It must be noted that life in Victorian times was completely dominated by males, and women had no power and very few rights. Freud’s outlandish suggestions did, at least, provoke people to reflect and think more in depth about how parents could somehow contribute to the personal development of their children.
Freud often used “neologisms” (terminology that Freud himself invented) but failed to provide any actual definitions. This contributed further to misunderstanding and confusion over his theory which led to such a broad range of interpretations and viewpoints. He has been accused of being obsessed with sex and has caused much offense by referring to sexual experiences during childhood. This is dependent on one’s interpretation of his work which might be better understood if his environment (at that time) is taken into consideration. His preoccupation of sex possibly shows his own personal projections from his own upbringing (his own father was twenty years senior to his mother) and fantasies with a negative view point of sex reflecting the epoch and the sexually repressed society that he lived in. However, although Freud’s theory of psychosexual development has stirred much controversy, it was, at least, a starting point for research into child development and child psychology. Building upon this foundation, the following more recent approaches emerged: Erik Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development , John Bowlby’s (1973) theory of attachment , Jean Piaget’s (1973) theory of cognitive development , and Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of social development  (which stressed the importance of social interaction) have all surpassed Freud’s theory.
In today’s counselling environment, elements of Freud are still apparent in that a client can talk freely about their presenting issues, their past experiences and family background. Likewise, any lack of memories would, with the client’s consent, be explored.
In conclusion, although Freud’s work has been heavily criticized, his psychosexual development did bring some taboo topics out into the open and it was a starting point in the research of child development which led to the more recent theories of child development. Much of Freud’s work is so ingrained in todays psychodynamic counselling and psychotherapy that some of his terminology has seeped into our everyday language. The phrases “anally retentive” and “Freudian slips” are still used in our language today. Despite the lack of empirical evidence to support Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, and its somewhat dated point of view, the basic principle of there being an association between childhood experiences and adulthood traits is still worth bearing in mind as we try to raise our children with the best intentions. Today, most parents are aware that they DO actually play a huge part in their child’s development and it is generally accepted by most people that their childhood experiences do have some influence on their behaviour in adult life.
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- Bowlby, J. (1973) Separation: Anxiety & Anger. Attachment and Loss (vol. 2). London: Hogarth Press.
- Erikson, H. E. (1959) Identity and the life cycle. New York. Norton.
- Piaget, J. (1973) Main Trends in Psychology. London: George Allen & Unwin.
- Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.