Freud’s and Erickson’s Personality Theories

Freud and the Neo-Freudians

According to Freud, childhood experiences have a significant impact on the behavior and personalities that people develop in adulthood (Burger, 2018). In his theory of the psychosexual stages of development, he describes various developmental phases that people often go through, from infancy to adulthood. The theory defines five stages of psychosexual development as follows:

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Oral (Children Under 1 Year)

In this stage of development, Freud explains that the mouth is the center of pleasure (Feldman, 2015). They have a sucking reflex that does not require any training or guidance. Some of the common behavior of children at this stage is constant sucking of breasts, and tendency to take any object they can hold in their mouth. Freud warns that if the oral needs of such a child are not met at this developmental stage, they may develop negative habits such as thumb sucking as a way of meeting the basic oral needs.

Anal (Children Aged 1-3 Years)

Freud argues that at this stage of development, toddlers start experimenting with feces and urine in what he describes as toilet experiments (Feldman, 2015). Common behavior at this stage includes playing with the genitals when passing water. This theory holds that children should not be overly controlled by parents at this stage because it may affect their behavior as they grow.

Phallic (Children Aged 3-6 Years)

Children in this developmental stage start taking pleasure in their genitals and often struggle with sexual desires towards people of the opposite sex (Burger, 2018). The common behavior is for boys to seek more of their mother’s attention and girls often desire to get their father’s attention.

Latency (Children aged 6-12 Years)

Children start developing the ability to subdue sexual urges as they develop superego. They start developing morally acceptable behavior and start embracing values of their parents. They try to be modest.

Genital (Over 12 Years)

In this final stage, sexual desires and impulses reemerge. The adolescents start engaging in an appropriate sexual behavior, which may lead to childbirth (Feldman, 2015). They tend to exercise appropriate sexual behavior, knowing when and how to engage in such acts.

Comparing Works of Freud and Carl Jung

According to Freberg (2018), Carl Jung, who was a student of Freud, agreed with some of the principles of Freud on human development. Both theorists believe that at every stage of development, it is important for a child to be given some form of freedom. However, they disagree on the role of religion in influencing a child’s development. Jung believed so much in using religion to influence a child’s behavior, unlike Freud who believed in scientific methods.

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When is it appropriate for a parent or a guardian to intervene in the psychosexual development of a child?

Repression, according to Burger (2018), refers to a process where one attempts to direct his or her impulses and desires toward instincts that bring pleasure while subduing consciousness. They are aware of the fact that some pleasures may have consequences. As such, they compare the benefits of the pleasure with the pains associated with the related punishment. A good example is an attempt by a teenager to avoid sex for fear of a possible unplanned pregnancy.

Denial refers to a deliberate avoidance of truth because it hurts or it goes against expectation (Feldman, 2015). For example, when a teenage girl is told that she is pregnant, she may try to deny the truth as a defense mechanism of dealing with the undesirable reality.

Projection is defined by Freberg (2018) as self-defense mechanism where one blames others for their misfortunes to avoid the pain and rejection associated with self-blame. For instance, when a youth sustains serious injuries from an accident caused by drunk driving, they may find people to blame for their misfortune.

Sublimation is a mature approach of defense mechanism where unacceptable impulses are unconsciously transformed into socially acceptable behavior (Burger, 2018). For instance, one may embrace a new dress code that the rest of the society believes is inappropriate.

Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic approach to personality identifies various stages of personality development and how interactions with the immediate environment shape one’s behavior (Feldman, 2015). One of the advantages of this theory is that it explains various stages of development of a person and how these stages may influence the personality of an individual when they become adults. Sometimes it may not be easy for adults to understand why children behave in a given manner that sometimes may be considered antisocial. The theory makes it easy for parents to understand the peculiar behavior of their children. Another advantage is that it explains how and when a parent should intervene. The intervention should focus on guiding these children instead of suppressing their interests. One of the disadvantages of the theory is that it is silent about the role of religion in shaping one’s personality. It also fails to explain how parents or adults, in general, can control some of the antisocial behavior of children that may be driven by unconscious forces.

According to Burger (2018), Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler are some of the greatest psychologists who have explained the concept of human personality development. Although both of them share a number of principle beliefs about personality development, it is important to appreciate that they differ on various issues with regard to human personality development. One of the fundamental differences that are evident in the two theories is the role of parents in shaping the personality of a child. While Freud emphasizes on the minimal parental influence, Adler says that parents have a significant role to play in their children’s personality development. Freud argues that parents may be tempted to suppress some of the traits in their children they consider socially unacceptable. The problem with such actions is that the affected child may fail to go through some critical stages of development as they are forced to reason as adults at very tender age (Freberg, 2018). On the other hand, Adler believes that parents can act as guides, always understanding that their children cannot reason as adults.

Erik Erickson’s stage theory explains the developmental process that a human being goes through, from infancy to old age. The figure below shows the various stages of development as explained in this theory.

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the various stages of development as explained in this theory.
Source (Burger, 2018, p. 108).

The first stage is the infancy where a child battled with trust and mistrust. At this stage, a child trusts parents and people they constantly see around them. A toddler always struggles to achieve autonomy and fight doubt. In early childhood, guilt is the greatest inhibitor of their initiatives as they fear to make mistakes. In the age of elementary schooling, the issue they have to deal with is inferiority as they realize that their opinion and desires are always subject to approval by the seniors (Reynolds & Livingston, 2014). The adolescents struggle with identity and role confusion. They do not have a clear understanding of their purpose in the world but are keen on getting acceptance. The young adults are obsessed with intimacy and fear isolation. In adulthood, the biggest impediment to satisfaction is stagnation in career or social development. Finally, the elderly struggle with ego integrity as they dread isolation and despair.


Burger, J. (2018). Personality. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Feldman, R. S. (2015). Essentials of understanding psychology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Freberg, L. (2018). Discovering behavioral neuroscience: An introduction to biological psychology. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Reynolds, C. R., & Livingston, R. B. (2014). Mastering modern psychological testing: Theory and methods. Boston, MA: Pearson.

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