Psychology Essay Sample: Developmental Theorists and Theories

Published: 2019-11-11
Psychology Essay Sample: Developmental Theorists and Theories
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Personality Human development
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1807 words
16 min read

Who am I? That has been the question for most of us. Many theorists such as Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson believe that our personality and self-concept are what ultimately define us. However, we arent just born with these characteristics but rather acquire them leading to yet another question on how this development occurs. As children, we go through a series of age related changes from infancy to adulthood. These changes are referred to as developmental stages. Child development theories aim at explaining how children change over time and grow in the course of their lifespan (Feldman, 2014). Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson describe development as a series of stages where individuals exhibit typical behavior patterns and establish particular capabilities. Their theories focus on several aspects of development including the social, emotional and cognitive growth (Potter & Perry, 2009). Therefore, it is important to understand child development so as to fully appreciate the emotional, cognitive, physical, social and educational growth of our nature. This paper is a reflective essay that compares and contrasts Freuds psychosexual and Erikson psychosocial development theories.

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Freuds Stages of Psychosexual Development

The oral stage

This stage occurs from birth to 18 months of age. It is characterized by marked dependence on the mother and interactions around feeding. The infants primary source of interaction is through the mouth. Therefore, the sucking and rooting reflex playing a huge role in this stage since the child seeks gratification of the id by feeding and biting (Cherry, 2016). Being entirely dependent on the caretaker, the child develops trust and comfort through the oral stimulation. The weaning process signifies the primary conflict that the child experiences. According to Freud, fixation at this stage would lead to dependency problems and issues of aggression. It can cause social problems such as drinking, smoking and nail biting in adulthood (Cherry, 2016).

The anal stage

The anal stage occurs between 1 to 3 years. In this stage, toilet training is an issue of control to the child (Potter & Perry, 2009). The childs gratification of id is by controlling and passing of urine and feces. A lot of strictness in toileting from parents results to excessive cleanliness and order in adulthood. Lack of control in this stage can lead to messy behavior in life (Cherry, 2016).

The phallic stage

This stage helps the child to establish social roles and discover his/her genitals (Feldman, 2014). It occurs between 3 to 6 years. During this stage, the child focuses on his/her sexuality. Pleasure is derived from the manipulation and stimulation of the genitals. Therefore, masturbation increases during this stage. Additionally, boys develop Oedipus complex where they have intense love for the mother and are jealous of the father. Girls, on the other hand, develop the Electra complex by having intense love for the father (Potter & Perry, 2009).

The latency stage

It occurs between the ages of 6 to 10 years. During the latency stage, the sexual energy diminishes and the child becomes more involved in the world away from home (Cherry, 2016). The child shifts focus to playing, interacting with peers and discovering the outside environment. This stage registers a calm period in the development though changes such as the birth of a sibling can trigger intense jealousy due to the shift of attention.


Puberty occurs between 12 to 19 years but lasts throughout the life of a person. This time is marked by the maturation of secondary sexual characteristics and the development of sexual hormones (Cherry, 2016). Heterosexual interests dominate at this stage. There is a resurge on genital sexuality with the child becoming increasing attracted to the members of the opposite sex (Potter & Perry, 2009). Therefore, the child tries to create sexual relationships with others of the opposite gender. Additionally, this stage also marks the development of ego defense mechanisms as it is hard to modify the id desires. Failure to develop adequate ego defense mechanisms results in conflict.

Stages in Erik Eriksons Theory of Psychosocial Development

Trust versus mistrust

This stage occurs in the first year of birth when the infant is completely dependent on the caregiver for the meeting of basic needs such as food, comfort and warmth. The actions of the caretaker in meeting these basic needs determine whether the child develops trust or mistrust (McLeod, 2013). If the guardian meet the childs needs in a timely manner and reliably, he/she develops becomes attached and develops a sense of trust. Otherwise, failure to meet these needs leads to mistrust and the development of an insecure attitude in adulthood.

Stage 2: Autonomy versus shame and doubt

This occurs between 1 to 3 years. During this stage, the toddler starts to gain independence in areas such as toileting, feeding and dressing. The interactions surrounding these challenges can lead to the development of a sense of autonomy or that of shame and doubt (McLeod, 2013). If parents are strict on toilet training, the child becomes stringent and orderly in life. Additionally, allowing the child to wear what he/she want helps to create autonomy in later life.

Initiative versus guilt

This occurs between 3 to 6 years of life when children are taught to control their impulses and act in a socially responsible manner (McLeod, 2013). At this stage, children want to begin and complete actions such as zipping and tying on their own. The actions are designed for a certain purpose; therefore, the child might feel guilty if their initiative fails to yield the desired results (Feldman, 2014).

Industry versus inferiority

This occurs between 6 to 12 years when children compete with peers in schools and learn to take on adult roles. The child aims to bring a productive situation into completion. However, the failure to acquire industrious skills may lead to doubts about the future thus contribute to the acquisition of feelings of incompetence and inferiority in comparison to the others (McLeod, 2013).

Identity versus role confusion

This stage occurs during adolescence period and marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. Children try to determine their identity as well as their roles in life. They discover themselves and who they want to be as per the societal expectations. The successful completion of this stage leads to the development of fidelity. However, the stage may also lead to an identity crisis which may precipitate role confusion where the adolescent is reluctant to commit to any roles (McLeod, 2013).

Stage 6: Intimacy versus isolation

This stage occurs between 18 to 35 years. The adult seeks companionship and love from an intimate partner. The development of a deep and satisfying relationship leads to love. The lack of such can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness (McLeod, 2013). This stage reflects Freuds genital stage of psychosexual development in that it is based to trying to find mature sexual relationships that last throughout life.

Stage 7: Generativity verses stagnation

This occurs during middle adulthood between ages 35 to 65. The person works hard to become productive in life. The creation of a career and reliable work form some of the most important goals of this stage along with the starting a family (McLeod, 2013). Therefore, people in this stage have greater responsibilities and control. The successful creation a career to help the society leads to generativity. However, there are fears of living a life of inactivity and meaninglessness leading to a sense of stagnation.

Stage 8: Integrity versus despair

The stage occurs after attaining the age of 65 till death. The stage involves reflection where the old person examines his/her lifetime accomplishments and failures. The satisfaction with life leads to integrity where the adult finds meaning in life through value contribution to society (McLeod, 2013). However, others may despair due to failures and lack of contentment with the life lived

Comparison between the Two Theories

Freud developed the theory of psychosexual development to explain how personality develops over the course of childhood (McLeod, 2013). The theory stresses on the importance of previous childhood experiences in shaping the behavior of a person. According to Freud development occurs in a series of psychosexual stages where individuals try to satisfy libidinal desires (Cherry, 2016). The psychosexual energy or libido is the driving force behind behavior where pleasure seeking energies of the id are focused on various erogenous zones. Depending on the outcome, the satisfaction can play a part in the development of adult personality. In addition, failure to complete one stage successfully leads to fixation at that particular stage. Like Freud, Erik Erikson believed in the importance of early childhood interactions in shaping behavior in later life. However, while Freuds theory is based on the satisfaction of the id and the conflict with the superego, Erikson theory is based on the ego and emphasizes on its interaction with the society and resultant conflicts (McLeod, 2013). Additionally, unlike Freud, Erikson believed that personality occurs throughout the course of ones life. Each crisis also holds specific roles and is marked by opposing conflicts.

Therefore, human beings go through several developmental stages in becoming who they are. Freud tries to explain these stages using the psychosexual development theory while Erikson uses the psychosocial development theory. After examining the two theories, I believe that the theories answer the question who am I and how to I come to be? in its entirety. Freud describes the five stages of psychosexual development which I have successfully managed to complete. However, the genital stage is intended to last for life. I am still attracted to others and purposes to invest in quality relationships that will lead to a family in future. In regard to Ericksons theory, I am currently working at stage 5. Despite being past the adolescent age, I am not confident that I have successfully managed to resolve the crisis of gaining a sense true self and developing a true sense of identity as described by Erikson. However, this has not kept me from moving to stage 6 at the same time. According to Eriksons theory, development occurs throughout life thus is not static (McLeod, 2013). People can still go back and re-work previous crisis situations while in another stage as I am currently doing.

In conclusion, development is a continuous process where past interactions determine the future. The developmental theories proposed by several psychologist help in promoting the understanding of the various stages that children pass through as they grow. This shines light on the factors that affect the development of personality in later life. Therefore, the theories should be used to help children to adapt optimally to the environment and discover their core identities as this will help them in living happy and fulfilled lives.


Cherry, K. (2016). What Are Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development? Very well. Retrieved 1 October 2016, from

Feldman, R. (2014). Development across the life span. Boston: Pearson.

McLeod, S. (2013). Erik Erikson | Psychosocial Stages | Simply Psychology. Retrieved 1 October 2016, from

Potter, P. A., & Perry, A. G. (2009). Developmental Theories. In A. Hall & P. Stockert (Eds.), Fundamentals of nursing (7th ed.) (pp. 136-214). St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby Elsevier.

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