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What Is the Electra Complex?

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Definition:

The Electra complex is a psychoanalytic term used to describe a girl's sense of competition with her mother for the affections of her father. It is comparable to the Oedipus complex.

According to Sigmund Freud, during female psychosexual development a young girl is initially attached to her mother. When she discovers that she does not have a penis, she becomes attached to her father and begins to resent her mother who she blames for her "castration." As a result, Freud believed that the girl then begin to identify with and emulate her mother out of fear of losing her love.

While the term Electra complex is frequently associated with Freud, it was actually Carl Jung who coined the term in 1913. Freud actually rejected the term and described it as an attempt "to emphasize the analogy between the attitude of the two sexes." Freud himself used the term feminine Oedipus attitude to describe what we now refer to as the Electra complex.

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References

Freud, Sigmund (1956). On Sexuality. Penguin Books Ltd.

Scott, J. (2005). Electra after Freud: myth and culture. Cornell Studies in the History of Psychiatry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

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