Following the death of Freud, a new group of psychoanalysts began to explore the function of the ego. Led by Hartmann, Kris, Rappaport and Lowenstein, the group made new discoveries in understanding the synthetic function of the ego as a mediator in psychic functioning. Hartmann in particular distinguished between autonomous ego functions (such as memory and intellect which could be secondarily affected by conflict) and synthetic functions which were a result of compromise formation. These "Ego Psychologists" of the 50s paved a way to focus analytic work by attending to the defenses (mediated by the ego) before exploring the deeper roots to the unconscious conflicts. In addition there was burgeoning interest in child psychoanalysis. Although criticized since its inception, psychoanalysis has been used as a research tool into childhood development and has developed into a flexible, effective treatment for certain mental disturbances. In the 1960s, Freud's early thoughts on the childhood development of female sexuality were challenged; this challenge led to the development of a variety of understandings of female sexual development, many of which modified the timing and normality of several of Freud's theories (which had been gleaned from the treatment of women with mental disturbances). Several researchers followed Karen Horney's studies of societal pressures that influence the development of women. Most contemporary North American psychoanalysts employ theories that, while based on those of Sigmund Freud, include many modifications of theory and practice developed since his death in 1939.
In the 2000s there are approximately 35 training institutes for psychoanalysis in the United States accredited by the American Psychoanalytic Association which is a component organization of the International Psychoanalytical Association and there are over 3,000 graduated psychoanalysts practicing in the United States. The International Psychoanalytical Association accredits psychoanalytic training centers throughout the rest of the world, including countries such as Serbia, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and many others, as well as about six institutes directly in the U.S. Freud published a paper entitled The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement in 1914, German original being first published in the Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse.
Psychoanalytic theories explain human behaviour in terms of the interaction of various components of personality. Sigmund Freud was the founder of this school. Freud drew on the physics of his day (thermodynamics) to coin the term psychodynamics. Based on the idea of converting heat into mechanical energy, he proposed psychic energy could be converted into behavior. Freud's theory places central importance on dynamic, unconscious psychological conflicts.
Freud divides human personality into three significant components: the id, ego and super-ego. The id acts according to the pleasure principle, demanding immediate gratification of its needs regardless of external environment; the ego then must emerge in order to realistically meet the wishes and demands of the id in accordance with the outside world, adhering to the reality principle. Finally, the superego (conscience) inculcates moral judgment and societal rules upon the ego, thus forcing the demands of the id to be met not only realistically but morally. The superego is the last function of the personality to develop and is the embodiment of parental/social ideals established during childhood. According to Freud, personality is based on the dynamic interactions of these three components.
The channeling and release of sexual (libidal) and aggressive energies, which ensues from the "Eros" (sex; instinctual self-preservation) and "Thanatos" (death; instinctual self-annihilation) drives respectively, are major components of his theory. It is important to note Freud's broad understanding of sexuality included all kinds of pleasurable feelings experienced by the human body.
Freud proposed five psychosexual stages of personality development. He believed adult personality is dependent upon early childhood experiences and largely determined by age five. Fixations that develop during the Infantile stage contribute to adult personality and behavior.
One of Sigmund Freud's earlier associates, Alfred Adler, did agree with Freud early childhood experiences are important to development and believed birth order may influence personality development. Adler believed the oldest was the one that set high goals to achieve to get the attention they lost back when the younger siblings were born. He believed the middle children were competitive and ambitious possibly so they are able to surpass the first-born's achievements, but were not as much concerned about the glory. Also he believed the last born would be more dependent and sociable but be the baby. He also believed that the only child loves being the center of attention and matures quickly, but in the end fails to become independent.
Heinz Kohut thought similarly to Freud's idea of transference. He used narcissism as a model of how we develop our sense of self. Narcissism is the exaggerated sense of one self in which is believed to exist in order to protect one's low self esteem and sense of worthlessness. Kohut had a significant impact on the field by extending Freud's theory of narcissism and introducing what he called the 'self-object transferences' of mirroring and idealization. In other words, children need to idealize and emotionally "sink into" and identify with the idealized competence of admired figures such as parents or older siblings. They also need to have their self-worth mirrored by these people. These experiences allow them to thereby learn the self-soothing and other skills that are necessary for the development of a healthy sense of self.
Another important figure in the world of personality theory was Karen Horney. She is credited with the development of the "real self" and the "ideal self ". She believes all people have these two views of their own self. The "real self" is how you really are with regards to personality, values and morals; but the "ideal self" is a construct you apply to yourself to conform to social and personal norms and goals. Ideal self would be "I can be successful, I am CEO material"; and real self would be "I just work in the mail room, with not much chance of high promotion".