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Stages of Gender Development

Stages of Gender Development

Gender development theories abound in psychology. Freud and Kohlberg are just two of the many psychologists who theorized about how gender develops in children. Get help understanding gender development from the writers at Paper Masters.

Freud's theory about human development is heavily focused on gender. It is vital for a child to experience certain feelings and desires, which are specifically connected to the same and opposite-sex parent, respectively. Because the juxtaposition of genders is so important to Freud's developmental theory, nontraditional families, such as single parent or homosexual households, would rarely be able to raise sexually and morally healthy children. His three stages of development are as follows:

In Freud's theory of human development, a person's childhood years are crucial in determining their sexual development. Of special importance is the phallic stage, which contains the Oedipus complex. Freud's Oedipus complex, explains how healthy sexual and moral development comes about only when children resolve dilemmas; by doing this, they develop a superego. The phallic stage revolves around the unique roles that the male and the female parent have on a child's development. Additionally, Freud suggests that the child's own gender will cause them to perceive and react differently to the parent of the same sex and the parent of the opposite sex. However, Freud's model of normal development is based on the idea that children are raised by a mother and a father. When a child is raised in a single-parent or single-gender household, Freud's theory implies that he or she will develop abnormally.

In one example, a boy who is raised in the house of a single mother from the time he is one will lack an important figure at a crucial developmental point of his life. When the child becomes three, he will enter the phallic stage, which Freud says contains the Oedipus complex. He will begin to feel incestuous feelings for his mother, but if his father is absent, the boy will have no same-sex male figure to fear, love, and want to replace. Thus, he will be unable to fully resolve the conflict of the phallic stage. Because the boy will not feel the usual guilt and fear about wanting to replace his father, he will not be driven to seek his father's guidance, which is key in the development of his superego. Thus, he will be unable to develop a superego, will be stuck in the phallic stage, and may display an abnormal or sexual attachment to his mother for the rest of his life.

In a second example, a girl is raised single-handedly by her father until she is an adolescent. Though she also lacks a same-sex figure, Freud indicates that her development will be less negatively affected. Though Freud was a bit unclear about girls' psychosexual development, he did state that they experienced a conflict like that of the Oedipus complex. In normal development, girls feel penis envy, believing that all women are inferior to men, and resent their mothers for not providing them with a penis. Like boys, girls develop incestuous attachments to the opposite-sex parent, in this case the father. However, Freud thought that it was not as vital for girls to resolve their Oedipal feelings, and that it was natural for girls to develop weaker superegos than boys. Therefore, the girl in the example would feel that she has already replaced her mother and now has ownership of her father. Since it is not vital for her to resolve her conflicted feelings toward a same-sex figure, the girl would probably develop a superego weaker than that of a boy, but normal for a girl.

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