The Psychoanalytic Theory of Human Development

Topic: Developmental Psychology
Words: 677 Pages: 2


The psychoanalytic theory is among the best approaches used in describing human development. The theory proposed by Sigmund Freud demonstrates that human personality is a function of three fundamental structures, including the id, ego, and superego. The theory shows that unconscious conflicts exist between the three fundamental structures that can be used to define human development and behavior. The level of human consciousness, which can be categorized as precociousness, consciousness, and unconsciousness, also play a great role in this conflict. Conscious thought is the real-time experience and awareness in any situation. On the other hand, preconscious thoughts are made up of memories that can easily be retrieved (Knapp, 2022). Finally, there is the unconscious thought, which includes hidden memories that are avoided due to negative reasons such as shame, guilt, discomfort, pain, and fear. These hidden thoughts have a huge impact on how individuals behave throughout their lives.

The Psychoanalytic Theory of Human Development

In human development, the id, ego, and superego work together to make individuals behave in the same manner. The id deals with instinctive responses and shapes every part of an individual’s personality from birth. It is a drive that keeps humans alive as it responds to their primitive needs and urges. It should, therefore, be considered the driving force in any human personality. Freud considered the personality of a newborn as being pure id. It is a component that remains in the human mind for a long time before it recedes and makes room for the other components to develop. The id is an unconscious component that cannot be changed (Knapp, 2020). For example, the baby will always cry when hungry until fed. It does not concern itself with the inconveniences it presents to the immediate environment as long as it gets what it wants. Therefore, the id is driven by pleasure principles and behaviors seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The same can be seen in adults who will always gravitate towards good things in life and avoid those that cause miseries.

In humans, the ego works according to the reality principle due to compromising. The ego can control the id as it is present in all levels of awareness. Even though it also seeks pleasures and avoids pains, it considers other things. The ego is a defense mechanism that uses many aspects such as denial, projection, or regression to defend itself. The work of the ego can be seen when individuals are uncomfortable in a certain situation and project the same attitude to others. For example, a glutton person will always tell others how he hates glutton. It is an attribute that gives one a sense of importance, self-control, and judgment.

The superego mainly focuses on the conscience, which is a function of learned behavior that the people around us have influenced. For instance, an individual who has been brought up to believe that lying is not right will not lie even if it does not hurt anyone. All human cultures and belief systems depend on the superego to shape their actions and behaviors. The superego is not selfish like the id and the ego and plays a great role in human service.


In brief, the psychoanalytic theory of human development is the best approach to understanding human action and behavior. It demonstrates how such factors influence individuals as the id, ego, and superego to define their actions and behaviors from childhood to adulthood. The presence of the id in humans helps them deal with their primitive and immediate needs, such as hunger and sexual drives. On the other hand, the ego helps them protect themselves from external threats by giving themselves a sense of importance and using other attributes as a defense mechanism. Finally, there is the superego, largely due to environmental influences, it gives rise to well-rounded individuals in society depending on how they have been brought up. Individuals will always act and behave in the manner of their upbringing. The psychoanalytic theory is the best approach because it can answer nearly all questions related to human development.


Knapp, S. (2020). Psychoanalytic theory. Retrieved from: Psychoanalytic Theory – The Definitive Guide | Biology Dictionary.

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