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Oedipus Complex

  1. Barnaby B. Barratt

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0622

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Barratt, B. B. 2010. Oedipus Complex. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Prescott, AZ

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The Oedipus complex is a psychoanalytic concept that refers to psychological conflicts experienced by every individual. The complex was named by Sigmund Freud in 1910 after the Greek tragedy of King Oedipus (Freud, 1910/1957). As a baby, Oedipus narrowly escaped being killed by his father. Later he unknowingly killed his father and inadvertently married his mother. When he came to realize what he had done—that the man he had killed was his father, and that the woman he was having sex with was his mother—he was so horrified that he blinded himself and gave up his kingdom. The story suggests how there may be aggressive competition between fathers and sons. It also shows how powerful is the taboo against incest, and how incestuous feelings may cause intense guilt. Freud held that every boy struggles with such feelings. Later he extended this theory to girls, because they have feelings of rivalry toward their mother figures as a consequence of harboring secret erotic feelings toward their father figures (Freud, 1933/1964). Psychoanalysts view these conflicts as entirely normal, although they are often the source of conflicts in later life (Young, 2001).