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Differences Between Freud and Erikson's Approaches to Psychoanalytic Theory: Differences & Analysis

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  1. 0:06 Example for Comparison
  2. 0:28 Similarities
  3. 1:09 Differences
  4. 1:44 Psychosexual vs. Psychosocial
  5. 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Differentiate between Freud and Erikson's approach to psychoanalytic theory in this lesson. You will examine and compare developmental stages side by side and have the opportunity to test your knowledge with a quiz at the end.

Example for Comparison

Mary has a 3-month-old daughter. Mary bottle feeds her child and follows a strict schedule for feeding times. The child is not allowed to have a pacifier. Mary is an affectionate parent, and all of her child's needs are met. How could the actions that occur in the child's life now affect her later development?

Similarities of Freud and Erikson

Sigmund Freud's psychosexual theory and Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory are two important psychoanalytic theories on human development that could be used to explain the developmental effects of this scenario. In this lesson, we will examine what these two theories have in common and how they differ.

Erikson's theory followed Freud's and was based on many of Freud's ideas. Because of this, the two theories have similarities. Both theorists recognize the importance of the unconscious on development. They also both separate development into stages of a person's life and utilize similar age divisions for these developmental stages.

Differences of Freud and Erikson

However, there are several differences that exist between the names of the stages and the developmental issues that are encountered during each. Part of the reason for this is that each psychologist has his own unique view of what drives a person's development. Freud's psychosexual theory emphasizes the importance of basic needs and biological forces, while Erikson's psychosocial theory is based upon social and environmental factors. Erikson also expands his theory into adulthood, while Freud's theory ends at an earlier period.

Psychosexual vs. Psychosocial Stages

Now, let's briefly look at Freud's psychosexual stages and Erikson's psychosocial stages alongside each other.

First we will examine the first year of life. Freud called this the oral stage of development because he believed that oral stimulation was the primary means of development at this time. Erikson called this stage of development trust versus mistrust. Both believe that a child develops their sense of trust at this stage of development.

Next, let's discuss the first through third years of life. Freud called this the anal stage of development, and Erikson called this autonomy versus shame and doubt. Both believe that a sense of independence is learned at this stage of development, and that toilet training is an important focus of this independence. Parental attitudes at this time can also have a lasting effect.

Ages three through six is referred to as the phallic stage by Freud and the initiative versus guilt stage by Erikson. Freud believed this stage was where a child identifies with the same-sex parent and develops self-esteem. Erikson felt that this was the stage where a child begins to exert power and control over their environment. This is the point where you will start to see more differences in the two theories.

The next developmental stage occurs at ages seven through 11. Freud calls this stage of development latency and believes that this is an intermediary stage of development where the child forms interactions with their environment. Erikson refers to it as industry versus inferiority. He believes that children begin to demonstrate their ability to succeed.

Ages 12-18 mark the next stage of development. According to Freud, this is the final stage, and it continues throughout a person's life. He calls it the genital stage. During this stage, he believes, a person seeks balance between their biological instincts and sense of morality. In other words, Freud believes that a person learns to channel their biological instincts into socially-acceptable displays of love and career goals. Erikson called this stage identity versus role confusion. He believed it was a period where the focus of development shifts to social bonding in order to establish meaning in one's life and assert individuality. While Freud felt that the developmental stages end at this point, Erikson continues with three more stages which occur throughout adulthood.

These additional stages are intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation and integrity versus despair. During these stages, a person seeks to establish an intimate relationship and become a productive member of society. Ultimately there is reflection upon the goals they have accomplished in their lifetime.

Lesson Summary

Let's think about Mary's 3-month-old again. You now know that both Freud and Erikson believe that a sense of trust is gained at this stage of development, but they would predict a different outcome. Because Freud believes that biological needs are the driving force behind development, he would predict that the child may not be getting enough oral gratification. No breastfeeding, a lack of a pacifier and a strict feeding schedule may cause her to be mistrustful and have a difficult time forming relationships later in life. Since Erikson bases his theory on social factors, he would see the situation differently. As long as she was not hungry and was receiving the needed attention, an adequate sense of trust would be formed and built upon.

In conclusion, both theories share similarities as well as differences. Both Erikson and Freud agreed that human development occurs in distinct stages. They chose similar ages that mark these stages of development. This makes it easy to compare each theorist's stages of development to one another. Both theorists also recognized unconscious factors in development. However, while Freud believed that human development is shaped by our biological drives, Erikson places more emphasis on social experiences in determining an individual's development. According to Erikson's theory, both early and late life experiences are equally important to an individual's development. In contrast, Freud felt that our early developmental experiences were more important than experiences later in life.

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