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Tyson, P. (1986). Female Psychological Development. Ann. Psychoanal., 14:357-373.

(1986). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 14:357-373

Female Psychological Development

Phyllis Tyson, Ph.D.

Although there is general agreement that Freud's views about female development (1925, 1931, 1933, 1938) are unsatisfactory, they continue to remain influential, and a comprehensive reformulation able to command general acceptance has yet to emerge. Partly this may be due to the many frames of reference and multiple approaches available in current psychoanalytic thinking, but also we now recognize that there are a multitude of variables at each of many developmental stages that contribute to any final outcome. Prioritizing or selecting the variables that represent the “normal” seems a formidable task. For example, although we agree that many of Freud's conclusions about women were erroneous, his formulation about progressive libidinal stages has been crucial in the understanding of observable developmental shifts. Mahler and her colleagues (Mahler, 1981; Mahler, Pine, and Bergman, 1975), on the other hand stress that conflicts around attachment to and separation from the mother are also central to female development. Kohut (1971, 1977) and his followers emphasize the necessary ingredients for the emergency of a healthy sense of self, while infant researchers such as Emde (1980, 1984) and Stern (1977) investigate the affective interchanges between mother and child that contribute to this confident sense of self. Others (Jacobson 1964; Blum, 1976; Tyson and Tyson, 1984) describe the early steps in the superego formation of the girl, steps that make important contributions to the girl's development of femininity as well as to her self-esteem.

To strive to integrate the multitude of factors into a generally accepted view of female development may be an unrealistic goal. Indeed, the wish to do so, to find a superordinate, all-inclusive theory, may be a holdover from earlier ways of thinking.

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