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Oedipal Phase

Nearly every psychology course in college begins with the basics of psych 101, which includes the study of Sigmund Freud. Freud's theories, while some were outlandish, many are the foundation of psychiatry as we know it today. This page shows you how to write a research paper on one of his most well-known theories of development, the psychosexual development of children. The term “Oedipal phase” refers specifically to one of Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual development stages. Oedipal PhaseFreud's phases are:

occurring between the ages of 4 and 6, marked by conflict between the young child and his or her parents. The Oedipus phase, also known as the oedipal period, occurs as a subset of Freud’s phallic stage, during which a child’s genitalia become the primary erogenous zone.

During the Phallic stage of Freudian development, children begin to explore the physical nature of their own bodies, and develop an awareness of the differences between boys and girls. According to Freud, during this stage, boys develop a deep psychological unconscious desire to “kill” his father and “love” his mother. What develops is a competition between the child and the father for the love and attention of the mother. Young children, especially boys, develop a deep connection with their mother, who is source of affection, and desire to be with their mother. Children see that the father is the one who “sleeps” with the mother, and children who do not fully understand the adult or sexual nature of this situation, only wish to be able to be with their mother in such a manner.

The Oedipal phase can be marked by aggression unless it is transitioned into identification of the young boy with his father. Once the child identifies with the same sex parent, he is able to see that the relationship with the mother does not need to be based on competition.

Oedipal Phase And Psychological Development

Freud was certain that one’s healthy psychological development was contingent upon the successful negotiation of the difficult emotional triangle encountered during the Oedipal phase. Indeed, Freud attributed almost everything that he regarded as a mental disorder to unsuccessful transitions through this critical phase. For example, he hypothesized that at this stage many boys develop deep-seated fears that their fathers will remove their sexual organs as punishment for acting as rivals for their mother’s affections. These fears may develop into an unconscious but debilitating lifetime of castration anxiety. Some boys attempt to avoid their fathers’ imagined wrath by identifying with their mothers. Here a boy will adopt his mother’s affectionate and “feminine” behaviors towards his father in the hope of transforming the father’s wrath into love and desire like that which the adult male directs at his wife. Freud argued that the boy who fails to resolve the Oedipal phase may remain stuck in the feminine role and develop into a homosexual adult.

Freud argued that the Oedipal phase could be resolved if, following puberty, the individual finds a suitable (opposite-sex) substitute for the parental object of one’s love. Yet he also held that even a mentally healthy individual who effectively represses the primal urges that come to the fore during this phase can continue to be plagued by them in dreams or in certain abnormal behaviors or exaggerated responses. Despite appearances, the Oedipus complex may persist as a disruptive force throughout one’s lifetime.

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