Describe the main terms, defintions and concepts of the psychoanalytic theory of development.

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Classical psychoanalytic theory posits that much of human activity can be understood as an expression or repression of innate desires. These desires may be sexual, social or material in nature. Freud believed that we are all driven the basic desire to experience pleasure. In his scheme, any activity that attempted to meet this need in an inappropriate or socially unacceptable was labeled neurotic. Two important concepts Freud made use of were penis envy and the Electra complex. Penis envy refers to a female's desire to assume masculine traits. The Electra complex refers to girl's desire for male lust. In the early years, this desire is aimed toward the affections of her father. The girl may thus engage in a level of subconscious competition with her mother. Most of Freud’s ideas came from a close reading of Greek and Roman drama and mythology.

samhous | Student

Psychoanalytic theory suggests that human development is largely influenced by progression through stages of psychosexual development. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalytic theory, believed that children become fixated on specific objects while in specific psychosexual stages. Frued believed that psychopathy could result from unsuccessful transition between these stages.

The stages Frued hypothesized are the oral, the anal, the phallic, the latency, and the genital stages. The oral stage (birth to 21 months) is marked by oral fixations and Frued hypothesized that the oral area was the primary erogenous zone. Similarly, the anal stage (2 years of age) is associated with the 'erogenous zone' of the anus. Frued believed that unsuccessful transition from this stage could result in anal expulsive or anal retentive character traits. The phallic stage (ages 3-6) is similarlly associated with the genitalia. The fourth stage, the latency stage(3-13) is often not described as a stage, and rather as a period between stages. It signifies the time between the end of the phallic stage and the beginning of the final stage, the genital stage. The genital stage is the final stage of development and signifies the development of puberty, along with sexual urges twoards the opposite sex.

Freud believed that individuals who successfully navigated these stages developed into 'normal' adults, whereas those who did not were fixated on certain stages. Most of the psychopathy described by psychoanalytic theory is associated with events during these stages.