Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

3

Theories
of Feminine Personality

Deborah Lee

Joan Hertzberg

*During the early part of the twentieth century a dramatic change took place in psychology, which revolutionized the way in which psychologists look at the human mind. The person responsible for this was Sigmund Freud; his ideas formed the basis of psychoanalytic theory.

Today, much of the field of personality is derived from the psychoanalytic tradition. Psychoanalytic theories and constructs are directly applied in clinical settings and set the tone for the psychiatric treatment of women and men. This has had a great impact upon clinical practice. Psychoanalytic theory has also had wide acceptance by the general public, and it has been a major influence in the formation of our basic conceptions of femininity. Thus, whether filtered through the therapist's office, the university classroom, or the mass media, women have accepted these concepts and have tried to mold themselves to fit them.

As with most theories, personality theories have been subject to much criticism from time to time. More recently, there has been much concern with the way in which these theories have described the behavior and personality of women. This chapter will critically review the psychoanalytic literature on feminine personality, with a special emphasis on some of the assumptions of this literature. Since they deal specifically with defining feminine personality and the special problems of women, we will look at Freud,

____________________
*
This chapter was done with the assistance of Irene Frieze, Jacquelynne Parsons, and Diane Ruble.

-28-

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