Comparison of Psychosexual and Psychosocial Theories of Development

Human Developmental Theories

Developmental theories are crucial in psychology as they provide a set of guiding concepts and principles that describe and explain human lifespan development. Numerous lifespan development theories exist whereby some focus on the development of a particular quality while others focus on the growth that occurs throughout a person’s lifespan. Notably, each theory has its unique premise and focuses on different aspects of development. The variations among the existing theories have constantly attracted debates regarding which theory provides the most plausible account of human development. This paper seeks to compare two theoretical perspectives of lifespan development, specifically: the psychosexual theory of development and the psychosocial theory of development.

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Psychosexual Theory of Development

This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud in 1905. The theory premises that people develop personality during their early childhood. Freud believed that identity is built around pleasure and tension. The tension is due to the build-up of sexual energy and the pleasures that come from discharging the tension. It is worth noting that Freud utilized the term ‘sexual’ in a general manner to refer to all pleasurable thoughts and actions. The theory holds that childhood experiences shape an individual’s personality and behavior as an adult. Each person must go through a series of stages during childhood to develop a personality. If proper nurturing and parenting lack during a stage, a person may become stuck or fixated on the particular stage (Karimov & Gulomova, 2022). 

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Freud suggested five stages of psychosexual theory of development namely oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. Each stage entails a particular conflict that an individual must resolve before advancing to the next stage. The more sexual energy a person expends at a particular stage, the more he/she develops psychologically. The first two stages are crucial to the development of ego while the last three are key to the development of superego. The ego and superego develop to exercise control between frustrated wishes and social norms; that is; controlling the direct need for gratification into socially acceptable channels (Karimov & Gulomova, 2022). 

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Psychosocial Theory of Development

            The theory was developed by Erik Erikson in 1959. The theory emphasizes the social nature of human development.  According to the theory, a person develops personality throughout their lifespan. How an individual interacts with others affects his/her sense of self, or what Erikson referred to as the ego identity (Maree, 2021).

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Erikson defined eight stages associated with the psychosocial theory of development.     The first stage is Trust vs. Mistrust, which occurs between 0 – 1 year. The second stage is Autonomy vs. Shame/Doubt, which takes place between ages one to three. The third stage is Initiative vs. Guilt and it occurs between 3 – 6 years. The fourth stage is Industry vs. Inferiority, which happens between 7 – 11 years. The fifth stage is Identity vs. Confusion, which eventuates between 12 – 18 years. The sixth stage is Intimacy vs. Isolation, which occurs between 19 -29 years. The seventh stage is Generativity vs. Stagnation, which occurs between 30 -64 years. The last stage is Integrity vs. Despair which happens when one is 65 years and above (Maree, 2021).

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            In each stage of the above-listed stages, there is a task that one must master to feel a sense of competence. For instance, in the Industry vs. Inferiority stage, a person is supposed to master self-confidence. If one does not master self-confidence in his/her abilities they are likely to experience confusion in the Identity vs. Confusion stage and live the rest of their life lacking self-confidence.  Similarly, in the Generativity vs. Stagnation stage, one is supposed to positively contribute to society or else he/she will live the rest of his/her life with a sense of failure since the Integrity vs. Despair stage is a time of reflection five (Maree, 2021).

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Comparison of the Two Theories

Although the two theories have different premises they share some similarities. The two theories are different in that the psychosexual theory proposes that sexual forces influence personality while the psychosocial theory proposes that social forces influence personality. Regarding similarities, both theories support discontinuous development as they argue that there are distinct stages of development. Additionally, both theories agree that there is one course of development; that is, the developmental stages are universal for everyone. Moreover, both theories agree that both nature and nurture influence personality. Psychosexual theory state that natural impulses coupled with early childhood experiences impact personality. On the other hand, psychosocial theory state that natural impulses coupled with sociocultural experiences influence personality (Lerner, 2018).

The Theory that Resonates With Me the Most

The theory that resonates the most with me is the psychosocial theory of development. I prefer this theory because it explains the development of personality throughout the lifespan of an individual. Whereas Freud makes a plausible point regarding early childhood stages being key to the development of an individual personality during childhood, I believe that personality can be altered in adulthood. For instance, some people are not confident during childhood but over time they develop self-confidence to become confident adults. Moreover, Freud’s psychosexual stages are not supported by modern research (Lerner, 2018). Therefore, between the two theorists discussed in this paper, Erikson provides the most plausible account of human lifespan development.

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