Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development – MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 7- Section 1 - Personality & Identity - Personality Formation
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Sample MCAT Question - Freud Stages of Psychosexual Development

Identify the correct pairing of psychosexual stage, age range, and libido focus.

a) Oral stage; ages 2-3; mouth

b) Oral stage; ages 0-1; mouth

c) Anal stage; ages 0-1; anus

d) Anal stage; ages 1-2; anus

B is correct. The oral stage is Freud’s first psychosexual stage and describes infants from birth to age 1. During this stage, libido is focused on the mouth as infants achieve gratification through biting and breast-feeding. The oral stage describes infants aged 0 to 1, not 2 to 3 (A is incorrect). The anal stage is the second psychosexual stage that toddlers aged 2 to 3 undergo (C & D are incorrect). Libido in this stage is focused in the anus as children are toilet trained.

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Freud Stages of Psychosexual for the MCAT

Freud believed that personality formation was driven by unconscious sexual desires whose focus shifts as the individual ages. In particular, Freud believed that there were 5 stages of human development, called the psychosexual stages of development, in each of which the libido is focused on a specific organ. In this article, we’ll review what you need to know about these five stages of psychosexual development for the MCAT exam.


The Oral Stage

We’ll start with the Oral stage. Individuals in this stage are ages 0 to 1. From the term “oral,” you can probably tell that the sexual focus, or libido, is centered on the mouth. Gratification of this libido is achieved from breastfeeding and, later, biting. The challenge that the child has to overcome in order to pass onto the next stage is weaning off of the mother’s breast, or bottle if the child is being bottle fed. Freud believed that fixation at the oral stage can result in problems with overeating or smoking later in life.

The Anal Stage

The second stage of Freud’s theory is the anal stage. This is from ages 2 to 3. From the word “anal,” you know that the origin of sexual focus is the anus. Because of this focus, erotic pleasure is obtained from bowel movements and the challenge at this stage is toilet training.


Freud described two different ways that toilet training can go wrong. First, if the parents are overly strict with toilet training, this can result in an anal-retentive personality in which the individual is excessively attentive to orderliness. On the other side, if the parents are too late with toilet training, this can produce an anal-explosive personality, characterized by a lack of self-control and disorganization.

The Phallic Stage

The next stage is the phallic stage. This is from age 4 to 5. And the source of erotic energy during this stage is the genitals. This is from self-stimulation. At this stage, children must identify with adult role models which, Freud believed, are different for boys and girls.


Freud believed that boys develop what is called the Oedipus complex. Individuals with an Oedipus complex have hostility towards their father because they feel like they must compete for their mother’s affection and attention.


Girls, on the other hand, develop hostility towards their mother, a preference for their father, and “penis envy.” This is called the Electra complex. Freud believed that when young girls notice that their father has a penis and they themselves don’t, they actually blame their mother for not having a penis.


To move to the next stage, the child must resolve their hostility toward the same sex parent, as well as lose their desire for the attention and affection of the opposite sex parent. Fixation at this stage can result in low self-esteem, flirtatious women, and men that treat women poorly

The Latent Stage

The next stage is the latent stage, this is from ages 6 to 12. Interestingly, the stage has no source of erotic energy or libido. Instead, children focus on expanding social contacts beyond their family, forming friends with their peers. The stage ends at the onset of puberty. 

The Genital Stage

This leads us to the genital stage, which is from ages 13 and up, or really from puberty and up. During this stage, the genitals once again become the source of erotic focus. But now it’s focused on the opposite sex as opposed to self stimulation. At this stage, individuals must now focus on establishing intimate relationships with the opposite sex for sexual intercourse.

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