top of page

How Relevant are Previous Theories About Human Personality and Development Today?

If we take a look at most of the famous theorists like Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson and the like, how relevant are they today? Do they need updating?

Most theorists conducted their research on neurotypical children, yet we are finding more and more adults recognise their neurodivergence within society today.

Erik Erikson is widely known for his 8-stage model and whilst he was influenced by Freud, I was relieved to see his adaptations to the theory of child development which includes the importance of the psychosocial aspect of development. Erikson believed that the environment in which a child grows up in, will have an impact on their development. And depending on which of the 8 stages the child experiences distress/trauma, this will determine the personality challenges and struggles in adulthood.

Freud was a little different and has been heavily criticised over the years and I can see why...

Freud's psychosexual theory of personality development includes stages and that parents played a significant role in a child's psychosexual development.

He theorised that a male baby develops sexual feelings for his mother and in early childhood becomes jealous of his father. He also believed that girls had 'penis envy' and that is why girls struggled with their sense of identity... There is far more to Freud's theory and this is an extremely brief overview so please do look elsewhere online for more context but for me, his view suggests his own issues with psychosexual development and is definitely misogynistic with an ableist viewpoint.

He conducted his research on single cases only, a famous one being Hans. When completing his research on Hans he only ever met with the young boy once and relied on Hans' father to update him on his perceptions of his son's development.

A few issues here, Hans' father was familiar with Freud's research combined with his relationship with his son, which would have likely resulted in a biased perception. Freud only met with the child once so I'm not sure how anyone can form research after one single meeting and on one case but he did so there we go.

Freud also based his theory on his own experience of the world and the more you read about his research methods the more it appears (to me) he made cases 'fit' into his model.

So, where is the research today when it comes to personality development and neurodiversity?

All these research methods were based on neurotypical children so how are these fair stats?

Some people say; anyone's brain that diverges from the 'neurotypical frame' is due to early trauma. Some people argue this opinion. Whilst I agree with some aspects of many theorists, I don't believe it's a one size fits all approach here, I believe there is far more to it and not enough research has been done to date.

Is it time to update our theories when it comes to the development of the human personality and how we collect and process data from a wider range of neurodiversity?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

674 views0 comments


bottom of page