Outline and evaluate one psychodynamic explanation of personality development

Freud’s psychodynamic model of personality development focuses on what drives us to behave in particular ways. It is primarily concerned with the role of past experiences, particularly those from childhood, and internal processes such as innate drives. Freud believed that the mind was split into three conflicting parts: the id, the ego and the superego. He described the id as being innate, unconscious and concerned with immediate gratification of needs or desires (the pleasure principle).

The ego is conscious and operates on the reality principle, which balances the desires of the id with social restrictions by turning such desires into socially acceptable desires, or blocks them out completely. The superego does not develop until about the age of five, and is described as the internalised voice of the child’s parents. It consists of two parts: the conscience and the ego ideal.

The conscience reflects the image of what the person would like to be, and rewards matching behaviours, and the ego ideal is what the person feels like they ought to be, punishing the person by making them feel guilty should they deviate from their moral path. Freud outlined three different personality types which derived from one of the three components of the psyche being more dominant than the other two. People with a dominant id are said to be of the erotic type and will be driven by love, sex and pleasure.

Those with a dominant ego have a narcissistic personality, and have little check on their selfishness but are more in touch with reality than those with a dominant id. If a person has a dominant superego they are likely to feel guilty and to fear being punished by the conscience. The development of these personalities happens in a series of what Freud called psychosexual stages, of which there are five. The id is innate and therefore exists from before the child is born, but is also associated with the first psychosexual stage: the oral stage, which starts at birth and lasts until the age of around 18 months.

The stage is called the oral stage as the main source of pleasure derives from the mouth, for example through breastfeeding. The second stage, the anal stage, lasts from the age of 18 months to 3 years, and coi?? ncides with the age when the child has toilet training. The main source of pleasure in the anal stage derives from expelling or withholding fi?? ces. Next comes the phallic stage, lasting between the age of 3 and 6 years, when the child begins to have a greater awareness of their genitals. Often in this stage, children rebel against the same-sex parent but yet identify with them as a resolution to the conflict.

Between the age of 6 years and the onset of puberty, the child enters the latency stage, whereby little personality development takes place, and boys and girls do not interact much. Finally, from the onset of puberty, children enter the genital stage, where the main source of pleasure is sexual contact. In this stage, the child often focuses on the development of independence. Sometimes children can become ‘fixated’ in one of the above stages. A fixation in a stage can be caused by a number of reasons, and results in the respective stage’s personality structure (i. e. the id, ego or superego), becoming dominant.

A fixation in the oral stage caused by insufficient breastfeeding may result in an ‘orally frustrated’ personality, where the child will become frustrated, greedy, addictive, envious and impatient. If a fixation in the oral stage is due to too much pleasure in breastfeeding, the child may become reliant on others and gullible. A third oral fixation caused by excessive pleasure from biting is the ‘oral sadistic’ personality, which may lead the child to be cynical and sarcastic. An ‘anally retentive’ personality may develop as a result of deriving pleasure from retaining fi?? ces in toilet training.

This can lead to the ‘anal triad’: orderliness, miserliness and obstinance. If pleasure is derived from pleasure in expulsion of fi?? ces, the child may develop an ‘anal expulsive’ personality, becoming extravagant, messy, manic and creative. Lack of identification with an adult during the phallic stage may lead to a ‘phalically fixated’ personality, whereby the child becomes hysterical, exhibitionist and narcissistic, and exaggerates masculinity or femininity. This is particularly relevant, since the phallic stage is when boys develop the i?? dipus Complex and girls develop the Electra Complex.

According to Freud, the i?? dipus Complex develops as the boy develops a desire for his mother. He sees his father as a rival, and as a result becomes scared that his father will castrate him, but resolves the conflict by identifying with him and adopting many of his traits and morals. The Electra Complex is developed when a girl realises she has no penis, and believes she has already been castrated. This leads to penis envy and subsequent blame of the mother, and affection is drawn towards the father, who has a penis. The penis envy is then resolved by a desire for a child.

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