Child development refers to an individual’s progress from birth to adulthood. There are several changes that occur in a normal person’s life span-physical, cognitive and psychosocial (Fitch, 1999, p. 9). The three form the domains of child development. Physical development refers to the changes that occur in the individual’s body, such as height, weight, sensory and motor abilities, as well as the hormonal changes (p. 9). On the other hand, cognitive development alludes to the intellectual changes that occur as children develop (p. 9). As children grow, they start to develop attitudes about themselves and their surroundings.
As they continue to search for their identity, their psychosocial development also unfolds. There are different theories that tackle child development. Stage theories are theories that concentrate on developmental levels that are “quantitatively different” from other levels (p. 40). Quantitative, in this sense, means that each developmental level is a progression, an integration of previous behavior and information (p. 40). Furthermore, the progression from one stage to another is discontinuous, indicating that it follows a fixed sequence (pp. 40-41).
Theorists who subscribe the stage theories of child development believe that all stages are universal (p. 41). There are three major theorists in child development: Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget. Sigmund Freud is considered the “father of psychoanalysis” (Thornton, 2006). Psychoanalysis is a technique developed by Freud that is used to uncover the unconscious (Morris and Maisto, 2002, p. 15). A medical doctor by profession, Freud was particularly interested in the central nervous system (p. 14). In his life of work, he found that most diseases are psychological in nature, rather than physiological.
Thus, he came to the conclusion that human behavior is driven by the unconscious instincts (p. 446). He believed that the unconscious instincts are vital in an individual’s survival. Moreover, he accentuated the importance of sexual instincts as the most important element in personality development. Personality, according to Freud, is developed around three structures: the id, the ego, and the superego (Fitch, 1999, p. 41). The id is guided by the pleasure principles, ego, the reality principle, and superego, the moral principle (p. 41).
These structures are crucial in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, or his perceptive on child development. There are five stages in Freud’s Psychosexual Theory, each stage involving some levels of sexual energy. According to Freud, as children go through each stage, their personality is being developed. However, when a child undergoes traumatic experiences, the sexual energy that should have been at that particular stage may be affected, resulting in what Freud termed as fixation (Larsen and Buss, 2005, p. 47). Fixation may later lead to immaturity and certain personality traits.
In the oral stage (birth to 18 months), the infant‘s focus of gratification is the mouth (Morris and Maisto, 2002, p. 448). During this stage, the infant’s id is dominant, especially because the infant has yet to differentiate the self and the environment (Larsen and Buss, 2005, p. 47). The infant obtains oral pleasure by sucking, chewing and biting (Morris and, p. 448). Infants who receive too much pleasure will grow into optimistic adults; those who receive little will turn into hostile adults (p. 448).
During the anal stage (18 months to 3 ? ears), the child’s primary source of sexual pleasure is the anus (Morris and Maisto, 2002, p. 448). In this stage, the child’s ego is starting to differentiate from his/ her id and the child starts to establish self-sufficiency (Larsen and Buss, 2005, p. 47). The child starts to learn elimination and he/ she derives sexual pleasure from holding in and expelling feces (p. 448). This is also the time when toilet training begins. Strict toilet training may result in children throwing tantrums, which according to Freud will lead them into self-destructive adults (p. 448).
The third stage- phallic stage, occurs after the child reaches three years of age (Morris and Maisto, 2002, p. 448). In this stage, both boys and girls seek pleasure from manipulating their genitals (p. 448). Interestingly, children become sexually attracted to opposite-sex parent (Larsen and Buss, 2005, p. 48). Freud calls this the Oedipus and Electra complex (p. 448). The former refers to the Greek mythological character that kills his father and marries his mother (p. 448). The latter refers to the somewhat possessive love that girls display toward their father while feeling jealous of their mothers (p. 48).
The child’s superego is also starting to take control, as the child starts to take notice of his/ her parents’ values as well as that of the society. Fixation in this stage may lead to vanity and egotism in later life. Or it may lead to the opposite, wherein the individual becomes withdrawn, shy and has low self-esteem (p. 448). When the child reaches 6 up until he/she reaches puberty, the child goes into a latency stage. During this period, sexual development is at a standstill (Larsen and Buss, 2002, p. 51).
The child loses interest in sexual behavior and instead begins focusing on learning skills that will help him/her become responsible citizens in the society (p. 510. ). At puberty, the child reaches the genital stage. It is during this stage wherein sexual tension builds up. It is a period of sexual maturity. The genital stage is the final stage in sexual development and it is in this stage where adolescents and adults are able to actualize unfilled desires from infancy and childhood (Morris and Maisto, 2002, p. 448). It is the time when mature sexual relationships are established.