and the world. The ego uses justification to conquer desires and fit into society. 
  • Superego: The superego incorporates society’s values, and morals learned from one’s parents and others. The superego’s function is to control the id’s impulses, especially those society forbids, such as sex and aggression. 

A child at a given stage of development has specific needs and demands, such as the need of the infant to nurse. Frustration occurs when these needs are not met; Overindulgence stems from excessive fulfillment of those needs that the child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage.

Both frustration and overindulgence lock some amount of the child’s libido permanently into the stage in which they occur; both result in fixation. If a child usually progresses through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, little libido remains invested in each stage of development. But if he fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction that characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality. 


1. The Oral Stage  

Age range: Birth to year 1  

Erogenous zone: Mouth  

The oral stage begins at birth when the oral cavity is the primary focus of libidinal energy. The child, of course, preoccupies himself with nursing, with the pleasure of sucking and accepting things into the mouth.  

The oral character who is frustrated at this stage, whose mother refused to nurse him on demand or who shortened nursing sessions early, is characterized by pessimism, envy, suspicion, and sarcasm.

  The overindulged oral character, whose nursing urges were always and often excessively satisfied, is optimistic, gullible, and is full of admiration for others around him.  

Once a child has finished the breast and bottle feeding weaning process, they will begin to learn delayed satisfaction, which is unable to attain something at the exact moment it is craved or desired. 


This type of fixation can result in an adult using their mouth for pleasure through smoking, chewing gum, or eating candy. 

For Example, A child fixated at the oral stage of development may become very dependent on their mother, clinging to her and becoming fearful of being away from her. According to Freud, results because the child was unable to adequately resolve the dependency needs in the oral stage of development. 

2. The Anal Stage  

Age range: 1 to 3 years  

Erogenous zone: Bowel and Bladder control  

With the inception of toilet training comes a child’s obsession with the erogenous zone, i.e., anus, and the retention or expulsion of the feces.  

This obsession represents a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from removing bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, meaning the practical and societal pressures to control bodily functions.  

The child meets the conflict between the parent’s demands and the child’s desires and physical capabilities in one of two ways: Either he puts up a fight, or he refuses to go.  


The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet. If the parents are too lenient and the child derives happiness and success from this expulsion, it will form an anal expulsive character.  

This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant.  

Conversely, a child may opt to retain feces, thereby spiting his parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up wastes on his intestine. If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal-retentive character.

This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive.  

The resolution of the anal stage, proper toilet training, permanently affects the individual’s inclination to possession and attitudes towards authority.  

For example, an adult with exclusive anal traits may like crude or inappropriate bathroom humor or exhibit passive-aggressive behavior towards others. Those characterized by anal-retentive traits may be overly concerned with order, cleanliness, or organization.

This behavior is sometimes diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive disorder and may pose significant problems for the person as they attempt to carry on normal living activities. 

3. The Phallic Stage

Age range: 3 to 6 years  

Erogenous zone: Genitals  

The phallic stage is the most significant, crucial sexual conflict in Freud’s development model. In this stage, the child’s erogenous zone is the genital region. As the child becomes more interested in his genitals and the genitals of others, conflict arises.  

The conflict, labeled the Oedipus complex (The Electra complex in women), involves the child’s unconscious desire to possess the opposite-sexed parent and eliminate the same-sex one. 


The Oedipus conflict stems from his natural love for his mother in the young male. This love becomes sexual as his libidinal energy transfers from the anal region to his genitals. Unfortunately for the boy, his father stands in the way of this love. The boy, therefore, feels aggression and envy towards this rival, his father, and also feels fear that the father will strike back at him.  

As the boy has noticed that women, his mother, in particular, have no penises, he is hit by a great fear that his father will remove his penis, too. The threats and discipline heighten the anxiety he suffers when caught masturbating by his parents. This castration anxiety outstrips his desire for his mother, so he represses the desire.  

Moreover, although the boy sees that though he cannot possess his mother because his father does, he can have her eventually by identifying with his father and becoming as much like him as possible. This identification persuades the boy into his appropriate sexual role in life. 

A lasting trace of the Oedipal conflict is the superego, the father’s voice within the boy. Thus resolving his incestuous problem, the boy passes into the latency period, a period of libidinal dormancy. 

On the Electra complex, Freud was vaguer. The complex has its roots in the little girl’s discovery that she, along with her mother and all other women, lacks the penis that her father and different men possess.  

Her love for her father then becomes both erotic and envious, as she yearns for a penis of her own. She comes to blame her mother for her perceived castration and is struck by penis envy, the apparent counterpart to the boy’s castration anxiety.  

The resolution of the Electra complex is far less clear-cut than the resolution of the Oedipus complex is in males; Freud stated that the answer comes much later and is never truly complete.

The boy comprehends his sexual role by identifying with his father, and the girl knows her role by identifying with her mother to possess her father eventually.  

At the eventual resolution of the conflict, the girl passes into the latency period, though Freud implies that she always remains slightly fixated at the phallic stage. 

Fixation at the phallic stage develops a phallic character, who is reckless, resolute, self-assured, narcissistic.  

The failure to resolve the conflict can also cause a person to be afraid or incapable of close love; Freud also postulated that fixation could be a root cause of homosexuality. 

For Example: Examples of phallic traits are activity, penetration, being in control of both the world and of one’s emotional life, strength, resoluteness, and assertiveness in general as well as in sexuality. 

4. The Latent Stage  

Age range: 6 to puberty  

Erogenous zone: Sexual feelings are calm and inactive  

The resolution of the phallic stage leads to the latency period, which is not a psychosexual stage of development, but a period in which the sexual drive lies dormant.  

Freud saw latency as a period of unprecedented repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses.  

Children pour this repressed libidinal energy into asexual pursuits such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships during the latency period.  


But soon, puberty strikes, and the genitals once again become a central focus of libidinal energy. 

Freud believed that a person could get “stuck” in this stage and fail to mature, and this will prevent them from forming romantic relationships or satisfying the needs that are still lingering from the phallic stage.  

5. The Genital Stage  

Age range: Puberty to death  

Erogenous zone: Maturing sexual interests  

In the genital stage, as the child’s energy once again focuses on his genitals, interest turns to heterosexual relationships.  


The less energy the child has invested in unresolved psychosexual developments, the greater his capacity to develop normal relationships with the opposite sex.  

If, however, he remains fixated, particularly on the phallic stage, his development will be troubled as he struggles with further repression and defenses. 

Freud believed that the ego and superego were fully formed and functioning at this point. 

Freud believed that on completion of all previous stages, a person would be set up to form a loving, stable relationship with a person of the opposite sex.  



While some of the specifics of his psychosexual theory are not supported, Freud’s psychosexual stages theory has profoundly impacted the study of human development. Freud understood that trauma and being repressed could significantly impact individuals in adulthood.

His understanding of how the unconscious functions in our daily lives are perhaps his most legacy. While his timeline of stages and each stage’s importance are disputed, experts agree that early childhood experiences play an enduring and crucial role in lifelong personal and social development. 

Let us look in to a few Frequently Asked Questions about Psycho Sexual Theory.

1. Who Proposed Psychosexual Theory ?

It was Sigmund Freud, one of the famous Psychoanalysts of the world proposed this theory.

2. How many Stages are there in Psycho Sexual Development stages? Which are they?

There are 5 stages : Oral , Anal , Phallic , Latent , Genital

3. What is Phallic stage in Psycho Sexual Theory?

Phallic stage is a very crucial Psycho Sexual development stage where the primary focus of the libido in Genitals

4. Which is the most important stage in Psycho Sexual Stage?

According to Freud and other theories , every stage is crucial and has to be taken care of.


Despite its prevalence and influence, Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages has received numerous criticisms. Scientific researchers and feminist theorists have criticized his theory for various reasons. For one, Freud’s theories are difficult to test scientifically, and some research has found the hypotheses to be not entirely plausible.

Freud himself never performed empirical studies, relying instead on anecdotal accounts from his adult patients. Finally, his focus on male development and the penis envy theory has led several feminist scholars to declare his hypotheses to be unfounded and entirely incorrect. 

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Bhanu Shree

Bhanu Shree is a seasoned psychologist with over five years of specialized experience in child and adolescent psychology, particularly in addressing learning difficulties and ADHD. A respected mentor in mental health, she offers transformative guidance to adolescents facing various psychological challenges. Beyond her clinical expertise, Shree is an acclaimed author, contributing insightful perspectives on addiction and youth mental health issues. Her work is widely recognized for treatment in the mental health field.