When does Freud say that gender development occur?
During the phallic stage, age 3-6. It is within this stage that children experience the Oedipus complex or the Electra complex. These stages are crucial in the formation of gender identity.
What is the Oedipus complex?
In the phallic stage, boys develop incestuous feeling towards their mother. This is Freud’s explanation of how a boy resolves his love for his mother and feelings of rivalry towards his father by realising his father is more powerful than he is and out of castration anxiety, the boy identifies with his father.
What is the Electra complex?
A term proposed by the Neo-Freudian Carl Jung which refers to a process similar to the Oedipus complex. In girls, an attraction to and penis envy of their father is resolved when they accept they will never have a penis and substitute this envy for the desire to have children, hence identifying with their mother.
What is identification?
A desire to be associated with a particular person or group because they possess certain desirable characteristics. E.g. a same-sex parent as a means of resolving their complexes.
What is internalisation?
An individual adopts the attitude and/or behaviour of another, and hence internalises their gender identity.
How did Freud justify the Oedipus complex?
What is the Little Hans study?
Hans was a five year old boy with a morbid fear of being bitten by a horse.
His fear seemed to have stemmed from when he saw a horse collapse and die in a street.
However, Freud’s interpretation was that Hans’ fear of being bitten represented his fear of castration, due to his love for his mother.
He suggested Hans transferred his fear of his father onto horse through displacement.
What is the evaluation for the psychodynamic explanations?
Research does not support the Oedipus complex
Inadequate account of female development
What about non-nuclear families?
Lack of scientific rigour
Evaluation point for psychodynamic explanations: Research does not support the Oedipus complex
Freud’s theory implies that sons of very punitive and harsh fathers should go on to develop a more robust sense of gender identity than other boys because higher levels of anxiety should produce stronger identification with the aggressor.
However, Blakemore and Hill have found that boys with more liberal fathers tend to be more secure in their masculine identity, undermining Freud’s concept.
Evaluation point for psychodynamic explanations: Inadequate account of female development
The feminist psychoanalyst Karen Horney argues that a more powerful emotion than penis envy is the male experience of ‘womb envy’. Horney argued that penis envy was a cultural concept, rather than an innate trait, and challenged the idea that female gender development was founded on a desire to want to be like men.
Evaluation point for psychodynamic explanations: What about non-nuclear families?
Freud’s theory relies on a child having two-parents of different genders. We can assume that being raised in a non-nuclear family would have an adverse effect on a child’s gender development. However, evidence does not support this, Golombok demonstrated how children form single parent families went on to develop normal gender identities. Similarly Green, who studied 37 children raised by gay or transgender parents, found that only 1 had a gender identity that was described ‘non-typical’.
Evaluation point for psychodynamic explanations: Lack of scientific rigour
Many of the concepts he refers to in his account of gender development have an unconscious nature and are therefore untestable. This question the rigour of his methodology.
It also contrasts sharply with other explanation of gender development that are based on objective, verifiable evidence derived from controlled lab studies. e.g the biological approach.
This make Freud’s theory pseudoscientific as his key ideas cannot be falsified.