ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Psychodynamic Explanation for Gender Differences

Updated on October 7, 2015

"The Subconscious"

It's all about the mysterious and blurry subconscious!
It's all about the mysterious and blurry subconscious! | Source

What does the Psychodynamic Approach say about Gender Differences?

You may be familiar, or at least have heard of, the famous psychodynamic theorist Sigmund Freud. Maybe even the branch of psychology he invented: The Psychodynamic Approach.

Quite shockingly to some, Freud's theories and ideas have been applied to try to explain the mysteries behind gender differences.

The chief questions: 1. Why do they exist? 2. How do they develop?

[Readers should be warned that the Psychodynamic Approach revolves around the idea that children have sexual desires for their parents. This may be disturbing for the easily offended]

The psychodynamic approach however is not the only branch of psychology with its convincing ideas about gender differences, see also:

Key Principles of the Psychodynamic Approach About Gender Differences

  • The unconscious mind results in our gender differences.
  • A healthy person will have already identified his gender by the age of five.
  • Subconscious conflicts of sexual desire for the parent of our opposite sex results in a lot of gender differences.

Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory

Freud's theory states that we all went through, are going through, or should have gone through five important psychosexual developmental stages of our lives - these stages define men and women and even our personalities.

It is possible to get stuck at each stage and stay there into our adulthood and this can explain dysfunctional personalities: see here for more.

Freud's Thoughts

Big Freud himself - pondering about any other sexual desires young children might have.
Big Freud himself - pondering about any other sexual desires young children might have. | Source

Freud's Five Stages of Psychosexual Development and Gender Differences

Stages one (oral) and two (anal)
These are gender ambiguous - children in these stages have not yet begun to identify as any gender, they merely explore different ways of receiving pleasure from their mouths and anuses. These stages last up until three years of age.

Stage Three (Phallic)
Children begin forming ideas of what it means to be masculine and feminine and which of those they should be. They explore their own genitalia and at the same time observe, compare and realise the differences between theirs and others. This stage lasts up until the age of 6.

It is at this point that boys begin to form sexual desires for their mothers and girls for their fathers.

Oedipus - from the Greek mythological tale where the King Oedpius ends up sleeping with his mother (unknowingly) and then gauging his own eyes out.
Oedipus - from the Greek mythological tale where the King Oedpius ends up sleeping with his mother (unknowingly) and then gauging his own eyes out. | Source

The Oedipus Complex and Gender Differences

The Oedipus complex is something that Freud theorised about. It states that young boys in the phallic stage develop a sexual lust for their mothers and subsequently feel very threatened by their fathers.

This causes them to become jealous of their fathers to the point that they wish their fathers died. Consequently, the boys become afraid of their fathers and become worried that their fathers will find out about the lustful desires they have. Freud states that the boys develop something known as "castration anxiety" in which the boys worry that their father will remove their penises as a punishment for their inappropriate desires.

Freud says that the boys fear their father because he has a larger penis, the boys also think that fathers have castrated their mothers because they do not have penises - making the threat of castration real and adding to the anxiety.

The result of all of this is that boys will try and behave like their fathers to reduce the risk of castration. They also want to be more like their fathers because they are the ones who have their mothers in the way that they want them - sexually.

The name 'Electra' comes from Greek mythology. She hates her mother for killing her father and plots revenge against her with her brother.
The name 'Electra' comes from Greek mythology. She hates her mother for killing her father and plots revenge against her with her brother. | Source

The Electra Complex and Gender Differences

The Electra complex is the proposed counterpart to the Oedipus complex: it is the idea that little girls in the phallic stage have sexual desires for their fathers.

In addition the girls, realising that they do not have a penis, believe that they have already been castrated and feel cheated - blaming their mothers and forming a hatred for them.

Girls develop something known to Freud as 'penis envy' in which they long for a penis like they see males have. They soon realise that they will not get a penis and instead fill this desire with the desire for a baby, which they want their fathers to provide. This is where the sexual desire for their father arises from.

Girls, although hating their mothers, fear the loss of their mother's love and are afraid that they will lose it if it comes to light that they desire their fathers. Therefore, girls like boys, identify with their mothers and behave like they do in order to appease their mothers and become more attractive to their fathers.

Freud's Evidence for his Oedipus and Electra Complexes

Freud only really provides one piece of evidence for his theory and it is based on only one child. Further to that, there are many criticisms for this sole experiment! For this reason, I urge readers not to take Freud's views too seriously.

Freud's Famous Case study with Little Hans (1909)

  • Little Hans was a boy aged five and so, according to Freud, in the phallic stage of his psychosexual development.
  • He had a phobia of horses.
  • Freud concluded from details given to him by the boy's father that:
  1. Because the boy was more afraid of: large white horses, horses with black around the mouth and horses with black blinkers on, the boy was afraid of his father.
  2. The black blinkers represented the father's glasses, the black mouth his beard, and the size and white colour his father's white skin and relative size.
  3. The boy was also afraid of horses falling down and this, according to Freud, represented the boys' guilt for wanting his father to drop dead.

What do you think?

How would you describe the psychodynamic explanation for gender differences?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      newenglandsun 

      5 years ago

      It would also depend upon the circumstances of the gender difference development. Perhaps a father left the family. Thus, it would be difficult for a female to feel attraction to a parent they never met. Thus, I am forced to consider other explanations.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR

      DK 

      5 years ago from London

      Indeed! Hormones and gene expression are very important - and the foundation of the biological approach's explanation for gender differences!

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 

      5 years ago from Southern California

      I think that the key also includes the physiological difference in the hormones of each gender. Without them it would be difficult to feel gender.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)