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Freud's Psycho-sexual stages of development

Oral stage ? from birth until approximately 15 months. The focus of pleasure is on the mouth.

Anal stage - from approximately 15 months to 3 years of age. Children gain pleasure from retaining or
expelling faeces.

Phallic stage ? from approximately 3 years to 5 years of age. The focus of a child?s pleasure is on their
genitals. This stage of development is the most relevant to this study as this is when a boy experiences the
Oedipus complex.

Latency stage ? from approximately 5 years to puberty. Sexual drives are repressed.

Genital stage ? from puberty onwards. The focus of sexual pleasure is again the genitals but this time shown
through relationships with members of the opposite sex.

Things that are perceived to resemble a penis are said to be phallic symbols. One of the towers below, in
Goole, could be perceived as a phallic symbol.

A phobia is an irrational fear that interferes with day-to-day life.

This study is also an example of action research. Action research is any method whereby part of the purpose of
the researcher is to influence or change the participant?s behaviour. Other examples of action research include
the Thigpen and Cleckley core study (multiple personality), and the Savage-Rumbaugh (animal language) core

Defence mechanisms are strategies that are used to protect the ego (our rational conscious mind) from an
imaginary threat. Although all defence mechanisms can distort reality, according to Freud we all use some of
them at some time as they are a way of avoiding unwanted information ourselves or the outside world.

Work on defence mechanisms was developed by Sigmund Freud?s daughter Anna Freud.

Below are some examples of defence mechanisms

Repression is when an individual keeps anxiety proving thoughts out of their conscious awareness possibly as
of way of coping.

Projection involves attributing one?s own unconscious motives on to another individual (or situation). For
example, a person who has not come to terms with their own sexual drives may come to believe that other
people engage in strange sexual practices.

Denial is when the individual does not acknowledge the existence of a threat.

Displacement is when an individual redirects thoughts and feelings from something which causes anxiety to a
safer more acceptable one. For example being annoyed with your teacher and taking it out on a friend.

Freud: Little Hans

A case study to understand Hans fear of horses and to treat it. To monitor the
development of a child to the age of 4-5 (used as evidence for the Oedipus complex)

Case description:
This was a case study; this means a range of information was collected in different
ways. Freud used information from Hans father (who was a follower of Freuds work)
which came from letters, his visits to meet Hans, and comments Hans had made to
make his analysis.

Hans showed an interest in his widdler (penis), dreamt about widdlers and had been told
off by his mum for playing with his widdler. He also had dreams about wiping children's
Hanss father worked away and Hans wanted his father to stay away and wished his
father was dead. When his father was absent Hans was allowed to sleep with his
mother. He was also jealous of his sister who was born when Hans was 3 and a half
years old.

Hans was afraid of a white horse he had heard someone tell a girl not to put a finger
on the white horse. He had an anxiety attack in the street and was no longer able to go
outside. Hans was also afraid of black horses or black bits around horses faces. He was
particularly afraid
of horses pulling carts (wearing blinkers).
Another dream Hans had was of a giraffe one was crumpled and Hans sat on it, and
another giraffe sat to one side

When playing with dolls Hans made a comment saying that his mummy was the
childrens mummy, Hans is their daddy and Hans father the

Case Analysis:
Hans denied an interest in widdlers, this was explained by Freud as it being in the
unconscious and that Hans had experienced repression.

Hans dreaming of wiping bottoms was interpreted as pleasure at the anal stage. Hans
denial once again interpreted as repression.

Hans wanting his father to go away and being alone with his mother was viewed as
Hans wanting to possess his mother which is part of the Oedipus complex. His fear of
horses was also part of this - fear of white horse represented a fear of his father, fear
of black horses fear of men.

Freud thought Hans jealousy of his sister was because it reminded him of the pleasure
he had at earlier stages of development. He wanted his sister to drown in the bath as
another way of getting her out of the way so he could have his mother to himself.

The girl being told not to touch the white horse reminded Hans of being told off for
playing with his widdler interpreted as castration fear.

Giraffe dream interpreted as a sex act with one giraffe watching (Oedipus Complex)

Hans saying that the daddy doll was him was seen as a resolution of the Oedipus
complex. This lead to Freud considering his therapy had been successful and that the
phobia had gone away.

Evidence for psychosexual stages and theory of gender development; Hans was cured
of his phobia of horses by revealing the unconscious and applying Freuds concepts to

Based on one child may not be generalised to others.

Freud collected detailed and in depth data and information came from both Hans and
his parents. The study can be re-analysed because of this detail. However case studies
can involve subjective interpretation, meaning others could interpret Hans phobia
differently, meaning it is not

Focus of sexual nature and unconscious has led to psychoanalysis and psychotherapies
to be developed i.e. listening cure apparent in counselling

Parents were followers of Freud, so biased in the information they may have give Freud.
The concepts being studied are not scientific, the unconscious and castration fear are
not testable and Freuds Oedipus Complex cannot be measured.

Freud, S. (1909) Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The

Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306


One of the key themes of Freud?s work is the importance of the first few years of life in the
subsequent development of personality. He also believed that children experience emotional
conflicts, and their future adjustment depends on how well these conflicts are resolved.

Another theme within Freud?s work concerns the "unconscious mind which is the part of our
mind which we are not aware of. Freud believed that the unconscious contains unresolved
conflicts and has a powerful effect on our behaviour and experience. He argued that many
of these conflicts will show up in our fantasies and dreams, but the conflicts are so
threatening that they appear in disguised forms, in the shape of symbols.

The Oedipus complex is an important concept in Psychoanalysis and Freud believed that this
case study of Little Hans supports this idea. Freud believed that children pass through five
stages of development, known as the psychosexual stages because of Freud's emphasis on
sexuality as the basic drive in development. These stages are: the oral stage, the anal
stage, the phallic stage, the latency period and finally the genital stage. It is the first three
stages which take place in the first five years of life of a child.

The phallic stage, from three to five years old was the stage where the child's sexual
identification was established. During this stage Freud hypothesised that a young boy would
experience what he called the Oedipus complex. This would provide the child with highly
disturbing conflicts, which had to be resolved by the child identifying with the same-sexed

Freud thought that, during the phallic stage, the young boy develops an intense sexual love
for his mother. Because of this, he sees his father as a rival, and wants to get rid of him.
The father, however, is far bigger and more powerful than the young boy, and so the child
develops a fear that, seeing him as a rival, his father will castrate him. Because it is
impossible to live with the continual castration-threat anxiety provided by this conflict, the
young boy develops a mechanism for coping with it, using a defence mechanism known as
'identification with the aggressor'. He stresses all the ways that he is similar to his father,
adopting his father's attitudes, mannerisms and actions, feeling that if his father sees him
as similar, he will not feel hostile towards him.

The aim of the study was to report the findings of the treatment of a five-year-old boy for
his phobia of horses.


Freud used a case study method to investigate Little Hans? phobia. However the case study
was actually carried out by the boy?s father who was a friend and supporter of Freud. Freud
probably only met the boy once. The father reported to Freud via correspondence and Freud
gave directions as how to deal with the situation based on his interpretations of the father?s

Freud noted that it was the special relationship between Hans and his father that allowed
the analysis to progress and for the discussions with the boy to be so detailed and so
intimate. The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old.


As this was a very in depth case study there are many findings.

The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old when he developed an active interest
in his ?widdler? (penis), and also those of other people. For example on one occasion he
asked ?Mummy, have you got a widdler too??

Throughout this time, the main theme of his fantasies and dreams was widdlers and

When he was about three years and six months old his mother told him not to touch his
widdler or else she would call the doctor to come and cut it off. Around the same time,
Hans? mother gave birth to his sister Hanna, and Hans expressed jealousy towards her
though this disappeared after a few months.

Hans had considerable interest in other children, especially girls, and formed emotional
attachments with them.

When Hans was almost 5, Hans? father wrote to Freud explaining his concerns about Hans.
He described the main problem as follows: ?He is afraid a horse will bite him in the street,
and this fear seems somehow connected with his having been frightened by a large penis?.
The father went on to provide Freud with extensive details of conversations with Hans.
Together, Freud and the father tried to understand what the boy was experiencing and
undertook to resolve his phobia of horses.

Freud noted that Han?s fear of horses had developed just after the he had experienced
some anxiety dreams about losing his mother, and around the time he had been warned
about playing with his widdler. Freud argued that Hans, who enjoyed getting into bed with
his mother, had a repressed longing for her, and had focused his libido (sexual energy) on

One month later, the correspondence revealed that the phobia (which Hans refers to as his ?
nonsense?) was much worse. Hans? father made a connection between the phobia and
Hans? interest with his widdler, so he said to him ?If you don?t put your hand to your
widdler any more, this nonsense of yours?ll soon get better?.

Hans? anxieties and phobia continued and he was afraid to go out of the house because of
his phobia of horses. Hans told his father of a dream/fantasy which his father summarised
as follows: ?In the night there was a big giraffe in the room and a crumpled one: and the
big one called out because I took the crumpled one away from it. Then it stopped calling
out: and I sat down on top of the crumpled one?. Freud and the father interpreted the
dream/fantasy as being a reworking of the morning exchanges in the parental bed. Hans
enjoyed getting into his parents bed in a morning but his father often objected (the big
giraffe calling out because he had taken the crumpled giraffe - mother - away). Both Freud
and the father believed that the long neck of the giraffe was a symbol for the large adult
penis. However Hans rejected this idea.

When Hans was taken to see Freud, he was asked about the horses he had a phobia of.
Hans noted that he didn?t like horses with black bits around the mouth. Freud believed that
the horse was a symbol for his father, and the black bits were a moustache. After the
interview, the father recorded an exchange with Hans where the boy said ?Daddy don?t trot
away from me!?

Hans' became particularly frightened about horses falling over. He described to his father an
incident where he witnessed this happening (later confirmed by his mother). Throughout
this analysis the parents continued to record enormous examples of conversations and the
father asked many leading questions to help the boy discover the root of his fear. For

Father: When the horse fell down did you think of your daddy?

Hans: Perhaps. Yes. It?s possible.

Hans also developed an interest in toilet functions, especially ?lumf? (a German word
indicating faeces). Hans had many long discussions with his father including conversations
about lumf, the birth of his sister, the colour of his mother?s underwear and his liking for
going into the toilet with his mother or the maid.

Like many children Hans had an imaginary friend who he called Lodi after ?saffalodi?, which
is a German sausage. Hans? father pointed out to Hans that saffalodi looked a bit like lumf,
and his son agreed.

Hans? fear of the horses started to decline and Freud believed that two final fantasies
marked a change in Hans and lead to a resolution of his conflicts and anxieties.

Firstly, Hans had described a fantasy where he was married to his mother and was playing
with his own children. In this fantasy he had promoted his father to the role of grandfather.

In the second fantasy, he described how a plumber came and first removed his bottom and
widdler and then gave him another one of each, but larger.

At age 19 the not so Little Hans appeared at Freud?s consulting room having read his case
history. Hans confirmed that he had suffered no troubles during adolescence and that he
was fit and well. He could not remember the discussions with his father, and described how
when he read his case history it ?came to him as something unknown?.

Freud believed that the findings from the case study of Little Hans supported his theories of
child development.

In particular, the case study provided support for his theory of Oedipus Complex in which
the young boy develops an intense sexual love for his mother and because of this, he sees
his father as a rival and wants to get rid of him. Freud believed that much of Hans? problem
came from the conflict caused by this wish. The final fantasy of being married to his mother
supported this idea.

According to Freud the cause of Little Hans? phobia was related to his Oedipus complex.
Little Hans?, it was argued, was afraid of horses because the horse was a symbol for his
father. For example the black bits around the horses face reminded the boy of his fathers
moustache, the blinkers reminded him of his fathers glasses and so on. Freud believed that
as Little Hans was having sexual fantasies about his mother he feared his father?s
retaliation. Little Hans therefore displaced his fear of his father onto horses who reminded
him of his father.

Freud argued that Hans was not in any way an abnormal child. He pointed out that unlike
most other children of the time, Hans was able to communicate fears and wishes that many
children do not have the opportunity to express. He argued that as a result Hans had been
able to resolve conflicts and anxieties that would remain unresolved in other children. Freud
also notes that there is no sharp distinction between neurotic and the normal, and that
many people constantly pass between normal and neurotic states.

Evaluation of Procedure

Case studies, such as this one carried out by Freud, are particularly useful in revealing and
treating the origins of abnormal behaviour. In fact some forms of psychotherapy rely on
building up a long and detailed case history as an aid to understanding and then helping the

The case study provided a very in-depth picture producing lots of qualitative data. In fact
Freud argued that it was the special relationship between Hans and his father that allowed
the analysis to progress and for the discussions with the boy to be so detailed and so


This case study only relates to one individual and we therefore have to be careful
generalising from the findings. We have no way of assessing how typical Little Hans is.
Therefore we have to ask whether this study is unique to the relationship between Little
Hans, his Father and Freud or whether we can generalise it to other cases.

This case study is really Freud's interpretations of Hans' father's interpretation of his son's
own phobia. Freud only saw Little Hans on one or two occasions. It can be argued that this
leads to a drastic reduction in objectivity, particularly as the father (Max Graf) was a
supporter of Freud?s ideas.

Evaluation of Explanation
A major problem with Freud's arguments is that other explanations can be found for Little
Hans' phobias. For example, Bowlby, who was also a psychoanalyst, argued that Hans'
phobia could be explained in terms of attachment theory. Bowlby believed that most of
Hans' anxiety arose from threats by the mother to desert the family. In fact Hans' parents
did eventually split up.

A further, and simpler, explanation for Hans' phobia is that he was classically conditioned to
fear horses. Or in other words, Hans witnessed a horse fall and collapse in the street. Hans
then generalised this fear to all horses.

A major problem with Freud's explanations are that they are androcentric and ethnocentric.
This study describes the Oedipus complex which is of course unique to boys. Girls, Freud
argued, develop penis envy, which later becomes converted into a desire to bear children as
the young child begins to recognise that it is impossible for her to develop a penis of her
own. I am sure you can make up your own mind if this is sexist or not.

The idea of the Oedipus complex is ethnocentric because Freud assumed that all boys must
experience this stage. However Freud was writing about a particular group of people at a
particular period of time. Many cultures including our own do not have families consisting of
a Mother and Father living together in one home. Freud, for example, argued that through
the Oedipus complex boys identify with their fathers and this established their sexual
identification and if this process could not take place, Freud considered that the young child
would be likely to grow up homosexual. Evidence does not support this argument.

Finally, and importantly, Freud originally wanted to explain why so many of his female adult
patients seemed to have deeply traumatic memories of sexual encounters with their fathers.
Initially, he thought that it must be real incest, but he was eventually persuaded that this
was not so and developed his ideas about the Oedipus and Electra complex (the female
version of the Oedipus complex). It would seem that Freud was originally on the right track
after all.

Alternative study - Little Hans using quantitative data?

Freud's study consists entirely of quanlitative data, mostly Freud's thoughts and theories about Little
Hans' phobias and some transcripts of Hans' conversations.

1. Describe different types of data that can be collected in Psychology. (5)

2. How would you design the study so that it had a similar aim, but collected quantitative data?

Write a description of the study, including the who, what, where and how.(10)

2. What would the advantages and disadvantages of such an experiment be, compared to the original?

Evaluate this new study in practical and ethical terms. (10