Oedipus complex (A 5 point guide)

What is the Oedipus complex?

The Oedipal complex, otherwise called the Oedipus complex, is a term used by Sigmund Freud as part of his hypothesis of psychosexual stages of development.

The Oedipus complex depicts a child’s jealousy and anger toward his or her same-sex parent and feelings of desire for the opposite-sex parent.

Basically, a boy feels that he is rivaling his dad for possession of his mom, while a girl feels that she is competing with her mom for her dad’s expressions of love.

According to Freud, children view their same-sex parent as an adversary for the other opposite-sex parent’s attention and expressions of love. 

  • What is the origin of the Oedipus complex? 

The complex is named after Oedipus Rex who is the main character in Sophocles’ tragic play.

In the story, Oedipus Rex unwittingly murders his dad and weds his mom. 

As indicated by Freud’s theory, the psychosexual development in adolescence occurs in stages.

Each stage speaks to the obsession of libido on a different part of the body.

Freud accepted that as you develop physically, certain parts of your body become wellsprings of delight, dissatisfaction, or both.

Today, these body parts are ordinarily alluded to as erogenous zones when discussing sexual pleasure.

According to Freud, the stages of psychosexual development include: 

  • Oralstage occurs from birth to about a year and a half. It includes an obsession with the mouth, and the joy of sucking, licking, biting and chewing
  • Analstage happens between a year and a half and 3 years old. It focuses on the delight of developing healthy toilet training habits and bowel elimination.
  • Phallicstage This stage runs from ages 3 to 5. It’s accepted to be the most significant stage in psychosexual development in which young boys and girls create sound substitutes for the attraction to the opposite-sex parent.
  • Latencystage This stage happens somewhere in the range of 5 and 12 years old or adolesence, during which a child develops healthy dormant feelings for the opposite sex.
  • Genitalstage This stage happens from age 12, or pubescence, to adulthood. The maturation of healthy sexual interests occurs during this time as the entirety of the other stages are incorporated into the psyche. This takes into account healthy sexual feelings and behavior.

As per Freud, the initial five years of life are significant in the development and improvement of our grown-up character.

During this time, he thought we built our ability to control and direct our sexual desires into socially worthy practices. 

In view of his hypothesis, the Oedipus complex assumes a noteworthy role in the phallic stage, which occurs between roughly 3 and 6 years old.

In this stage, the child’’s libido is focused on the genitalia. 

  • How Does the Oedipus Complex Work? 

In the psychoanalytic hypothesis, the Oedipus complex alludes to the child’s longing for sexual involvement with the opposite sex parent, especially a young boy’s attraction toward his mom.

This attraction is kept out of cognitive awareness, however, Freud thought that it still had an impact on a child’s conduct and plays a major role in development. 

Freud stated that the Oedipus complex played a significant role in the phallic phase of psychosexual development.

He also believed that successful completion of this stage included relating to the same-sex parent which eventually would prompt developing a mature sexual identity.

As indicated by Freud, the boy wishes to have his mom and get rid of his dad, who the child sees as competition for the mother’s affections. 

The Oedipus complex happens in the phallic phase of psychosexual development between the ages of three(3) and five(5).

The phallic stage is a significant part of shaping sexual character. 

During this phase of development, Freud proposed that the child builds up a sexual fascination to their opposite-sex parent and a threatening attitude toward the same-sex parent. 

  • Signs of the Oedipus Complex 

So what are some of the signs of the Oedipal complex?

Freud proposed that there are various practices that children participate in that are really an aftereffect of this complex.

Some social signs of the complex may include a boy expressing the possessiveness of his mom and telling his dad not to hug or kiss his mother.

Young girls at this age may pronounce that they intend to wed their dads when they grow up. 

  • What are the signs and symptoms of the Oedipus complex?

The signs and symptoms of the Oedipus complex are not always obvious. They can involve behaviors that parents do not even notice. 

Here are some symptoms that indicate a child has an Oedipus complex: 

  • a boy who acts possessive of his mom and tells the dad not to touch her 
  • a kid who insists on sleeping between parents
  • a girl who announces she needs to wed her dad when she grows up 
  • a child who wants the parent of the opposite sex to leave town with the goal that they can take their spot

The analogous stage for girls is known as the Electra complex in which young girls feel a desire for their dads and jealousy of their moms.

The term Electra complex was first described by Carl Jung. Freud stated that the term Oedipus complex applied to both boys and girls, in spite of the fact that each sex experiences it in different ways. 

Freud likewise proposed that when girls figure out that they do not have a penis, they create penis envy and hatred toward their moms for bringing them into the world insufficiently equipped.

Eventually, this disdain becomes an approach to identify with the mom and internalize the characteristics and attributes of her same-sex parent. 

Freud’s perspectives on female sexuality was his most vigorously criticized idea.

The psychoanalyst Karen Horney disproved Freud’s idea of penis envy and rather proposed that men experience womb envy because of their failure to carry children.

Freud himself conceded that his understanding of women was not exactly figured out.

“We think less about the sexual character of young women than that of young men,” he clarified. “However, we need not feel embarrassed about this differentiation. All things considered, the sexual life of an adult woman is a ‘dark continent’ for psychology.” 

  • How Is the Oedipus Complex Resolved? 

At each stage in Freud’s hypothesis of psychosexual development, kids face a developmental conflict that must be resolved to develop a healthy adult personality.

In order to become an adult with solid character, the child must relate to the same-sex parent to resolve the conflict of the phallic stage. 

So how does the child approach resolving the Oedipus complex?

Freud proposed that while the basic id needs to dispose of the dad, the more practical ego realizes that the dad is a lot more grounded. Additionally, the boy also has a positive connection to the father.

The id, as you may recall, is the part of the unconscious that seeks to immediately satisfy all of the unconscious urges.

The ego is the part of the character that develops to intervene between the desires of the id and the logical components of the real world. 

According to Freud, boys at that point experience what he called castration anxiety, a dread of both figurative and literal emasculation.

Freud believed that as the child becomes aware of the physical differences between males and females, he expects that the female’s penis has been removed and that his dad will likewise castrate him as a punishment for desiring his mom. 

So as to resolve the conflict, “identification” kicks in. It is now that the superego is formed.

The super-ego turns into a kind of inner moral authority, an internalization of the father figure that strives to get rid of the urges of the id and develop the personality into idealistic standards.

In The Ego and the Id, Freud clarified the child’s superego holds the character of the dad and that the strong feelings of the Oedipus complex are then repressed.

External factors including religious teachings, social standards, and other cultural influences help add to the restraint of the Oedipal complex. 

It is out of this that the child’s conscience emerges, or his general understanding of good and bad.

Freud additionally thought that these repressed feelings might also bring about an unconscious feeling of guilt.

While this guilt may not be consciously felt, it can, in any case, have an impact on the person’s conscious actions.

  • What If the Oedipus Complex Is Not Resolved?

So what happens when the Oedipus complex isn’t successfully resolved? As when conflicts at other psychosexual stages are not resolved, an obsession can result.

Freud proposed that young men who do not manage this conflict effectively become “mother-fixated” while young women become “father-fixated.”

This can lead to challenges in achieving mature adult romantic relationships and clashes with same-sex competitiveness.

Psychoanalysis focuses on helping resolve these conflicts. 

  • Freud’s Oedipus complex resolution

As indicated by Freud, a child must overcome conflicts at every one of the sexual stages to be able to develop normal sexual needs and practices.

If the Oedipus complex is not successfully resolved during the phallic stage, an undesirable obsession can form and remain.

This leads boys to end up focused on their moms and girls fixated on their dads, making them choose romantic partners that look like their opposite-sex parents as grown-ups. 

  • What can I take away from this article about the Oedipus complex? 

The Oedipus complex is one of the most examined and scrutinized issues in psychology.

Specialists have, and will probably keep on having, differing views and opinions on the complex and whether it exists and to what degree. 

If you’re worried about your child’s behavior, discuss this with your child’s pediatrician or a psychologist. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Oedipus complex: 

What is the Oedipus complex in psychology?

The Oedipus complex was originally described by psychoanalyst 
Sigmund Freud as one of the most significant stages of a child’s psychosexual development.

During this stage, young boys feel attracted to their mothers and young girls are attracted to their fathers.

This creates envy of the same-sex parent and desire for the opposite-sex parent. 

Is the Oedipus complex normal?

According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is a psychosexual stage that every child goes through to ultimately become a mature adult. 

What age does the Oedipus complex occur?

Between ages 3-6. 

What’s it called when a son is in love with his mother?

The Oedipus complex describes the stage of development where children have a desire for their opposite-sex parent. 

In this blog article, we discussed what the Oedipus complex is, signs and symptoms in children, and how people resolve the conflict in this stage of development. 

  • The Oedipus Complex 1st Edition by Éric Smadja (Author)
  • The Oedipus Complex 1st Edition by Rhona M. Fear  (Author)
  • Oedipus and the Oedipus Complex: A Revision 1st Edition by Dietmar Seel (Author), Burkhard Ullrich (Author), Florian Daniel Zepf (Author), Siegfried Zepf (Author)
  • The Oedipus Complex Today: Clinical Implications Paperback – December 31, 1989, by Ronald Britton  (Author), Michael Feldman (Author), Edna O’Shaughnessy (Author), John Steiner (Editor)


  1. Karlsson, G. Phallic stage. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. 2017. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1410-1
  1. Ahmed S. (2012).Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory Oedipus complex: A critical study with reference to D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers.” DOI:10.5897/IJEL11.137
  1. American Psychological Association. Electra complex.
  1. Borovecki-Jakovljev S, et al. (2005). The Oedipus complex in contemporary psychoanalysis.hack.srce.hr/file/8329
  1. Hartke, R. The Oedipus complex: A confrontation at the central crossroads of psychoanalysis. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 2015;97(3):893-913. doi:10.1111/1745-8315.12561