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Pyschosexual Versus Psychosocial Development Theories

Updated on August 28, 2014


Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson are two psychologists who made two different but important developmental theories that are still explored and talked about today. Their contributions to developmental psychology and child development are highly praised and still explored through child bearing books as well as in a professional setting. In this essay an overview of both theories as well as the merits and short comings of both theories will be explored.

A picture of Sigmund Freud
A picture of Sigmund Freud | Source

Psychosexual Development Theory

Freud’s personality stages is the first attempt of classifying critical stages that people have to pass though in order to develop into a healthy adult. The theory consist of critical life events that happen in the first five years of life is where a person will learn a majority of life skills like ways to release tension that emanates from four basic sources: physiological growth processes, frustrations, conflicts, and threats (Hanson, Rossberg, Cramer 1972). The two main times where development happens the most is between the five years of life and again at adolescence.

Freud came up with five main stages of development, divided into pregenital stages, latency stage, and genital stage. The pregenital stages involved the oral, anal, and phallic stages. These stages ware fundamentally involved with sucking, potty training, and exploration of the genitals. If the child is unable to participate in the normalcy of the stages they will be fixated on whatever stage they were unable to master. The latency stage is the time that children develop skills with no sexual implications (Hanson, Rossberg, Cramer 1972). The genital stage hits a child around puberty and is when they start getting healthy sexual urges. If everything went well in their past stages, teenagers would not be fixated on oral, anal, or autoerotic activities, and be heterosexual (Hanson, Rossberg, Cramer 1972). In his eyes, heterosexual relationships should be the ideal sexual identity if they completed all the stages correctly.

Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson | Source

Psychosocial Development Theory

Erikson did not think that sexual tension was a main part of each stage like Freud, but instead believed that it comes down to the emotionally and physically requirements are attained during each stage. This theory consists of the belief that everyone had their ego from birth and that behavior was is defensive (Harder 2009). This means that behavior, whether bad or good, is not due to some defense mechanism but though interactions with other people and their own personal security or trust. This theory believes that development is determined by interactions of the body, mind, and cultural influences (Harder 2009). So basically it is a combination of life that brings development, and in order to reach the next stage, the person needs to get the social, developmental, and body requirements met

He had eight stages: trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, ego vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair (Davis & Clifton 1995). Like the psychosexual theory, a person can either be successful or unsuccessful at each stage of their life that can effect their emotions, social status, and self respect. The key behind the Psychosocial theory is that if everybody is successful, at the end of their life they should be ready for death and not be terrified by the thought because they successfully lived through every other stage and are self-actualized. The only reason an elder should fear death is if they had a negative or more than one negative life stage

Merits and Shortcomings of Both Theories

There are merits and shortcomings to both theories. The merits of Psychosexual theory is that it is the first theory of development. Freud made important steps that are still important, including sucking and potty training and the importance of it. However his theory is too narrow. It only goes into adolescence and forgets the importance of adulthood and the elderly stages. It also fixates on sex and all of the stages has to do with sexual awakening from breastfeeding to the first time a baby plays with their genitals to the first time they hit puberty, everything is centered around sex. Although sex is a major part of life, it does nothing to explain emotional and mental development, social skills development, and cognitive skills development.

For Erikson, his theory outlines every step of life, from newborn to the elderly and makes certain steps that are required for each stage. However not everyone develops at the same pace. Some people may fail their teenager stage (ego vs. role confusion) for example but can still be successful at their other stages and still feel fulfilled at the end of their life. Another thing is that not every culture also develops at the same pace. For first world countries, we forget that the teenage life stage is a relatively new stage that has been around because we live in a first world nation. Teens are still children and supposed to go to school, be given a little more freedom, and give time to find themselves. However in other countries, teenagers are already married or working in the field with their parents, they do not have the luxury of teenage lifestyle that other countries have. So it gets confusing, because these teens are dealing with the young adult stage (intimacy vs. isolation), so the teenager stage is small or is mixed in with the young adult stage.

Becoming Freud...the development of the founder of Psychoanalysis

What Theory Has More Merits

In regards to what theory seems more probable it is psychosocial theory because it is does not just deal with sexual frustrations but about how affects an individual. How a person goes though life pays a heavy importance in the theory. If they are successful at each step they would experience self-actualization and be happy with their lives. It also shows importance for every stage including theories for why middle-aged men and women go through the midlife crisis to why some elderly accept and welcome death while others fear it and try to fight it. It also shows what can happen if a person fails including social anxiety, inability to feel attached, etc…

The Psychosexual theory does show the importance of parental involvement and how their response to their child’s needs that will shape the rest of the child’s lives. The theory does not show the importance of adulthood, middle adulthood, and elderly stages. Even adults go through mental and bodily changes that effect their development. People never stop growing and Erikson seemed to get that while Freud did not.

The Erik Erikson Reader...essays from the man himself

In Conclusion

Both theories are a major step in discovering development of humans throughout their lives. As our level of life continues to change and new stages develop like pre-teens, so will development theories change. These developmental theories have even caused a new theory to emerge about the development of the human species from the beginning of mankind to the present. Psychosexual theory was the first theory to be released and psychologist like Erikson researched and found the shortcomings to help his theory of psychosocial. In terms of psychology, they are both equally important and useful in everyday life. Just remember both of them have their faults and their pluses.


Davis, Doug, Clifton Alan (1995). Psychosocial Theory: Erikson. Havorford’95.

Hanson, James C., Rossberg, Robert H., Cramer, Stanley H. (1972) Counseling: Theory and Process. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon

Harder, Arlene F. (2009). The Developmental Stages of Erik Erikson.


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      Rileyo 3 years ago

      Saw the web site in the UK Cache Mag article. It soendud like a resource I would use but I may be missing something are the tracks downloadable? I set up a blog for similar reason to you and publish my tracks on Everytrail for people (much like you do for the trips you have actually done). Why not create a separate Everytrail account linked to the web page and let everyone contribute trails to it. I use my own mapping process to build up trails before I walk them so that I have a repository of walks to draw from if I could download tracks from here it would save so much time and tend to give a more accurate representation of a route. A good example is the Reelers Trail in Blackburn which you have listed as 7miles. I did this last week and the reality is more like 11 miles over harsh ground (see my Everytrail) track. Think what you have started is good but as a resource for me it is just missing that last little bit like I say, unless I'm missing something.regards Stuart (aka Captain Calico Jack)

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      Suzy 3 years ago

      I have exactly what info I want. Check, please. Wait, it's free? Awoemse!

    • Melissa Noon profile image

      Melissa Noon 3 years ago from California

      Thank you both of you. Hendrika and Zeron87, the teenager stage still the newest and in many developing countries, by the time they are thirteen, many girls getting ready to be a wife, boys are testing themselves to prove that they can be men, they hunt with the adults, they work in fields, they cook, many do not go to school once they once thirteen, so they are pretty much forced into adulthood. So they might still have all the hormone changes but they have adult roles and need to act like it. meanwhile in developed countries, we pamper them and encourage them to stay in school, get ready for college, and enjoy their teenage years.So that is the major difference, I want to do an article about this so maybe I will because there is so much to explore on this topic.

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 3 years ago

      I agree with your assessment of the two theories. People continue to develop past adulthood, even though our brains physically stop developing around age 20 or so; therefore, psychosocial wins the grand prize. LOL, it's not all about sex Freud. Stop smoking dem pipes. Also, I think it's interesting some countries bypass some of Erickson's phases. THAT would make an interesting study too.