The Oedipus complex

The Oedipus complex is the term coined by Freud to refer to a set of emotions and feelings, in many cases contradictory, in relation to the parents. When the child "falls in love" with the parent of the opposite sex, the other parent becoming a rival, many emotions and conflicts come into play determined by the presence of ambivalent feelings of love and feelings of hostility.

It is a natural reaction that is part of their development, and that constitutes a step in the way of the formation of their psychosexual and gender identity.

In a period of childhood, around 4-6 years, it is common to observe certain attitudes in children: jealousy when the parents embrace, possession of one of them, rivalry with the other, etc.The Oedipus complex is something natural that should not alarm us since it is something transitory that is solved with time as the boy or girl reaches maturity.


The history of the Oedipus complex

The Oedipus complex is a central concept in the Psychoanalytic Theory of Sigmund Freud. He used the term "Oedipus complex", taking it from a Greek tragedy of Sophocles, in which Oedipus, unaware that they are his parents, falls in love with his mother, Queen Jocasta, and kills his father, King Thebes, for take his place

Freud refers to the complex as a manifestation of the love or sexual desire of the boy or girl, it would be the unconscious representation through which that desire is expressed.

The Oedipus complex in the development of children

The Oedipus complex occurs within the development, specifically in one of the early stages of the psychosexual development of children. Between the three and five years old, boys and girls become aware of their gender identity and begin a process in which they identify as children or as girls. In this process, the parents become masculine and feminine models that tend to imitate.


By taking as a model the progenitor who defines gender, they want to be like him or her and therefore also want the love of the other parent.

Manifestations of the Oedipus complex in children

The child experiences a feeling of love towards the mother, idealizes it and is possessive of it. He wants his love and his attentions. Compete for the mother with other close males, usually with the father who becomes a rival. The father is a rival and feelings of hostility and hatred appear. It is normal for the child to move away from the father who takes away the protagonism with the mother. This rivalry with other close men, brothers of a similar age, etc. can also occur.

The Electra complex: Oedipus complex in girls

In the case of girls, the Oedipus complex is known as the Electra complex. It is the complement of the Oedipus complex. In this case, the girl experiences positive feelings of love towards the father and the mother becomes a rival who awakens hostility and negative feelings.


Consequences of the Oedipus complex

The Oedipus complex, or Electra, is a natural occurrence in most children of that age range. Although it manifests with some changes in attitude and behavior, it is usually a temporary event that ends when the child matures. In most cases the consequences do not matter anymore.

In some cases, when the Oedipus complex does not resolve naturally, it can have repercussions on the child's psychosexual development. In these cases it usually has implications in the future relationships of couple that establish and in their well-being.

Therefore, it is very important to favor an adequate and natural resolution of the Oedipus or Electra complex.

Tricks to face the Oedipus complex and achieve an adequate solution.

1. The most normal thing is that it resolves naturally, therefore, we should not be alarmed by the attitudes of the boy or girl.

2. Avoid teasing, although it may seem funny to us.

3. Do not reinforce the complex. Sometimes, in an unconscious way, we reinforce the alliance with the child or neglect it when we perceive ourselves as loved or hated. It is very important not to take it personally and not to enter the game.

4. Avoid increasing your jealousy. Sometimes, we may find it funny that the boy or girl is jealous, but avoid showing affection towards your partner for that purpose.

5. Find your intimate moments with your partner and teaches the child to respect and accept them.

6. Show your unconditional love and Teach him that you can share the affection that is not necessary to compete for it.

7. Procure play time and fun for the child alone with the parent who awakens negative feelings. In this way we will compensate feelings of hostility and rivalry with positive feelings.

8. Beware of same-sex siblings at similar ages, since they can experience the complex at the same time being the object of hostility each of them.

9. Pay special attention if the couple is in separation phase, since hostilities and negative feelings can be reinforced.

Celia Rodríguez Ruiz. Clinical health psychologist. Specialist in pedagogy and child and youth psychology. Director of Educa and Learn. Author of the collection Stimulate Reading and Writing Processes.

Video: The Oedipus Complex


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