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Klein, M. (1928). Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 9:167-180.

(1928). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9:167-180

Early Stages of the Oedipus Conflict

Melanie Klein

In my analyses of children, especially of children between the ages of three and six, I have come to a number of conclusions of which I shall here present a summary.

I have repeatedly alluded to the conclusion that the Oedipus complex comes into operation earlier than is usually supposed. In my last paper, 'The Psychological Principles of Infant Analysis', I discussed this subject in greater detail. The conclusion which I reached there was that the Oedipus tendencies are released in consequence of the frustration which the child experiences at weaning, and that they make their appearance at the end of the first and the beginning of the second year of life; they receive reinforcement through the anal frustrations undergone during training in cleanliness. The next determining influence upon the mental processes is that of the anatomical difference between the sexes.

The boy, when he finds himself impelled to abandon the oral and anal positions for the genital, passes on to the aim of penetration associated with possession of the penis. Thus he changes not only his libido-position, but its aim, and this enables him to retain his original love-object. In the girl, on the other hand, the receptive aim is carried over from the oral to the genital position: she changes her libido-position, but retains its aim, which was already led to disappointment in relation to her mother. In this way receptivity for the penis is induced in the girl, who then turns to the father as her love-object.

The very onset of the Oedipus wishes, however, already becomes associated with incipient dread of castration and feelings of guilt.

The analysis of adults, as well as of children, has familiarized us with the fact that the pregenital instinctual impulses carry with them a sense of guilt, and it was thought at first that the feelings of guilt were of subsequent growth, displaced back on to these tendencies, though not originally associated with them.

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