In psychology, what does the expression "father complex" refer to?

1 Answer | Add Yours

mscw's profile pic

mscw | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

In psychology, the term "father complex" is "a group of unconscious associations, or a strong unconscious impulses [sic] - which specifically pertains to the image or archetype of the father".  This complex can be either positive, in that a person may impulsively seek out other stereotypically "fatherly" figures and attributes in their lives, or negative, in that a person may mistrust or avoid people with these stereotypical "fatherly" attributes. 

Sigmund Freud coined this term to describe the complex reactions of male children to their fathers and father-like figures, as in the Oedipus Complex . Carl Jung, on the other hand, argued that both male and female children could suffer from a "father complex".

The object of the "father" is important because it

...has occupied and continues to occupy such a prominent place in the child’s psyche. Obtaining his [the father's] approval is one of the organism’s basic goals as a small child. (don-nix.com)

For women, a positive father complex can cause disconnection from the society of women and a drive to achieve very visible goals, as in a male world.

A woman with a "positive father complex", although seemingly a positive attribute, is actually the woman or girl who has formed her understanding of the world, power and gender through a strong father figure and a diminutive (at best) mother figure. Alternately, she may feel she has missed the male attention she craved from the father figure in her life and seeks it out in adulthood.

...this kind of woman owes her self-esteem to the masculine approval, in doing so she puts herself in their hands and in what they want her to be. If she’s lucky to find a great husband who positively encourages her to grow, good for her (but she’ll always be dependent on him), however she can easily end up with a man who does with her whatever he likes... (Dialectical Psychology)

Feminism and societal reactions to the "father complex" are explored in the following quotation: 

The concept of the patriarchy, with its resentments about male control, is the father complex perceived at the level of society. Feminism and its attempts to get free of male domination is also a reaction to the father complex. Control issues of all kinds may be rooted in the Father Complex and its rage over male interference. (don-nix.com)

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,930 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question