Evaluating the Psychdynamic Approach

Strengths and weaknesses of everything in the psychodynamic approach

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1. Name the strengths and weaknesses of case studies

2. Name the strengths and weaknesses of Freud's case studies

3. Evaluate qualitative data

4. Give the strengths and weaknesses of correlation designs

5. Evaluate Longitudinal studies

6. Evaluate cross-sectional studies

7. Evaluate Freud's personality theory

8. Evaluate Freud's theory of psychosexual development

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Case studies


  • Useful because they can gather data that cannot be obtained through other methods
  • They produce valid data, as the data comes fairly directly from the people concerned and is usually gathered in natural surroundings


  • Not replicable because they use a unique situation
  • They are not generalisable as the researcher cannot necessarily say the results are true of other situations
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Freud's case studies


  • They can be used to help the patient as well as to gather data (so they have a practicle application)
  • They use special means to unconver unconcious thoughts that cannot otherwise be accessed, and Freud had to develop special ways of gethering data from such a complex situation


  • The analyst has to interpret the situations which could make the results subjective
  • Scientific study requires objectivity
  • Concepts such as the unconscious are not measurable and so are hard to test in a scientific way.
  • Therefore conclusions may be drawn but there may never be any propper proof 
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Qualitative data


  • Valid because it is in depth and detailed, and so truer to real life
  • Sometimes the only way to study required area


  • Hard to generalise to other situations because the detail makes it unique
  • Qualitative data is gathered by one individual in one situation, and so can be affected by subjectivity
  • Therefore there will not be the objectivity required for a scientific body of knowledge to be built up
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Correlation designs


  • Little manipulation of variables. Measures are often taken of existing situations with few controls needed, making the design straight-forward
  • Can show relationships that might not be expected and so these designs can point toward new areas of study


  • A relationship is found but without finding out whether the two variables are causally linked. This does not make the studies scientifically credible
  • Tend to lack validity because at least one of the variables often has to be operationalised, which tends to make it unnatural.  
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Longitudinal studies


  • Useful for looking at developmental trends
  • They are the main method of researching how an individual's development affects certain characteristics
  • Uses the same participants so participant variables (variables between the participants taking part) will not get bias in the results


  • Can be difficult to keep all the participants for each of the measures as people can drop out
  • Sample can then become biased if it systematically excludes certain people
  • The researchers may change over time due to moving on or losing funding which can affect the study, as the relationships with the participants may differ.   
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Cross-sectional studies


  • They gather immediate results which are useful because they are easier to carry out in practice.
  • Cheaper because reseachers only have to be in the area once, and can recognise the study more easily than if they have to return years later
  • More ethical as the measures are only taken once


  • Different participants used in the conditions, so participant variables can affect results
  • Many different variables in the two (or more) situations being tested that cannot be controlled  
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Personality theory


  • Freud produced a very complete model of human experience. The concepts of id, ego and superego take account of the three influences of instinct, logic and society on both human behaviour in general and individual differences.
  •  Freud has successfully described the experience of being pulled in different directions when making decisions. The structural model can thus be said to be helpful s a phenomenological model.


  •  Ideas such as id and ego- and even instinct- are rather abstract and very difficult to study. Many psychologists are uncomfortable with concepts like this. If a concept cannot be studied scientifically, its scientific status is poor.
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Psychosexual development theory Strengths


  • Freud was correct to say that our early years and early relationships with our families affect our development.

  • Probably correct that the themes of dependency, separation and rivalry can be important aspects of the child’s development.

  • Fairly strong support for the existence of oral and anal personalities. E.g. measures of orality reliably distinguish between different sorts of criminals. The three anal characteristics do tend to cluster in the same people and are associated with attitudes to body illumination and political views. 

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Psychosexual development theory Weakesses


  • Freud probably overemphasised the importance of body parts, libido and the “sexual” nature of children’s development. Although his general ideas have validity, some of the specifics of his theory do not.

  • Freud appears to have over emphasised the importance of the Oedipus complex. Modern research (such as studies of single and gay parent families) suggests that even though three-way family dynamics of this sort do occur, they are not strongly associated with later psychological development. In these studies, the absence of the Oedipus complex appears to have had no impact on development.  

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