Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Freud’s Psychosexual Stages

What did Freud mean by the phallic stage?

The phallic stage takes place from around three to around six years of age. Freud believed this to be a critical phase in the development of neurosis, which he understood to reflect a conflict between instinctual urges and societal restraints. In this phase, the erogenous stage moves from the anus to the phallus (or the penis). This is the first psychosexual stage in which gender becomes an important factor. The fact that half the population does not have a phallus evidently did not deter Freud from naming this phase after an exclusively male body part. The personality traits associated with this phase include initiative and aggressiveness, which is associated with the intrusive action of the penis during intercourse. If parents react to this stage with excessive punitiveness, the child will be overcome with guilt and suppress his or her own initiative and ambition.

Freud based many of his ideas on themes from ancient Greek literature. This picture shows a bust of Sophocles, the famous Greek dramatist who wrote plays about Oedipus and Electra. Sophocles lived in the fifth century B.c.E.(iStock).

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