Psychosexual development according to Sigmund Freud

Psychosexual development according to Sigmund Freud

Without a doubt, one of the most radical and controversial visions of Freudian theory is all about sex. In addition, there is the fundamental idea that the person goes through a series of stages within what is called his "psychosexual development."


  • 1 Conception of sex in Freudian theory
  • 2 Conception of psychosexual development
  • 3 Sequencing stages of psychosexual development
  • 4 References

Conception of sex in Freudian theory

For Freud, the concept of sex is broader than what is usually used. From your perspective, sex includes not only sexual intercourse but virtually anything that produces bodily pleasure.

In childhood sexual sensations are very general and diffuse, and may be associated with activities such as sucking, masturbation, the desire to show one's own body or to look at the body of others. Also the excretion and anal retention and even the performance of acts of cruelty such as pinching or biting.

Freud presented two reasons why such activities should be considered sexual:

  • First, the children seem to get pleasure doing them. For example, babies have fun sucking objects, their hands or fingers even without being hungry
  • Secondly, Freud considered that these children's activities are sexual because they reappear in adult sexual activity. Thus, for example, adults perform activities such as sucking, watching, or exhibiting before and during sexual intercourse.

Conception of psychosexual development

According to this author, Psychosexual development occurs through several phases that any individual must go through. Each phase is characterized by an erogenous zone (areas of the body that produce the satisfaction of libido), and the displacement of these dominant zones leads to the succession from one phase to another.

Almost any part of the body can become an erogenous zone, but in childhood the three most important are the mouth, the anus and the genital area. Freud believed that throughout childhood, sexual drives change their place of expression from the oral to the anal region and finally to the genital region.

The development of the evolutionary sequence is directed by a maturation process that involves the intervention of biological factors. But at the same time the child's social experiences also play a fundamental role.

For example, at each stage of development parents are faced with the dilemma of allowing too much or too little gratification of the basic needs of the child. Each circumstance can result in the fixation of psychic energies in a particular state.

  • Too much satisfaction makes the child unwilling to change to a more mature level., while little satisfaction encourages the child to continually seek gratification of frustrated drives
  • On the other hand, the child can be fixed in any of these stages without going to the next stage which produces personality disorders that manifest in neurotic behavior

Sequencing of stages of psychosexual development

Freud proposes the sequencing of stages of the psychosexual development which are briefly described below.

1. Oral stage

The first stage is oral and goes from birth to the first year. At this stage, the it It focuses on obtaining sexual pleasure through the oral area of ​​the body. The I which is emerging, directs the baby's sucking activities to the nipple or bottle to satisfy hunger and to obtain pleasant oral stimulation.

2. Anal stage

The second stage is the anal and takes place between the year and three years. The pleasure of the child is now derived from the anal and urethral areas, since at this time children enjoy retaining and expelling urine and feces. In this stage the I must learn to postpone pleasant bowel movements to make them in appropriate places and times.

Training in going to the bathroom becomes a main issue between parents and children. The father may insist that the child be trained before he is psychologically prepared or, on the contrary, can make few demands.

Subsequently, the conflicts over anal control either in the form of obsession for punctuality, order, and cleanliness or for the alternative end of disorder and neglect.

3. Phallic stage

The third stage is phallic and occurs between three and six years. The center of the drives of the it moves to the genitals, and the child now gets pleasure from genital stimulation. During this stage the Oedipus complex.

The young child feels a sexual desire for his mother that he will eventually repress for fear that his father will punish him by castration. To retain the love and approval of his parents, the child identifies with his father or adopts his characteristics and social values.

For its part, the girl suffers the Electra complex, which in a similar way will lead to an identification with his mother: he loves the father and believes that the mother has cut his penis for what he fears.

With the resolution of the Oedipus complex, the surpassed Therefore, the relationships between it, I Y surpassed established at this time determine the basic orientation of the individual's personality.

4. Latency stage

The fourth stage is that of latency and runs from six years to puberty. During this time the sexual instincts are repressed and asleep

The child works to solidify his surpassed through play and identification with children of the same sex and through the assimilation of the social values ​​of adults outside the family.

5. Genital stage

The fifth and last stage is the genital and is located from puberty. Pubertal maturation reactivates the sexual drive of the previous phallic stage, but can now be obtained gratification through love relationships out of the family This phase culminates the development with marriage, mature genital sexuality, and the birth and upbringing of children.


Levinton, N. (2000). The female superego.Morality in women. Madrid: New Library.

Freud, S. (2016).The me and the id. FV Éditions.

Freud, S. (2015).Three tests for a sexual theory. FV Éditions.

Urrego, S. G. C. (2013). An approach to psychosexual development from the perspective of Freudian metapsychology.Psychological thinking11(2).

Villalobos Guevara, A. M. (1999). Psychosexual DevelopmentAdolescence and health1(1), 73-79.