Edexcel AS Psychology - Psychodynamic Approach - Case Study - Little Hans 1909

  • Created by: Ally
  • Created on: 21-03-12 13:38

Herbert Graf 'Little Hans'

The aim of the case study was to report the findings of the treatment of a five-year old boy for his phobia of horses.

Freud attempted to demonstrate that Little Hans's fear of horses was related to his Oedipus complex. During the phallic stage (3 and 6 years old) a boy develops an intense sexual love for his mother. Therefore the child will see his father as a rival and wants to get rid of him; however, the father is bigger and more powerful than the young child. The child then thinks that because he thinks of his father as a rival, that is father will castrate him - living with continual castration-threat anxiety is impossible, so the young child will develop a defence mechanism known as 'identification with the agressor'. He adopts his father's attitudes, mannerisms and actions; feeling that if his father seems him similarly to himself, he will not feel hostile towards him.

Freud used a case study method to investigate Little Hans' phobia. However, the case study was actually carried out by Hans' father who was a friend of Freud's. Clearly, we can question subjectivity here since Hans' father is interpreting Hans' responses to give onto Freud, who is then also interpreting the data for a second time.

The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old when he developed an interest in his 'widdler' (penis), and also those of other people. When Hans was about 3 years and 6 months old his mother told him not to touch his widdler or else she would call the doctor to come and cut it off. This stimulated Hans' castration fear and therefore the fear of his father.

When Hans was almost 5, Hans' father wrote to Freud explaining concerns about Hans. He described the main problem as: 'He is afraid




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