Freud’s Psychosexual Theory vs. Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Both Freud’s psychosexual theory and Erikson’s psychosocial theory discussed human development. The philosophers acknowledged the importance of the unconscious on people’s growth and trusted that individuals’ characters develop in several predetermined phases (Singh, 2017). Although Freud’s ideas, for instance, romantic love, influenced Erikson, their theories varied in many ways. Freud discussed sexual stages as Erikson described the effect of social experiences on the lives of human beings. Therefore, both philosophers had several essential similarities and differences about human growth through the various stages of life.

Freud’s theory focused on the significance of individuals’ biological forces and their basic needs. On the other hand, Erikson’s model highly emphasized ecological and social issues (Velez & Spencer, 2018). The latter philosopher postulated that individuals moved through the development phases depending on how they adjusted to challenges in life and, therefore, the changing environment. Generally speaking, Erikson expanded his theory into adulthood as Freud’s ended at an earlier time.

When children are below one year, the two theorists emphasized the significance of their early experiences. However, Freud concentrated on the value of feeding kids as Erikson’s concerns were on how caretakers respond to the needs of children. Freud’s psychosexual theory described this phase as the oral stage as kids enjoy sucking and tasting. Erikson’s psychosocial theory termed the stage as the trust versus mistrust period as the children usually disbelieve the wardens who care less about them.

As kids reach between one and three years, both philosophers focus on how they become independent while mastering things around them. Freud named this phase the anal stage as children learn to control their intestines’ movements. On the contrary, Erikson called this phase the autonomy versus shame and doubt stage as kids move a lot and become self-sufficient by training to eat, talk, and going to the toilet.

Both Freud and Erikson asserted that three to six are the preschool years. The former called this phase the phallic stage because children focus their libido on the genitals and can differentiate boys from girls and fathers from mothers. However, the latter asserted that this stage is the initiative versus guilt phase as kids start taking more control of the environment. The children start interacting with others and developing their interpersonal skills.

As kids turn seven to eleven years old, Freud believed that the stage transits them from childhood to adolescence and named it the latent period. At this phase, the kids stop focusing on their genitals and emphasize other activities such as education and friendship (Singh, 2017). Nevertheless, Erikson trusted that at this stage, children become competent as they master new skills. Those who fail feel hopeless, and thus, Erikson called the period the industry versus inferiority phase.

At the adolescence stage, both theorists argued that teenagers start forging their sense of identity. Freud stated that this period is the genital phase because the youth begin exploring romantic relationships. The teens try balancing all the life’s areas as they become considerate, warm, and well-adjusted. On the other hand, Erikson described this period as the identity versus role confusion phase as adolescents discover various responsibilities and develop different attitudes.

As adolescents become adults, Freud continued focusing on the stages below them as he implied that early childhood sets personality. Freud asserted that the genital phase lasts throughout the adults’ lives as they try balancing all their lives’ areas (Singh, 2017). On the contrary, Erikson claimed that even the elderly continue developing, so he created the integrity versus despair stage and posited that the old reflect bitterly or happily on their lives if they used time poorly or well respectively.

Freud discussed romantic love beginning with the adolescence stage because this is the time when individuals actively seek pleasure. During this phase, individuals’ sexual impulses emerge, and some start sexual relationships with those they feel affection for (Taufik & Leiliyanti, 2020). However, genital love requires people who no longer depend on their parents. Otherwise, the adolescents might look at their lovers simply as their fathers or mothers. Freud maintained that romantic love requires adequate self-esteem, and thus, individuals should be separated from their parents to experience affection satisfactorily. Adolescents who feel affection for others improve their self-esteem because when their partners reciprocate, their tension reduces. Therefore, people love those who highly complement them and provoke their feelings of being respected.

As Freud, Erikson also asserted that romantic love requires adequate self-esteem. According to Behnaz and Hassan (2017), Erikson posited that an adolescent believes in “a reiterated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be, and of one’s appropriate sex role” (p. 108). At this stage, youths’ body images change as their love unites them. Affection requires adolescents to share and connect with others; and become unique and separate. Erikson asserted that love allows people to satisfy their desires to relate and depend on each other as they integrate (Singh, 2017). Furthermore, affection turns individuals into one, although they live as two people. Therefore, adolescents ought to show sexual orientation maturity, differentiate intimacy from isolation, and be strong in love.

In conclusion, Freud’s and Erikson’s development theories share many essential similarities since they emphasized the significance of individuals’ experiences. Moreover, both philosophers acknowledged the role played by the childhood phase in developing adult qualities. However, Freud felt that people’s development stop early in their lives, while Erikson believed that growth was a continuous process throughout individuals’ lives. Both Freud and Erikson observed that romantic love requires adequate self-esteem. Freud confirmed that adolescents reduce their tension when their partners reciprocate love, but Erikson advised the youth to distinguish between intimacy and indifference.


Behnaz, A., & Hassan, S. (2017). DH Lawrence’s sons and lovers and women in love: An Eriksonian psychoanalytic reading. Malaysian Journal of Languages and Linguistics (MJLL), 6(2), 107-113. Web.

Singh, K. (2017). A study of various theories and stages of child development. UGC Approved Journal, 3(11), 254-260.

Taufik, N. Z., & Leiliyanti, E. (2020). Sexuality construction in Cinderella story: Ash novel. Bahtera: Pendidikan Bahasa Dan Sastra Journal, 19(2), 235-250. Web.

Velez, G., & Spencer, M. B. (2018). Phenomenology and intersectionality: Using PVEST as a frame for adolescent identity formation amid intersecting ecological systems of inequality. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2018(161), 75-90. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Freud's Psychosexual Theory vs. Erikson's Psychosocial Theory'. 11 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Freud's Psychosexual Theory vs. Erikson's Psychosocial Theory." September 11, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Freud's Psychosexual Theory vs. Erikson's Psychosocial Theory." September 11, 2023.