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Freud and Erikson Compared

Comparing Theories of Development

Sigmund Freud's psychosexual theory and Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory are two well-known theories of development. While he was influenced by Freud's ideas, Erikson's theory differed in a number of important ways. Like Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of predetermined stages. Unlike Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, Erikson’s theory describes the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. Compare and contrast these two theories by looking at the overview of developmental stages provided in the chart below.

Approximate Ages Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development
Birth to 1 year

Oral Stage

A child's primary source of pleasure is through the mouth, via sucking, eating and tasting.

Trust vs Mistrust

Children learn to either trust or mistrust their caregivers.

1-3 years

Anal Stage

Children gain a sense of mastery and competence by controlling bladder and bowel movements.

Autonomy vs. Doubt

Children develop self-sufficiency by controlling activities such as eating, toilet training and talking.

3-6 years

Phallic Stage

The libido's energy is focused on the genitals. Children begin to identify with their same-sex parent.

Initiative vs. Guilt

Children begin to take more control over their environment.

7-11 years

Latent Period

The libido's energy is suppressed and children are focused on other activities such as school, friends and hobbies.

Industry vs Inferiority

Children develop a sense of competence by mastering new skills.

Adolescence

Genital Stage

Children begin to explore romantic relationships.

Identity vs Role Confusion

Children develop a personal identify and sense of self.

Adulthood According to Freud, the genital stage lasts throughout adulthood. He believed the goal is to develop a balance between all areas of life.

Intimacy vs Isolation

Young adults seek out romantic love and companionship.

Generativity vs Stagnation

Middle-aged adults nurture others and contribute to society.

Integrity vs Despair

Older adults reflect on their lives, looking back with a sense of fulfillment or bitterness.

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