A Short Note on Latency

After going through the storms of pleasure/displeasure experiences during the infancy, there is a period of delay or pause known as latency, which according to Freud  starts around age seven and continues until puberty (2010). However, it should be noted that the age range is affected by childrearing practices, culture and environment.

This phase takes place during the phallic stage in which a new organisation of sexuality develops and the Oedipus complex begins to dissolve. In simple, the ego is about to form its boundaries and defences in order to step inside a larger society than family and prepare the individual to become more independent and industrious; “He  has  mastered  the  ambulatory  field  and  the  organ  modes.  He has  experienced  a  sense  of  finality  regarding  the  fact  that  there  is  no workable  future  within  the  womb  of  his  family  and  thus  becomes ready  to  apply  himself  to  given  skills  and  tasks,  which go  far  beyond the  mere  playful  expression  of  his  organ  modes  or  the  pleasure  in  the function  of  his  limbs.  He  develops  a  sense  of  industry  —  i.e.  to  adjust himself  to  the  inorganic  laws  of  the  tool  world.  He  can  become  an eager  and  absorbed  unit  in  a  productive  situation” (Erikson 1950, p. 258-9). 

In Lacanian sense, latency is a gateway from imaginary to symbolic order when the child comes to the recognition and admission of the name of the father as the figure of law and society. That is how the child enters the realm of language where senses such as shame, loathing, and morality come to play. As regards, it is believed that this is the best age to send the children to school where they can learn more about social life and how to utilise their potential capacities into work and production for the society. Thus, what is crucial at this phase is the way of parenting. As parents, it is really important to help the child to develop his social skills and learn about his talents in order to develop them later on in adolescence. .

Hence during the psychosexual development from infancy to puberty, the mechanism of defence and resistance goes through lots of changes to get to its final form. As regards, the fixation of libido in each of these stages is an inevitable fact, but if in this process the libido gets fixated in latency stage it is going to be a different story. Freud theorised that some humans may develop psychological fixation due to one or more of the following:

  1. “A lack of proper gratification during one of the psychosexual stages of development.
  2. Receiving a strong impression from one of these stages, in which case the person’s personality would reflect that stage throughout adult life.
  3. “An excessively strong manifestation of these instincts at a very early age [which] leads to a kind of partial fixation, which then constitutes a weak point in the structure of the sexual function” (2013).

As we know, latency is like a limbo in the psychosexual development. In this stage, the child is about to get to know himself and the world around him. He is distinguishing his ego from the external world and developing his social skills, consequently, he has not still gained enough mastery to find the balance between his feelings and the reality principle and most of his libidinal impulses need to be adjusted before being represented into the outer world. In this case, getting fixated in latency, is quite a challenging situation for the individual, because he cannot really adjust his place among  others and transform his sexual impulses into the social skills and means of communication. He might be isolated and receive a huge amount of rejection from others because his superego has not fully formed to regulate his moral standards and judgmental processes. 

But latency is not all about negativity and incapability. We should note, It is at this very stage that the child learns how to combine his world of imagination with the reality through play. He begins to build up his identity by identifying himself with different role-models which form his super ego and moral standards. In this period, the child begins to learn how to become independent of his parents and family by distinguishing his ego from others and also learns how to use the language (symbolic) to bring about changes in reality.In short, latency is a gateway from internal to external, it is a bridge which links the  pleasure principle to the harsh reality principle and provides the individual with enough tools to learn how to achieve the external objects through physical and psychical activity and represent his feelings into a more advanced form into the society, rather than crying for the mummy’s breast. 

Reference list


  • Freud, S. and Brill, A. (2010). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Las Vegas, Nev.: Lits.
  • Erikson, E.H. (1950) Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.
  • Freud, S. Ed by Hall, G. (2013). Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Stilwell: Neeland Media LLC.

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