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RUNNING HEADER: Psychodynamic theories as paradigm in childhood development and

contemporary Guidance and Counselling practice.

By Chege Gerald.
Psychodynamic theories as paradigm in childhood development and contemporary
Counselling practice

Pennsylvania father Zion Isaiah Shockley has been charged with first-degree murder after

police say “Call of Duty” players called him a “failure” and he took out his frustration by

throwing his five-month-old daughter. (Miami Herald News, Feb 22, 2018). Why do people

become heartless and inconsiderate?

Development psychologists proposed theories that try to explain the changes in the

physical, cognitive and social development of an individual’s life-span. Kail and Cavanaugh

(2013) explain that Psychodynamic theories hold that development is largely determined by how

well people resolve conflicts they face at different ages. This perspective traces its roots to

Sigmund Freud’s theory that personality emerges through conflicts that children experience

between what they want to do and what society wants them to do. (p. 12). The deprivation,

neglect or disruption of the changes in development have significant effects on the child.

(Shonkoff, Ritcher, Gaag & Bhutta, 2011). I will analyze Freud’s defense mechanisms and

Erickson’s psychosocial development theories and connect to personality development. Lastly, I

will conclude on the relevance od this analysis to guidance and counselling.

Freud’s theory on defense mechanism.

In his theory of the self, Freud gives the three main parts of self; id, ego and superego.

The ego which is the healthiest part of the self-acts as the mediator of the Id and Superego which

develops as the child learns the limits on what is acceptable to do or wait to have his/her needs

satisfied. (Dimitriadus & Kambarelis, 2006). Psychoanalysts believe that depression is caused by

anger which is then converted into self-hatred. Parents who are overindulgent, demanding,

hostile, inconsiderate, angry create a hostile world to the child. The child feels lonely, confused,

helpless and angry and unlovable. As a counsellor, I have a responsibility of assisting the child to

Psychodynamic theories as paradigm in childhood development and contemporary
Counselling practice

gain insight into the mistaken foundations laid in-order to discover and appreciate oneself. The

ego deals with the id and superego demands but when the anxiety is overwhelming, it defends

itself in what is called the defense mechanism. It is an unconscious psychological mechanism

that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli. Defense

mechanisms involve denial, repression, asceticism, isolation, displacement, turning against

oneself, projection, altruistic surrender, reaction formation, undoing, introjection, identification,

regression, and sublimation.

Denial involves blocking external events out of conscious awareness. A person refuses to

experience a situation. Youths and adult try to use this method in defending their bad actions and

behavior. A youth smoker may refuse to admit that smoking is bad to his/her health. It is a

primitive and dangerous defense and no one cannot get with it forever.

Repression involves pushing an unacceptable impulse or desire out of conscious

awareness. (A. Freud, 1936). Sexual thoughts towards a parent, sister, brother, same-sex among

the youths are able to be controlled and hidden from becoming conscious. It is not a very

successful defense in the long term since it involves forcing disturbing wishes, ideas or

memories into the unconscious. The desires may come in other symptoms which are antisocial. It

is important for one to seek advice when these feeling arise.

Displacement involves redirecting an impulse onto a substitute target (A. Freud, 1936).

The impulse is acceptable to a person but threatened by the object of the impulse. A person

frustrated directs his/her anger toward someone or something. A case in my introduction serves


Psychodynamic theories as paradigm in childhood development and contemporary
Counselling practice

Projection involves a person with a tendency to attribute his/her unacceptable desires,

feelings and motives in other people. (A. Freud, !936). Accusing someone of mistakes done by

you. An example is one accusing the wife of infidelity because he has the sexual attraction to

another woman.

Regression is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress. (A.

Freud, 1936) A child sucking thumb again or wet the bed when they need to spend some time

back in a hospital. Teenager giggling uncontrollably when introduced into a social situation with

the opposite sex.

Rationalization is a cognitive distortion of the facts/reality so as to make an impulse less

threatening. (A. Freud, 1936). It involves giving excuses and lies. This is evident to all of us as

we tend t make unreal facts fit into our conscious and make them real.

Reaction formation makes a person go beyond denial and behaves in the opposite way to

which he/ she thinks or feels. It is characterized by showiness and compulsiveness. Freud claims

that men who are prejudice against homosexuals try to make the defense against their own

homosexual feelings by adopting a negative attitude towards homosexuals.

Erickson’s psychosocial development theory.

Being one of the neo-Freudians, Erick Erickson developed eight stages of psychosocial

development. In contrast with Freud’s idea of focusing on the sexual interest as a driving force in

the development, Erickson believed that social interaction and experience played decisive roles.

In Erikson’s bibliography, Friedman quotes Erickson:

Psychodynamic theories as paradigm in childhood development and contemporary
Counselling practice

‘The concept of “healthy personality” is approached from a genetic point of view

within the broader framework of the Freudian theory. Personality development is conceived as

an epigenetic process in which each item of personality is related to all others so that all depend

upon the proper development at the proper time of each component. Analysis of the growth

process reveals these components of mental health developing in sequential stages: a sense of

basic trust; a sense of autonomy; a sense of initiative; a sense of industry; a sense of ego identity;

genitality; generativity; integrity’ (Erikson, 1950, p. 91).


We are faced with a developmental conflict which impacts further growth. Successive

management of such conflicts leads to the emergence of a lifelong psychological virtue. As a

caregiver and counselor, providing care, being reliable, encouraging and commending child help

him/her develop a sense of trust, competence and belief in their skills through social interactions.

This is achieved through the strength-based approaches when interacting with children.

In conclusion, it is important to note that personality development relies much on the

early stages of a child’s development. The contribution of the theorists to guidance and

counselling is beyond doubt. Our debt to them is incalculable. We should look and listen where

we have not, and we look with the sharper eye and listen with a more attentive ear. As a

counsellor, being consistent, moderate, friendly, encouraging and creating a healthy environment

for the child is critical in his/her personality development.

Psychodynamic theories as paradigm in childhood development and contemporary
Counselling practice


1. Dimitriadus, G., & Kambarelis, G. (2006). Sigmund Freud. Theory for education (pp. 17- 28).

New York; Routledge

2. Freud, A. (1980). Normality and pathology in childhood: Assessments of development. London,

England: Karnac Books. (Original work published 1966)

3. Kail, R.V., & Cavanaugh, J.C. (2013). Human development: A life-span view. Belmont, CA:

Wadsorth, Cengage Learning.

4. Shonkoff JP, Richter L, van der Gaag J, Bhutta ZA. (2011). An integrated scientific

framework for child survival and early childhood development. Center on the,

Developing Child at Harvard University, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA 02138,