March 29, 2007


Caption: The little guys here are in the oral phase.

This is the fourth installment in Goat Rope's official Fun With Freud week. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to earlier entries.

Disclaimer: El Cabrero is neither a psychologist nor an orthodox Freudian. I think he was probably WAY wrong about a lot of things but that some of his basic ideas still have merit. Or are at least entertaining.

The area of his theory that most scandalized his contemporaries had to do with child development. He believed that the passions that drive adults are present in children from earliest days in a different form, who ordinarily go through a series of phases of development(oral, anal, phallic, latent, and mature adult).

Most scandalous of all was his theory of the Oedipus complex, which took its name from the classic Greek myth of the tyrant of Thebes who inadvertently killed his father and married his mother.

He believed that young children, especially boys (the psychology of females was...problematic for him) wanted exclusive possession of their mother or female caregiver and resented adult males, especially their fathers. He believed that how the child negotiated those early entanglements and conflicts shaped the rest of his life.

To put it mildly, his ideas on this point are not widely accepted today (although they do seem to fit for some people). Is there anything worth keeping in here?

Here's the official Goat Rope verdict: a little.

It's hard to deny that when kids roll out, it's all about the mouth as the main focus of energy and attention. After a while, they do become fascinated with all things having to do self control of certain bodily functions. Then there's the period where they run around playing with themselves (some people seem to get stuck there). After a while, about the time kids now enter school, they chill out and are fairly calm for a few years. Then, in adolescence, the beast reawakens.

That's pretty close.

And while not many people believe the Oedipus complex is a universal fact, there is a great and growing body of evidence that early interactions shape a child's approach to others over the course of a lifetime. Attachment theory was first developed by John Bowlby, a psychoanalyst, in partnership with Mary Ainsworth.

Freud's theory of child development has influenced many future theorists, even if some developed their ideas in direct opposition to his. Erik Erikson's theories of the stages of psycho-social development are a further elaboration of Freud's initial ideas.

His ideas have also influenced studies of how gender affects child development, particularly of how boys often come to define themselves in terms of separation while with girls relationships are more important.

The mother/child relationship is an emotionally powerful one, as El Cabrero was recently reminded in a conversation with his 3 year old grandson. I tried to say that his mother (my daughter) was a woman. "NO!," he screamed indignantly, "She's my MOM!"

That was pretty complex.

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. Speaking of family conflicts, the federal government reported in March that violence against intimate partners is down dramatically in recent years:

Criminal violence against intimate partners fell by nearly two-thirds in recent years and has reached a record low, according to preliminary government

The declines were greatest for nonfatal attacks, which fell by about 65 percent from 1993 to 2005, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Homicides among intimate partners dropped by roughly a third.

The figures are based on the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, which counts criminal abuse against spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends and former spouses, whether it's been reported to police or not. The information,collected in thousands of confidential interviews, is the most widely used instrument for charting U.S. crime trends.

Homicides involving a domestic partner were down by roughly a third over the same period, although sadly you wouldn't notice the decline from the all too frequent incidents of relationship homicide from watching the headlines. It's still unfortunately all too common and it's important to remember that domestic violence is still underreported.

A lot of the credit for this reduction should go to the domestic violence movement, which has worked long and hard to change laws and policies; educate the public, the police, the courts, etc. about the issues; and provide services to people facing intimate violence.

FEDERAL BUDGET. As the U.S. House takes up the budget, a number of groups are urging people to contact their representatives to support human needs funding. Here's a link to ECAP (Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities) and Sojourners on the topic. The vote may happen today, if you're interested, don't delay.



Jspiker said...

Who was the guy that did the rat studies about finding the food at the end of the maze?

The rat knew the correct path to the food source and 99% of the time he always went directly to reward.

Sometime tho...the rat would take a different path with no explanation whatsoever...

The explanation was "Sometimes the rat just does what he damn well pleases!"

I've always laughed at that...

El Cabrero said...

That must be where the cigar comes in!

Jspiker said...

I'm beginning to understand now.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...