Foundation of Sexual Orientation (Latency Stage of Development)

The fourth psychosexual stage of development, the Latency stage, starts from the age of 6 up to puberty, where sexual feelings take a backseat. Children enter school, learn social skills, form peer relations, and channel intellectual pursuits. The beginning of the latency phase leads to the dissolution of the Oedipus and Electra complex (from the phallic stage) in children. The child realizes that the desire and longing for the opposite-sex parent cannot be fulfilled, thus turning away from these feelings. 

The child starts to identify with the parent of the same sex, and the sexual energy is transferred from parents to friends and hero/role-model figures. The libidinal energy is suppressed, and instead, the focus is on building life and social skills.

Children identify more with same-sex peers and focus on developing friendships. Sexual feelings become dormant in this phase, and the energy is directed towards friends, studies, and social activities. The superego (the moral self) strengthens and becomes more organized and principled. 

The child acquires culturally and socially regarded skills and values. Complex feelings like shame, guilt, and disgust start to develop. They learn to adapt to reality and begin what Freud terms ‘infantile amnesia‘: the repression of the child’s earliest traumatic, overly sexual memories. This stage is characterized by acquiring hobbies, knowledge, education, and experiences.

According to Freud, fixation was possible, resulting in an inability to develop close interpersonal relationships with others as an adult, thus disturbing the adult relations if not resolved.