Child Development: Erikson's Oral-Sensory Stage

Basic trust vs basic mistrust

Oral sensory

Birth to one year

Social mistrust demonstrated via ease of feeding, depth of sleep, bowel relaxation Depends on consistency and sameness of experience provided by caretaker. Second six-months teething and biting moves infant "from getting to taking" Weaning leads to "nostalgia for lost paradise" If basic trust is strong, child maintains hopeful attitude

During the first stage, the oral-sensory stage, the basic crisis centers on the development of either trust or mistrust. An infant is almost completely dependent on others for the fulfillment of his needs. If these needs are consistently satisfied and if he receives love and stimulation with those he comes in contact with those he comes in contact with, he will develop a sense of trust, not only in others but in himself and in his ability to handle his needs.

If, on the other hand, his needs are not satisfied regularly and he receives little love, attention and stimulation, he will develop a sense of mistrust. If the mistrust is severs, the child may become timid and withdrawn since he has given up hope of ever achieving his goals. Erikson believes that the development of a healthy personality is contingent upon the formation of a basic trust -- the individual's belief that his existence is meaningful.

Child Development: Erikson's Muscular-Anal Stage

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

1 year to 3 years

Biologically includes learning to walk, feed self, talk

Muscular maturation sets stage for "holding on and letting go"

Need for outer control, firmness of caretaker prior to development of autonomy

Shame occurs when child is overtly self-conscious via negative exposure

Self-doubt can evolve if parents overly shame child, e.g. about elimination

Child Development: Erikson's Locomotor Genital Stage

Initiative vs. Guilt

3 to 5 years

Initiative arises in relation to tasks for the sake of activity, both motor and intellectual

Guilt may arise over goals contemplated (especially aggressive)

Desire to mimic adult world; involvement in oedipal struggle leads to resolution

via social role identification.

Sibling rivalry frequent

Child Development: Erikson's Latency Stage

6 to 11 years

Child is busy building, creating, accomplishing

Receives systematic instruction as well as fundamentals of technology

Danger of sense of inadequacy and inferiority if child despairs of his tools/skills

and status among peers

Socially decisive age

Child Development: Erikson's Adolescent Stage

11 years and through end of adolescence

Struggle to develop ego identity (sense of inner sameness and continuity)

Preoccupation with appearance, hero worship, ideology

Group identity (peers) develops

Danger of role confusion, doubts about sexual and vocational identity

Psychosocial moratorium, a stage between morality learned by the child and the ethics to be developed by the adult

Child Development: Freud's Oral Phase

The oral phase begins at birth and lasts eight months. It is characterized by the infant's concern for his mouth and gratification he feels from oral stimuli. The most obvious oral activity the child derives pleasure from is eating. Oral stimulation, however, is also produced by engaging in such activities as sucking, biting, swallowing and manipulating various parts of the mouth. Freud contended that these activities are he child's means of fulfilling his sexual urges. Hence, Eros (the life instinct) makes its appearance. But Thanatos (the death instinct) is also seen since quite frequently children destroy objects they come in contact with, often by biting them. During this phase, the child's personality is controlled by the id. He demands immediate gratification of his wants.

Other phases related to Oral Phase:

Trust vs. Mistrust

Primary narcissism


paranoid-schizoid position

part-object relations

normal autism


Child Development: The Anal Phase

The anal stage of motivational development is characterized by the child's central area of bodily concern is the rectum. Bowel movements become a source of pleasure to the child. He may defecate often to achieve this pleasure. This, however, would bring him into conflict with his parents. The conflict leads the child to develop an ego. He comes to realize that he cannot
always do what he wants when he wants. He learns that there are certain times when it it appropriate to expel waste and other times when it is inappropriate. He gradually comes to understand his mother's wishes and abides by them.

Child Development: Freud's Genital Phase

The genital phase is the longest of the five stages. It lasts seven years from ages eleven to eighteen. This period is similar to the anal stage. There is a renewed interest and pleasure derived from excretory activity. In addition, masturbation takes place and is engaged in much more frequently at this time than during the anal stage.

In the beginning of the genital phase, the person seeks associations with members of his own sex just as in the latency period. But the associations are stronger in the genital phase and Freud believed that they are homosexual in nature, even though homosexual activity may not take place. As this period progresses, however, the homosexual tendencies are supplanted by heterosexual ones and toward the latter part of this phase, the child makes contact and forms relationships with members of the opposite sex.

Also at this time, the superego undergoes further development and becomes more flexible. In the latency period the superego is quite rigid. The child adopts rules in the most literal sense. During the genital phase, the individual realizes that some rules are less vital than others. Consequently, his behavior will reflect this. He accepts some rules or norms and makes exceptions to others.

Child Development: Freud's Phallic Phase

The child's central interest shifts to the genital region. This stage is called the phallic phase nd lasts from approximately two years of age to age six. Sexual gratification becomes more erotic during this time as evidenced by the child's masturbation: actual manipulation of the genitals.

It is during this stage that he phallus acquires a special significance. Freud believed that

the increased awareness in the male of his sexual organs leads him to subconsciously desire his mother. In addition, the male child grows envious and resentful of his father and wishes to replace him as the object of his mother's love. The situation is called the Oedipus Complex.

Similarly, a female undergoes a complex wherein she desires her father and rivals with her mother for her father's affections. This is called the Electra Complex. This complex involves penis envy on the part of the female child. She believes that she once had a penis but that it was removed. In order to compensate for its loss, Freud believed the girl wants to have a child by her father. Eventually, however, both the boy and the girl pass through these complexes. Once this happens, they begin to identify with the parent of their own sex. This marks the end of the phallic phase and the beginning of a new one.

Child Development: Latency

The period of latency is characterized by indifference to sexually related matters. During this time, the child's identification with the parent of his own sex becomes stronger. The child imitates his or her behavior -- speech, gestures, mannerisms, as well as beliefs and value systems. The child also incorporates more and more of the beliefs and values of his culture. Thus, the super-ego is developing to a greater extent. (It began to develop during the late anal and phallic stages. The child comes to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior in his society.

The period of latency is also marked by the fact that children seek associations ( or playmates) of their own sex. Boys prefer the company of boys and consciously avoid girls. Girls prefer contact with other girls and avoid boys. This period of sexual latency lasts five years, from ages six to eleven.

developmental materials from:

Classic Theories in Child Development. A hypertext

tutorial about the theories of Freud, Mahler and

Erikson. Copyright ©1996-98 Linda M. Chapman, MSW