Oedipus complex

Oedipus complex; what is? The designation of the term Oedipus complex in the structure of psychoanalysis. The main symptoms of this condition and the characteristics of its occurrence in boys and girls. The main principles of correction and advice to parents. The Oedipus complex is a child’s unconscious sexual attraction to a parent of the opposite sex. That is, a boy (girl) between the ages of 3 and 5, on average, begins to experience an attraction to his mother (father), which he is not aware of. Jealousy and competition for them towards a parent of the same sex also occur. This term often refers to boys, but in some cases, it can also be seen in girls.

Description of the Oedipus complex

The child’s first attachment to one of his parents manifests in his sexuality and the desire to express it. The child, who identifies with any gender, tries to find someone who uniquely treats him. Most often, this is a parent of the opposite sex. For example, a boy feels strong affection for his mother and is jealous of her attention to his father. The name of this complex comes from the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus. It is a man who unknowingly killed his father and then married his mother. Oedipus was raised separately and did not know his birth parents; by an unfortunate accident, he met his father many years later and killed him. Then, without knowing the truth, he married his mother and even had children.

Of course, the situation with the Oedipus complex is not so sad. Sigmund Freud describes it as a stage in the normal development of boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 5. In addition, this complex may not appear at all and may not cause any symptoms. The famous psychoanalyst admits that such behavior is a universal stage in forming the child’s psyche at this age. Using his example, he pointed out that he was fascinated by his mother and envied his father. The term was formally introduced in psychiatry in 1910 in one of Freud’s works, where he discusses the shaping of men’s preferences when choosing a partner. The most excellent psychiatrist of all time, Sigmund Freud, based his understanding of the development of the human psyche on the theory of sexuality. According to her, the child goes through several birth stages before puberty. Accordingly, the mind gradually develops. If any injuries or events occur, they can affect the child’s future.

Their manifestation depends on what stage the child was at that age:

  • Verbal level … Observed up to one and a half years of age. All experience and knowledge of the external world pass through the mouth. According to Freud, the child tends to direct sexual energy towards himself during this period. The child perceives the mother’s breast as the only source of pleasure for itself and does not separate it. At this stage of development of the human soul, self-confidence is formed. If the child receives less love, affection, and attention during this period, he will probably grow withdrawn.
  • Anal stage … Replaces oral intake for up to 3 years of a child’s life. Freud believed that the control of his physiological needs formed a vital habit at this stage of the child’s development. Naturally, the child is not ashamed of his actions and has tried to fulfill his duties after receiving parental approval to go to the potty. Depending on the reaction and attitude of the mother and father regarding potty training, one can assume options for mental development. Suppose the child was constantly spanked and punished for not being able to tolerate the potty, accordingly. In that case, there will be more restraint in the future. If the correct behavior is encouraged, she will be more open.
  • Phallic stage… Observed between the ages of 3 and 5 years. In other words, this is the stage of the Oedipus complex. Children were very interested in gender differences during this period, raising many questions about their birth. Interest is also shown in his own body; the child may begin to unconsciously touch the genitals regularly, which is no sign that he is a pervert. It is a normal reaction, which allows you to know this world and yourself. The first attachments also appear. The first woman for boys to target for communicating their sexuality is their mother. The kid grows up, realizes his gender, and gravitates towards the one he is most connected to. In addition, he may be jealous of his father, who acts as a “rival.” The kid is afraid of losing his love for himself,
  • Hidden Level … Viewed from 6 to 12 years. Specifically before puberty. During this period, the child’s sexuality is dormant and does not emerge. Then there is the development of understanding one’s “I”; concepts are formed, which should be followed, and a framework beyond which one should not go. In this way, the “Super -I”- develops a set of rules and norms of behavior dictated by others, which limit the possibilities of revealing one’s “I.” Compared to the previous stages, where the basic concepts were self-interest and the satisfaction of primitive physiological needs, a petite person begins to develop, taking into account the peculiarities of socialization in this world.
  • Genital stage … It starts from puberty to the end of life. It appears with an understanding of their sexual needs in relationships with the opposite sex and their implementation. Of course, this does not mean that when puberty begins, there is a period when a person needs sex. Most of the time, you need to direct your compassion in the necessary direction; you can express it even in simple communication. The desire to spend time together or the awareness of early attachment are the steps of sexuality that become a reality.

The main signs of the Oedipus complex

The manifestations of the Oedipus complex can vary depending on the individual characteristics of the child and his parents, the parenting method, and the level of liberalism in the family. Boys and girls who are in this period may also behave differently.

General elements and symbols

For both sexes, there are several changes in behavior that may indicate the development of the Oedipus complex:

  • Irritability … The child may behave nervously as he is under constant psychological pressure. It is difficult for him to cope with suddenly arising emotions and feelings, including jealousy.
  • Whimsical … The kid may refuse to do something if the father/mother is not around. The child tries to get attention from the parent with whom such a relationship has been formed in some way.
  • Difficulty with greetings … For example, if mom or dad go to work. It is challenging for a child to accept that you must leave a dear person all day. A sense of ownership arises, and the child becomes constantly irritated when the object of his affection is banished. The Oedipus complex is characterized by the fact that there will be only one parent, and such a characteristic develops between the ages of a child from 3 to 5 years.
  • Refusal to interact with peers … Common symptoms may include a child’s desire to play and interact with peers. The toddler prefers the other parent to have fun with friends.

Characteristics of the Oedipus complex in boys

For a boy, a mother from birth is the closest person who is always there. According to Freud, in the falling stage of mental development, it is clear that the mother is also a woman. Her love and parental care are considered the only sympathy during this period. A child who cannot distinguish between these loves perceives it personally as something unique and does not allow anyone to have the same. Jealousy of the father manifests itself in irritability, and constant crying, as soon as he tries to take the mother’s attention away from the child, disturbs her, or just talks. At that time, the child perceives itself with the mother as a whole and does not even allow the opportunity to share. The father is of the same sex and may compete for the child’s mother’s attention. That is, the little idyll that the child creates in his head does not allow for the possibility of competition.

Characteristics of the Oedipus complex in girls

A variant of the Oedipus complex may also be present in developing girls. Between the ages of 3 and 5, they associate themselves with the female gender. They realize their resemblance to their mothers, and the initial affection for them gradually develops into something more. Girls copy their mother’s behavior, inheriting her preferences and behavior. Additionally, they begin to analyze her choice of life partner and their father.

During this period, the ideology of real happiness in the family is formed, which their father personifies for girls. He is the specimen or prototype that the subconscious mind will retain throughout life. In the future, the girl will look for her soulmate, similar to her father. He may also be jealous of his mother.

Attention from a male, even if it’s a dad, will always be significant to a child of that age. If the father’s behavior is far from ideal and the girl eventually begins to treat him at least negatively, this will affect her future. She will have difficulty choosing partners and will not be able to trust them because the perfect prototype of who should be around have not been properly formed.

Oedipus complex
Oedipus complex

Tips for Parents

According to Freud, all the symptoms that appear during the period of the child’s mental development should be carefully considered. Regular signs of the Oedipus complex can cause a harmful fixation on experiences and become one of the reasons for the development of various mental disorders in the future.

Therefore, parents need to know how to get rid of the Oedipus complex for their children:

  • Confidence … First, you must ensure that the child can talk to at least one parent if he needs to. Most children feel lonely and unable to express their feelings to their fathers and mothers. If contact is established, getting rid of such symptoms will be much easier.
  • Attention … Most of the time, jealousy and affection for one of the parents can be caused by a lack of awareness. Children create their own stories. For example, a boy thinks that his mother does not love him or his father. You should not neglect the child and try to spend more time together (the three of us, if there are no other children). It is necessary to establish a healthy relationship between all family members and develop such behavior patterns that would satisfy everyone.
  • Communication … If all the questions that bother the child are left unanswered, he will be able to come up with another explanation for himself, which is not always correct. For example, suppose a girl does not understand why dad sometimes wants to talk to mom without giving information about her. In that case, she can decide that she is not loved. On a conscious level, the child will envy her mother for her father, who is her model of the idealist. You can help the child understand his place in the complex chain of human relationships by correctly explaining the difference between love for children and a partner.
  • Socialization … the child can’t grow up in a closed family circle, where he can consider only one type of love. It would help if you enrolled him in kindergarten, a variety of processes, where he will have the opportunity to communicate with his peers and make friends. This way can significantly reduce the manifestations of the Oedipus complex.


According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is just a temporary state of a child’s psyche that tries to find its ideal in its immediate environment, a child’s first attempt to inherit from its parents. Therefore, you should not immediately panic if he experiences a temporary sexual relationship with the other parent. Most of the time, this disappears without a trace of age. In other cases, when inflicted the trauma during such a period, the child can correct his experience and thereby worsen the symptoms and cause various abnormalities in the future.

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