Standard Article

Object Relations Theory

  1. Jon Mills

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0614

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Mills, J. 2010. Object Relations Theory. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. International Federation for Psychoanalytic Education

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Object relations theory is a psychoanalytic contribution that emphasizes the role of the object in psychological processes, that is, the role of other persons or elements of others, most notably an individual's parents or a primary caregiver. More specifically, object relations refer to a theory of intrapsychic activity based on the internalization of functional aspects of the experience of others and how they relate to one another in an individual's mind. There are many conceptual nuances to this generic theory that are derived from several historical traditions comprising the evolution of psychoanalytic thought. According to Freud, an object is the most variable aspect of drive activity and can be the source of pleasure, pain, anxiety, and wish and fantasy formation, whether real or imagined, and it is necessary for psychic development.