The main difference between Oedipus complex and Electra complex is that Oedipus complex is relevant to both girls and boys while Electra complex is specifically relevant to girls.
Sigmund Freud developed the concept of Oedipus Complex to describe a child’s sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and a sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex. Later, Carl Jung introduced Electra complex, which is the female equivalent of Oedipus complex. However, we often use Oedipus complex as a general term to describe both Oedipus and Electra complexes.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Oedipus Complex
– Definition, Characteristics, Development
2. What is Electra Complex
– Definition, Characteristics, Development
3. What is the Difference Between Oedipus Complex and Electra Complex
– Comparison of Key Differences
Carl Jung, Electra Complex, Oedipus Complex, Sigmund Freud
What is Oedipus Complex
Oedipus complex is a term Sigmund Freud used in his psychoanalytic theory of sexual drive. This term refers to a child’s sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and a sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex. According to Freud, this complex occurs during the phallic stage of development (around 3 – 6 years) in children. Although these feelings and desires are unconscious and involuntary, they have a major impact on a child’s development.
Freud first talked about this concept in his book The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), but it was in the 1910s that this term actually began to be used. This term is named after the titular protagonist in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, who killed his father, married his mother unknowingly.
Moreover, it is also important to note that people use Oedipus complex as a general term to describe both Oedipus and Electra complexes. However, Oedipus complex particularly refers to a boy’s erotic desire for his mother and resentment, envy and rivalry towards his mother. Moreover, Freud describes how the boy wishes to possess his mother and take the position of his father, who he views as a rival for the mother’s affections.
These hostile feelings towards the father gradually lead to castration anxiety, which the boy’s irrational fear that the father will castrate him as punishment. Then the boy gradually starts to identify with the father as a way to cope with this castration anxiety. He starts to adopt the values, attitudes and characteristics of his father, for example, gender roles and masculine personality. Through this process, the father becomes a role model instead of a rival, and boys acquire their superego and the male sex role. Moreover, boys’ desire for mother is substituted with the desire for other women.
What is Electra Complex
Electra complex is the female equivalent of the Oedipus complex. Carl Jung introduced this concept in his Theory of Psychoanalysis in 1913; however, Freud did not accept this theory as he believed that Oedipus complex applies to both boys and girls although they experience it differently.
What happens in the Electra complex is that girls aged 3 to 6 years become unconsciously attracted to their father and develop hostile feelings towards mothers, seeing them as their rivals. Penis envy is an element in female psychosexual development, where the daughter blames the mother for depriving her of a penis. Eventually, this resentment leads the girl to identify with and emulate the mother, incorporating many of the mother’s characteristics into her ego.
Difference Between Oedipus Complex and Electra Complex
Oedipus Complex is a Freudian concept that describes a child’s sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and a sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex while Electra complex is a non-Freudian concept that describes a girls’ adoration and attraction to their fathers and resentment, hostility and rivalry towards their mothers.
Sigmund Freud introduced Oedipus complex in 1899; Carl Jung introduced Electra complex in 1913 by Carl Jung as a female counterpart of Oedipus complex.
Moreover, Oedipus complex is traditionally used to describe a boy’s attraction towards the mother and sense of rivalry with father. In contrast, Electra complex describes a girl’s attraction towards the father and sense of rivalry with mother.
In Oedipus complex, boys experience castration anxiety while in Electra complex, girls experience penis envy.
Oedipus Complex is a Freudian concept that describes a child’s sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and a sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex. In contrast, Electra complex is a non-Freudian concept that describes a girls’ adoration and attraction to their fathers and resentment, hostility and rivalry towards their mothers. Thus, this is the main difference between Oedipus complex and Electra complex.
1. Cherry, Kendra. “What Is the Electra Complex in Psychoanalytic Theory?” Verywell Mind, 12 Aug. 2019, Available here.
2. McLeod, Saul. “Oedipal Complex.” Simple Psychology, Available here.
1. “young, girl, daughter, kid, child, dad, father, grandfather, family, holding hands” (CC0) via Pxfuel
2. “woman kissing boy, woman, black, bubble, jacket, carrying, boy, kissing, lips, daytime” (CC0) via Pxfuel
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