The Foundations of Psychiatry

By Silvano Arieti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14

GROWTH
AND DEVELOPMENT
IN CHILDHOOD

John A. Sours

PSYCHOSEXUAL DEVELOPMENT has a central place in all phases of child development and personality formation. Its influences and transformations affect all aspects of the developmental process. From the standpoint of physical sexuality, however, there are no appreciable changes before puberty between the sexes.95 Sex hormone production for both boys and girls involves small amounts of estrogens and androgens. Androgen production is increased in both sexes, more marked in boys,95,115 at about age nine to ten, with subsequent sharp rises in adolescence. The excretion of estrogens gradually rises in both sexes from about the age of seven.

Psychosexual development, on the other hand, entails many more preadolescent changes than those of physical development. These developments are apparent in a child's increased sexual masturbatory activity and explorative interests, his awareness of genital differences, his preoccupation with theories about the creation of babies, his attraction to the contrasexual parent, and his castration anxiety. In the phallic-oedipal phase of psychosexual development numerous changes occur independently of hormonal change.76,82,95

The phallic-oedipal phase of development has also been called the nursery school years, the preschool years, and the stage of initiative versus guilt.76,82 Although this phase of development occurs between the ages of three and six, there are variations in its chronology from child to child. In some respects many developmental issues during this phase overlap the age span of three to six years. This fluidity between psychosexual stages is clearly seen at both ends of the phallic-oedipal period. Mahler, Roiphe, and Galenson suggest that sexual arousal can occur before the sec

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