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Psychoanalytic Theories of Development

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Learning Objectives

In this lesson, you will learn to:
  • Summarize the history of psychoanalytic theory.
  • Describe two of the major psychoanalytic theories.
  • Identify different stages of development.
  • Explain the differences between Freud's theory and Erikson's theory.

What is Psychoanalytic Theory?

Psychoanalytic theory originated with the work of Sigmund Freud. Through his clinical work with patients suffering from mental illness, Freud came to believe that childhood experiences and unconscious desires influenced behavior. Based on his observations, he developed a theory that described development in terms of a series of psychosexual stages. According to Freud, conflicts that occur during each of these stages can have a lifelong influence on personality and behavior.

Psychoanalytic theory was an enormously influential force during the first half of the twentieth century. Those inspired and influenced by Freud went on to expand upon Freud's ideas and develop theories of their own. Of these neo-Freudians, Erik Erikson's ideas have become perhaps the best known. Erikson's eight-stage theory of psychosocial development describes growth and change throughout the lifespan, focusing on social interaction and conflicts that arise during different stages of development.

Your Task: Begin this lesson by exploring the theories proposed by Freud and Erikson. Follow the links below to learn more about these two important theories of development.

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