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Oberndorf, C.P. (1928). The Castration Complex in the Nursery. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 9:359-360.

(1928). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9:359-360

The Castration Complex in the Nursery

C. P. Oberndorf

I was consulted by two very much worried parents in regard to their little girl, aged five, who had been extremely wilful, resentful, and subject to violent outbursts of temper, for about three years. At the kindergarten to which she had been sent, at the age of four, it was found that she presented so many difficulties in her adaptation to the other children that the instructresses, who were women of considerable psycho-analytic insight, thought it wisest for the sake of both the child and the other pupils that she be removed from the school.

At the time when she was first brought to my attention she had developed, in addition to her anti-social conduct, a marked reaction of terror to noises and the habit of sniffling and handling her nose.

The parents, both very understanding people, related in the course of the history the following circumstances: The little girl is the first-born and about a year older than her brother. From the age of two she began to shew resentment at the presence of the new-comer in the family, and perhaps, at the age of two and a half, a marked preference for her father. At the age of three and a half her mother one day found her attempting to urinate in the standing posture over the chamber. When she remonstrated with the child the little girl would not be consoled but repeated over and over again that she wanted a little thing like her brother, and she would have one. The mother's assurance that she herself also lacked a penis and all other women did, made not the slightest impression on the child, who persisted in stamping her feet and crying out that she didn't care. Several times thereafter the mother found the child attempting to repeat urination in the masculine position, and felt that the best method of handling the situation was to allow her to take the consequences of her stubborn refusal to be reconciled to the rôle for which she was destined, and, after wetting herself repeatedly, the little girl did resume her normal position in urination. A tendency, however, was noticed of extreme brutality towards her little brother and of reaching for the genitalia of male visitors to the house.

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