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Child Development: Id, Ego and Superego

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Sigmund Freud, a great Viennese neurologist who has helped the world of psychology a lot during his time, through his research, theories, and observations. One of his most significant findings was his theory of psychoanalysis, called the Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality where he explained the complex human behavior through the different components of personality. According to Freud, personality is made up of three unique components which he called id, ego, and superego. These three elements are located in the unconscious, conscious, and preconscious mind and each affects an individual in their own way. However, through different times in an individual’s life, they do work together to make the best possible decision. It is important to note that this will start taking place after a child has aged a bit since not all of these components are around from birth.

The first component that we are born with according to Freud is the id. The id is driven by the pleasure principle, making it the most immature and childlike element out of the three. The id represents a person’s most basic needs however it needs its demand satisfied without care for anything or anyone. These basic needs and urges are ones such as thirst, hunger, sleep, comfort, and sex, which are what every human needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Because of its constant strive for gratification, Freud interpreted that the id is located in the unconscious mind. How id is used in the real world can be seen through the actions of an infant. It is because of their id that infants cry when they become hungry or feel uncomfortable. It is also important to note that they continue to cry until their needs are fulfilled and their demands are satisfied. As it can be imagined life would be impossible if a person is always trying to meet their basic instinctual needs at that exact moment demanded by the id. This would be where the ego would jump in.

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As a child ages, the ego starts to develop. The ego is the more mature and caring element since it is involved mostly with reality. According to Freud, ego is an alternate version of id as both of them have the same task of fulfilling human desires. The ego operates under the reality principle and tries its hardest to ensure that the task and desire being fulfilled is realistically possible. How the ego manages to achieve needs is scientifically known as delayed gratification (Kendra, 2019, p. 9). This basically means that the ego will ultimately achieve its goal, however, it first ensures that the time and place to do so is, in fact, an appropriate one. Since the ego is heavily involved with reality, Freud interpreted that it is located in the conscious mind. For example, ego comes into play when someone is at a long meeting at work that doesn’t seem to come to an end anytime soon. It can be imagined that if someone is very hungry at that moment and time, their id is going to demand them to go and get some food, however, the ego would go against that and delay the process. The ego would analyze the situation and notice that this is not the correct time for the person to leave to go and grab some food and instead the person starts dreaming about eating something. Afterward, when the meeting has finally come to an end, the individual can satisfy the demands of the id, appropriately and realistically. The task of the ego would be decently hard if it was functioning on its own. For the ego to decide whether something is acceptable within the norms of the society, it gets help from the superego.

The final element of personality, which also begins developing during childhood, is the superego. The development of the superego is heavily reliant on an individual’s surroundings since it is through factors such as family, culture, and society that individuals learn what actions are okay to be expressed openly and what actions and behaviors are better not be shown. In other words, the superego runs off of a person’s moral standards, making Freud believe that it is located in both the conscious and the unconscious mind.  

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