Is  Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex (with respect to either the girl or the boy) a valid concept?Is  Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex (with respect to either the girl or the boy) a...

Is  Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex (with respect to either the girl or the boy) a valid concept?

Is  Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex (with respect to either the girl or the boy) a valid concept?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Freud's concept of the Oedipus complex (and Electra complex as it applies to women) was set forward as an axiom to the earlier acceptance of many philosophers and students in the field. However, one must admit that this was a very early assumption out of which a lot was drawn from Freud's own personal experiences with his father and mother, rather than from empirical or qualitative studies. Therefore, that leaves a lot of room for speculation.

What is accepted is that children do go through a stage in their early childhood where undoubtedly they will identify themselves with the opposite gender as a result of their developing curiosity, the connection to the family member, and the care and safety they feel around them.

Yet other concepts within the theory such as girls having penis envy and boys hating their Dads to keep their moms to themselves is highly questionable and has been questioned by women studies groups and by many modern researchers who have noticed that Freud's problem was not that he established his hypothesis, but that he lacked enough variables to proof himself correct or incorrect.

In short, it is an accepted notion as a behavioral aspect that kids tend to shift from one parent to another. Is it a theory? No. Is it a paradigm? No. It is simply a strong hypothesis that has yet to be made into a valid construct.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, this theory is completely unprovable and there is, therefore, no way to know whether it is a valid concept.

It does seem likely to me that most small boys become sexually interested in their mothers.  Their mother is, after all, the woman they are around most and she is a woman who shows them affection.  Therefore, it seems likely that their early sexual desires would focus to some degree on her.

However, I do not see that this necessarily means that they will hate their fathers.  There is of course conflict between children and their fathers.  But there is no reason to assume that that conflict is caused by jealousy of their father's possession of their mother.

So I do not discount this theory completely, but neither do I regard it as a concept that has been proven valid.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yuck! I highlight other people in declaring that Freud is definitely a thinker who makes us, in turn, think, but that does not mean that his theories are proved or empirically shown to be true. Certainly they provoke reactions which is a good thing in this era of free speech, but these ideas are open to debate and refutation. A cigar is only just a cigar sometimes, after all. Or to put it another way, everything that is longer than it is wider does not have phallic significance. Fancy a smoke, anyone?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Freud has been mostly discredited, and a lot of people were disturbed by this theory more than others.  Psychologists describe a person's early experiences with love as a love map.  All of our early relationships, including those with our mother and father, help us form this love map.  So since our mother is one of the first people we love, naturally we will be influenced by her.  But we are influenced by our father's love too.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What's frustrating is that many people quote Freud as if he's written in stone, infallible, irrefutable fact. What I've read of his theories, and I'll be honest, it's mostly what others have written about his theory as it applies to Hamlet, some of his theories seem reasonable and others seem absurd. But I do agree with the above poster who said his theories really can't be proven.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I absolutely do not think those concepts of his are valid. He is called the 'Father of Psychology" and has had made valuable contributions, but his gender theories are not ones that I ever saw any validity with in my own experiences, or that of children around me, and nor have I known of another reputable study to back any of those theories up with any evidence.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Freud puts the Oedipus stage as occurring between 3 and 5 years of age. I have always found it hard to believe that a young boy or girl could have erotic feelings towards anyone at that age, especially a mother or father.