Freud: Psycho-Sexual Stages of Development Essay

In the early 1900’s, psychologist Sigmund Freud developed his theory of Psycho-Sexual Stages of Development in humans. He believed that each individual experiences and moves through a series of five stages from birth up to adulthood. Within each stage, a major biological activity or function becomes the main focus and point of pleasure, and this activity will change based on which stage the person is in (Dinardo 384). Although many people reject his theory due to it’s emphasis on sexual drive, it is actually meant to be a matter of gratification and experiencing pleasure, rather than lust (Dinardo 385).

In the early years of an individuals life, there are three stages. The oral stage begins at birth and carries through to between twelve and eighteen months of age when the anal stage begins. The anal stage of development takes the child to three years old when the phallic stage begins and lasts until six years of age. The later stages begin at six years old with the latency stage, which ends around twelve years old where the genital stage continues until adulthood (Dinardo 385).

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Freud’s phallic, anal and oral stages of development, despite being decades old, are still valid in today’s ECE classroom and play a role in how those classrooms operate. Though all five of these stages have validity to their concepts, the first three are most recognizable in an Early Childhood Education setting. While infants in the oral stage are focused on their mouths, Early Childhood Educator’s (ECE) must control feedings and the environment around these infants due to the fact that there is a good chance that the environment will end up in their mouths.

The waste elimination focus and issues of control in Freud’s anal stage correspond with potty training and behavioural issues in child care and the phallic stage’s focus on the genitals must be addressed by ECE’s in the form of appropriate touching and curiosity of these children. As an ECE, the responsibility is to guide children through their various forms of development by being properly prepared and accommodating to them at each level. In order to run a successful child care classroom, ECE’s must be aware of the children’s abilities as well as their various stages of development.

The phallic stage lasts from three to six years old and brings about a strong focus on the genitals. Children in this stage derive pleasure from the touching of their own genitals, and the differences between male and female anatomy become a lot more evident to them (Dinardo 385). As children get older, they explore and develop the ability to crawl, stand, walk and then run. Their vocabulary grows at an amazing rate, as do their levels of curiosity. At a young age, it is not necessary to separate males and females while changing their clothes or during bathroom breaks.

As the child grows more aware, they begin to notice the specific differences between boys and girls. Also, as their vocabulary and thirst for knowledge develops, they begin to ask a lot of questions. One such question, in relation to Freud’s phallic stage, is “why? ”. Boys want to know why girls don’t have a penis and girls want to know why boys have one and they don’t. This awareness becomes evident in the ECE classroom, especially during potty training and bathroom breaks. They are undressed and redressed in front of one another and as their eyes begin to wander, they notice certain anatomical differences.

As an ECE, it is important to properly address these curiosities and questions with sensitivity and respect for the child, who is old enough to ask and require an answer, as well as respect for the parent and their views on how they would like to discuss this with their children. Also in this stage is the issue of masturbation. While exploring their anatomy is extremely common for children at the preschool level, it is not technically considered masturbation because the goal is not to achieve orgasm, but rather to repeat the good feeling they get from the touching and rubbing of their genitals (Miller 114).

In a child care setting, it is important for ECE’s not to discourage this behaviour or punish the child because that could lead to feelings of shame and the feeling that one should not be comfortable with one’s body. The child must be taught that, though this is a normal human instinct, it should be a personal and private occurrence, without making the child feel that it is wrong or secretive (Miller 116). The ideal time for the ECE to begin to notice and address these issues is during the potty training which occurs during Freud’s anal stage of development.

From twelve to eighteen months until three years of age, children are in the anal stage of development. In this stage, according to Freud, there is a shift in the source of pleasure. The anus becomes the focal point and pleasure is derived from the retention and expulsion of feces (Dinardo 385). Along with the control of this bodily function, the child also begins to understand and defy the authority figures in their life and behavioural and aggression issues arise.

This is commonly known as the “terrible twos” and is “a period when the emphasis in Western culture is on toilet training” (Dinardo 385). As an ECE, this stage is extremely important and occurs in the toddler group; eighteen months to two and a half years. Potty training becomes an important part of the program in this group as a large majority of children are introduced to it between twenty four and fourty eight months (Rinaldi 307). ECE’s are responsible for guiding the child, without pushing or forcing them, while considering the parents wishes and rules as well.

As they develop and interact with a larger group of peers, their behaviour begins to change. The ECE is responsible for enforcing rules, such as appropriate play with toys, and must also protect and try to prevent the children from hitting each other when they are frustrated and have outbursts (Crowther 107). Getting hurt at daycare is not uncommon when considering the amount of children that are in the same room together. Biting is especially common in this age group and one study found that roughly fifty percent have been bitten at least once while in attendance.

This number does not include punching, hair pulling and other unpleasant incidences (Pitman). Explaining the importance of working through your frustration in a positive way falls on the ECE while the child is in their setting. Biting stems from the oral stage of development where the child is focused on oral fixations (Dinardo 385). From birth to between twelve and eighteen months, the infant is in Freud’s oral stage of development. An infant is born without the ability to speak, crawl, grasp things and generally verbalize what they need, want and are frustrated with.

Due to this, they rely on their mouths, for example crying, until they can develop other ways to communicate. During this stage, the mouth becomes the focal point of pleasure and the infant will suck, mouth and bite almost anything that is placed near their lips (Dinardo 385). This is how they explore, feed and are soothed. Thumb sucking is also seen in this stage. The child sucks as a reflex for the first few days after birth and as the months go by, that slowly changes from reflexive to voluntary sucking (Rinaldi 140).

Once they begin to realize that they can be satisfied and soothed by feeding or sucking, the voluntary reaction occurs. While in a child care setting, the ECE is responsible for feeding, soothing and playing with the infant and must take certain precautions while doing these things. Proper supervision is crucial to prevent the risk of choking on their food, as is properly serving the food. This includes softer selections and adequately cutting meals into smaller pieces so that they do not choke. It is also important not to put too much food in their mouths which may also cause choking.

Supervision during play is equally as crucial to ensure the infant is playing with appropriate objects because they will explore those objects with their tongues and mouths (Crowther 102). For the ECE, this also means properly sanitizing the surrounding environment to help prevent the spread of germs between the infants. It is also making sure to provide toys and equipment that are safe for a child to place in their mouths (Crowther 103). There are a lot of responsibilities for an E. C. E, however, each is to ensure the proper development, health and safety of each child.

Children go through a series of developmental stages throughout their lives. These stages include brain and body growth, as well as social development. Freud observed what children do at specific ages and organized his findings into five Psycho-sexual Stages of Development. Throughout each stage, Freud believes that the child is focused on a specific part of the body and seeks gratification from it (Dinardo 384). Although there is some controversy over how valid his theory is, his points are extremely evident when observing the children in each stage.

In an ECE setting, Freud’s phallic, anal amd oral stages are seen in everyday behaviour. As the child moves to the phallic stage, the focus turns to the genitals and children will need to be taught the importance of appropriate touching and realize the anatomical differences between males and females. In Freud’s anal stage, he believes the child is focused on the anus, which includes the control and elimination of waste. This is seen when potty training becomes an important part of the program.

Infants in the oral stage are satisfied when fed and find joy and comfort, as well as explore their environment, by placing things in their mouths. Feedings and toys being placed in the mouth are seen in the infant rooms in daycare’s and the ECE is responsible for handling these situations. ECE’s will observe all of these behavious in their classrooms and the focal points in each stage are clearly evident. The issues and behaviours that ECE’s deal with on a daily basis are directly related to Freud’s explanation of his stages of development.

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