Sample Psychology Paper on Sigmund Freud Theory on Personality Development

The psychoanalytic theory started from the works of Sigmund Freud as he did clinical work with some patients who were impaired with mental illnesses. After that, Freud came up with findings that childhood experiences and unconscious desires experienced at early childhood stages have a lifelong influence in an individual’s personality and behavior. In the theory on personality development. Freud identifies that three parts of the mind that influence an individual’s behavior include id, ego, superego. Of the three structures of the mind, the most primitive structure is the id. The id is often more concerned with an individual’s gratification of basic physical needs and urges. The ego is the pragmatic part of the mind that is less primitive and partly conscious and partly unconscious. The superego is more concerned with social rules and morals, and it grows whenever a child begins to learn what his or her society considers right or wrong. Freud’s theory has been met with criticism over the years because it has largely focused on sexuality as the main driver of human personality development. Thus, this paper explores the strengths and limitations of Freud’s theory on personality development and contrasts it with Erickson’s theory.

Freud’s theory has probably exerted a greater impact on the public’s understanding of personality than any other psychologist. Freud, in his theory, highlights the parts of the mind that control an individual’s behavior and help humans to develop defense mechanisms in their real-life situations (Danni). According to Shakry, Freud’s theory’s argument on defense mechanisms is understood by many people because there are everyday examples of them in real life, such as crime victims often experiencing repression and denial being frequently found in everyday language (3). Sharky argues that Freud, through his theory, was also able to provide some new treatments that were previously unavailable to help in the clinical management of patients with mental health problems. Another strength of Freud’s theory is that it was generated from an in-depth case study (Danni). The case studies provided Freud with detailed information that he used to develop his theory on personality development (Silverman 4). Freud’s theory was built from valid data, and it was largely concerned with critiquing what influences each individual’s desires and the problems humans might experience in their daily lives, and how they can overcome them.

Although the theory has numerous strengths, it is associated with various limitations. One of the weaknesses of Freud’s theory on personality development is that the approach did not use any scientific method (Danni). Rather, the data outlined in Freud’s case studies are qualitative and specific to a particular individual and do not represent the whole humankind. Silverman contends that Freud’s theory is not generalizable (5). Besides, the concepts that Freud studied are not measurable, such as the unconscious part of the mind. Psychologists or researchers cannot reach the unconscious part of the human mind by any means; therefore, such components cannot be tested. To come up with his findings, Freud used his methods, which were not scientific. According to Stevens, one of the methods Freud used is dream analysis, which is not related to any scientific method that has been approved that researchers can use to conduct a study (38). Another limitation of the theory is that it was based on case studies, which relied on Freud’s interpretation of various components he researched. Dream symbols are some of the components that Freud used his knowledge to interpret (Stevens 39). Stevens asserts that Freud’s findings were subjective, thereby his theory is not generalizable (40). As such, it is fair to say that Freud’s theory was not entirely correct as other psychological theories, but it has been modified over time as the results of new studies have become available. Nevertheless, Freud’s ideas of personality are still a major part of modern psychology, and clinical psychologists use the ideas in their daily activities.

Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory and Erik Erickson’s psychosocial theory are some of the well-known theories of development. Although Erickson used some of Freud’s ideas to develop his ideas, both the psychosexual and psychosocial theories differ in several aspects. The two theories both recognize the importance of the unconscious mind on personality development. Both Freud and Erickson critique that conflict in the human mind is the center of personality development. However, the two theorists differed in various aspects, such as conflict of the mind. Freud in his psychosexual theory centers conflict to sex. He argues that an individual resolves conflict when he or she receives adequate gratification at childhood stages (Silverman 3). On the other hand, Erickson argue through his psychosocial theory that an individual’s conflict is resolved when his or her behavior has been shaped by a particular group’s morals and beliefs (Erickson 3). It implies that when an individual learns to lead a life associated with the right morals, Erickson argues that conflict has been resolved by that person.

The psychoanalytic theory started from the works of Sigmund Freud as he did clinical works on some patients who had mental illness problems. Freud in his theory identifies that id, ego, and superego are the parts of the mind that help to control an individual’s behavior. The theory had various strengths and limitations. The development of psychosexual theory depended on various case studies, including Sigmund Freud’s case study. However, the theory was too subjective; thus, it is not generalizable. Freud’s psychosexual and Erickson’s psychosocial theory differ in the aspect of how they critique conflict. Freud critiques that an individual has to receive adequate gratification at his or her early childhood stages for conflict to be resolved. Opposed to Freud’s theory, Erickson, in his psychosocial theory, critiques that conflict is resolved when an individual learns to love and stay peacefully with others.


Works Cited

Erickson, Karla. “The Commodification of Care.” Theory & Amp; Event, vol. 8, no. 4, 2005,

Danni. “Evaluating Freud’s Theory of Development.” Advantages and Disadvantages Table in a Level and IB Psychology, 19 May 2016,

Shakry, Omnia El. “The Psychosexual Subject.” The Arabic Freud, 2017,

Silverman, Doris K. “Psychosexual Stages of Development (Freud).” Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 2017, pp. 1–5.,

Stevens, Richard. “Psychosexual Development.” Sigmund Freud, 2008, pp. 37–43.,