Oedipus complex, a concept used in psychoanalysis, is a child's unconscious
desire for the exclusive love of the parent of the opposite sex. This desire
includes jealousy toward the parent of the same sex and the unconscious wish for
that parent's death.
The term Oedipus complex was first used by the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund
Freud. It comes from the myth of Oedipus, a Greek hero who
unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. Freud used the term to
describe the unconscious feelings of children of both sexes toward their
parents. However, later researchers used the term Electra complex for the
complex in girls. According to Greek legend, a woman named Electra helped plan
the murder of her mother.
Freud believed that the Oedipus complex is a normal part of human psychological
growth. The Oedipal phase of development is commonly considered to last from the
age of 21/2 to 6. During this period, children experience intense feelings--love
and hate, yearning and jealousy, fear and anger--that produce emotional
conflicts. Most people outgrow the Oedipal phase, but some mentally ill
individuals have a strong Oedipus complex as adults. According to Freud, the
principal reason for the weakening of the complex in boys is the fear of
punishment from the father.
Freud thought that all peoples experience the Oedipus complex. But many
anthropologists and researchers in psychoanalysis doubt that the complex exists
in certain non-Western societies. They believe it develops as a result of a
person's social environment and does not occur in everyone.