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Sarlin, C.N. (1967). Identity, Culture, and Psychosexual Development. Am. Imago, 24(3):181-247.

(1967). American Imago, 24(3):181-247

Identity, Culture, and Psychosexual Development

Charles N. Sarlin, M.D.

If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of the individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization, or epochs of it, possibly even the whole of humanity—have become “neurotic” under the pressure of civilizing trends? … But it behooves us to be very careful … In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture into the research into the pathology of civilized communities.

—Sigmund Freud, 1929

This paper is the preliminary report of an investigation into the influence of culture on the psychosexual maturation of character in the individual. In the course of the study, differentiation will be established between character, identity, the mental representation of identity and the sense of identity. The character of every person is determined by two essential factors, the degree of autonomy, of psychological sparation, and the characterological attributes of masculinity and femininity, based on the anatomical distinctions. Hence, various cultures will be examined in terms of these two fundamental criteria of psychosexual maturation. In view of the fact that character structure is based on the development of object relations which originates in the earliest phases of the mother-child relationship, special consideration will be given to culturally determined factors during this crucial stage of infantile development.

Since the basic orientation of this paper is psychoanalytic, certain concepts of current ego psychology will be considered briefly, followed by a review of pertinent anthropological background material before proceeding to the examination of specific cultures.

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