Approaches: Psychodynamic

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Oedipus Complex

According to Freud

  • In the phallic stage, boy has a intense love for his mother 
  • Sees father as rival for her affections


  • Realises father is physically stronger
  • Afraid of punishment from him via castration

Anxiety resolved by...

  • Son identifies with father
  • Son becomes like the father (incl. gender behaviour)
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Electra Complex

According to Freud

  • In the phallic stage, girl has a intense love for her father 
  • Sees mother as rival for his affections
  • "Penis Envy" - blames mother for a lack of a penis


  • Worried she will lose mother's love due to competing for affection

Anxiety resolved by...

  • Girl identifies with mother
  • Learning gender role/appropriate behaviour
  • Thus enabling a healthy gender development
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Effects of psycho-sexual stages on adult personali


  • Receptive - Very trusting, Gullible and Over Dependant
  • Agressive - Agressive and Domineering


  • Retentive - Mean, Stubborn and Obsessively tidy
  • Expulsive - Over generous, Untidy and Uncoventional


  • Self assured, Self-obsessive, Vain and Impulsive. Can include sexual deviancy and unusual ways of sexual gratification e.g. fetishes
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Freud Psychodynamic Theory EVALUATION


  • Evidence to support role of unconscious - Little Hans - Fear of horses linked to Oedipus complex, unconcious displaced his fear. Children use defence mechanisms and imitate/identify with same-sex parents.
  • Good pratical applications for mental illnesses. Rather than barbaric medical treatment, talking therapy can be an alternative.


  • Methodological Problems - it's unscientific as the concepts can't be measured or tested e.g. ID
  • (Limited) - Does not explain development into adulthood, stops at adolescence. Erikson's psychodynamic theory is from birth to death and how we still develop into old age.
  • There is research that contradicts Freud and makes it seem reductionist. Freud suggests not having a same sex parent or two parents will effect the sexual orientation of the child. Malinowski shows boys develop normally without a same sex parent to identify with.
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