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Behn-Eschenburg, H. (1935). The Antecedents of the Oedipus Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 16:175-185.

(1935). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 16:175-185

The Antecedents of the Oedipus Complex

Hans Behn-Eschenburg

I

Of late years there has been much discussion relating to the Oedipus complex, which Freud long ago stated to be 'the nucleus of the neuroses', and analytical writers have sought to differentiate with extreme minuteness all the elements comprised in this single concept. So far has this attempt been carried that Freud himself began to question the universal validity of the statement which I have just quoted.

This line of research was forced upon us by practical experience: with increasing knowledge of the pre-Oedipal stages of mental development we sometimes found in our analyses that the criteria were eluding us by which we were accustomed to determine whether a particular series of phenomena belonged to the Oedipus complex itself or had their source in its pregenital antecedents. And yet we constantly proved that in every analysis it is of vital importance to define with the utmost exactitude the whole Oedipus situation.

One of the disputed points is the chronological limits within mental development to be assigned to the Oedipus complex. If this can be determined, it is hoped that it will contribute very largely to the solution of the following problem: how far is the causation of a neurosis to be sought in the familiar form of that complex or how far may we expect to find it in the pre-Oedipal period?

Until recently the conclusion was drawn from Freud's earlier researches that the Oedipus complex reached its zenith in the fourth or fifth year of life; i.e. that it coincided with the full attainment of the phallic phase, which was attributed to this period. Gradually, however, certain facts emerged in child-analyses, and later from the direct observation of children, which appeared to contradict this idea and to suggest that we may find the full Oedipus complex established at a much earlier date. Melanie Klein was the first to give special prominence to this view.

To

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