SEX AND GENDER

Psychodynamic Theory of Gender Development

Psychodynamic Theory of Gender Development

The psychodynamic theory started with Freud who believed that our gender identity develops as a result of strong but unconscious sexual urges we have as a child. Between the ages of three and five a child will go through what he regards as the phallic stage in which he/she will develop strong sexual urges towards the parent of the opposite sex and therefore great jealously towards the parent of the same sex. A normally developing child will resolve this conflict by identifying with the parent of the same sex and copying his/her behaviour.

——————————————————-

The Oedipus complex This is the name given to the unconscious dilemma a boy experiences when he is very young. During the phallic stage he develops an attraction towards his mother and a fear of his father, who he believes may castrate him. In other words he is torn in two directions. In order to prevent the castration he rejects his mother and identifies with his father. He does this by aping his behaviour and copying his masculine characteristics.

——————————————————-

The Electra complex This is the name given to the unconscious dilemma a girl experiences when she is between three and five years old. During the phallic stage she develops an attraction towards her father and a fear that she will lose her mother’s love. In order to keep her mother’s love she rejects her father and identifies with her mother. She does this by aping her behaviour and copying her feminine characteristics. In this way female behaviour is transferred from one generation to another.

——————————————————-

Gender disturbances Freud believed that children who were brought up in households where one parent is absent are likely to have a much weaker sense of gender identity. He went even further by claiming that a boy brought up without a father is likely to develop into a homosexual. Recent research by Rekers and Moray (1990) also suggested that boys who grow up without a father-figure are more likely to have gender disturbances.

——————————————————-

Limitations of the psychodynamic theory Freud’s theories have been very influential but very few psychologists accept everything he has to say. His theories are based on the unconscious and for that reason are difficult to put to the test. Freud himself had very little evidence to support his case. There is also the argument that recent decades have seen an increase in lone-parent families but not an equivalent increase in the homosexual population. This fact works against Freud’s theory. The theory also tends to assume that homosexuality is abnormal and that gender disturbances are a bad thing.