Psychosexual Characteristics of Male University Students in Brazil

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Defining normal and abnormal development during the adolescent years is a very difficult task. Stereotypes and a general lack of knowledge about the peculiarities of this stage of development contribute to the difficulty. Few studies in Brazil have been conducted on "normal" populations, and those that do exist tend to be related to questions of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and, more recently, AIDS.

Theories of psychosexual development have identified some universal psychological characteristics of the male adolescents, but it is the sociocultural context which supplies the guidelines and norms for their attitudes and behavior as well as their families. Knowledge of these two components permits a better identification of the line between normality and pathology for a given group; consequently it is of great value for professionals who work with this age group. The present study was thus conducted in an attempt to identify the psychosexual characteristics of male students in the Brazilian university milieu in relation to their social and family contexts. Responses to a questionnaire were interpreted in light of psychoanalytical theories of development, and whenever possible, comparisons with research findings for similar groups are presented.

Theoretical Fundamentals

Adolescence is a stage of major transformation in personality. Physical changes lead to changes in the sense of identity, often provoking conflict in family and social relationships. Conflicts relating to dependence/independence, critical at this stage, will reflect past experiences with separation throughout childhood, including weaning and all other separations which have occurred during the individuation process.

The Oedipus complex is considered to be fundamental in the structuring of the personality of the child, and thus in the development of his sexuality. The personality of the parents, their relationship as a couple, and their capacity for accepting the normal separation and growing independence of their son are crucial factors for the establishment and elaboration of the Oedipus complex, with important repercussions for adult sexuality.

During puberty, the boy undergoes rapid physical growth, which includes the maturation of the genital organs and an intensification of sexual impulses. These changes lead to an instability of the ego, disturbing the equilibrium of the previous phase. There is a consequent regression to more primitive stages of childhood, and the reappearance of separation conflicts. At the same time, the Oedipus complex is reactivated, provoking more anxiety because biological maturation would now permit the concretization of incestuous fantasies. This results in intensification of rivalry with the father, which in turn triggers the reappearance of castration fears.

Heterosexual impulses gradually predominate over infantile sexual manifestations and the adolescent ego is gradually reorganized to accommodate the avalanche of new experiences. The problems of sexual identity and the inhibition or rejection of sexuality, as well as impulsive or deviant behavior are part of the "Normal Syndrome of Adolescence" (Knobel, 1984). Their persistence beyond this stage, however, may indicate a more serious difficulty in elaboration of conflicts, and frequently results in pathology. In normal development, the young man gradually overcomes incestuous love and rivalry, accepting his parents as a sexual couple. As noted by Cordeiro (1975), one of the most difficult tasks for the ego and the superego of the adolescent is the establishment of a stable and lasting relationship with parents as sexually active people, which permits him progressively more freedom to have a sexual life of his own and a more adult life in general. According to Aberastury & Knobel (1984), an adolescent's identification with the positive aspects of his father and the overcoming of his castration fears make self-realization possible, enabling progress both on the sexual plane, and in study or work; this development gradually increases the adolescent's self-confidence in his own potency and creativity. …