Theories Of Personality Development

The idea that the experiences of childhood are important determiners of adult personality is a part of folklore as old as humanity itself. However, Sigmund Freud proposed the first systematic theory of how childhood experiences leave an imprint on the individual that persists into adulthood. To Freud, adult personality and character are end products of the frustrations and conflicts experienced by the child during the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages of psychosexual development. At each of these stages, sexual energies are concentrated on a particular region of the body and conflicts develop with regard to their expression. Failure to progress from one psychosexual stage to another, referred to as fixation, results in the sexual energies of the person becoming permanently attached to that stage. In addition, traumatic events or extreme stress can result in regression, a reenact-ment of behaviors typical of an earlier psychosexual stage. For example, nail-biting, overeating, overtalkativeness, smoking, and thumbsucking, combined with an excessively dependent, greedy, and passive personality in an older child or adult, were viewed as symptoms of fixation at or regression to the oral stage. Fixation at the anal stage, on the other hand, was seen as reflected in a compulsive, orderly, excessively conforming, stingy, and stubborn adult personality.

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