According to Freud, our personalities and psychological problems are determined when we are very young. By the time we are five or six, we’ve already encountered many important conflicts that have shaped us into the person we will be for the rest of our life. Freud’s theory of personality development is referred to as the Psychosexual Stages, and is comprised of five parts:
Oral Stage: This stage takes place until a child is about a year and a half old, and the important event that occurs is being weaned from breastfeeding. It is important that the child is weaned at an appropriate time, not too early or too late.
Anal Stage: The child is in this stage from the time they are one and a half years old until they are about 3. The crucial event here is potty training, and again it is important that this event happens at just the right time.
Phallic Stage: In this stage, from 3 to 6 years old, the child must deal with the Oedipal Complex. This means they feel a strong attachment to their opposite-sex parent, and hostility towards the same-sex parent. A little boy might be very attached to his mother and see his father as an intruder into this relationship, for example. To successfully resolve this stage, the child must learn to identify with the same-sex parent, thus figuring out what it means to be a girl or a boy.
Latency: From the age of 6 to puberty, there is a period of relative calm. There is no special task to learn or conflict to overcome at this time, and the sexual and aggressive drives are subdued.
Genital Stage: This stage begins when the child hits puberty. At this point young teenagers begin to find themselves attracted to the opposite sex (this theory doesn’t incorporate homosexuality). If they have successfully resolved the Oedipal Complex, they can now learn to have relationships with socially acceptable partners, who are seen as substitutes for the child’s parents (the original objects of attachment).