Cinderella complex

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This article is about the syndrome. For the song, see C\C (Cinderella\Complex).
Not to be confused with Cinderella effect.

The Cinderella complex was first described by Colette Dowling,[1] who wrote a book on women's fear of independence, as an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others. The complex is said to become more apparent as a person grows older.

Dowling attempts to define women as being motivated by an unconscious desire to be taken care of as a fear of independence termed "Cinderella complex". An important aspect of the work can be defined as identifying an aspect of a larger phenomenon as to why women choose to stay in dysfunctional relationships.

This phenomenon can be defined as a syndrome characterized by a series of specific motivations or causes. Dowling identifies only one motivation, while the syndrome is in fact[citation needed] a combination of many motivations, which are in themselves characteristics that make up a complex.

The term syndrome has been largely used to define conditions apparent in medicine. However, in recent decades the term has been used outside of medicine to refer to a combination of phenomena seen in association.[citation needed]


This complex is named after the fairy tale character Cinderella. It is based on the idea of femininity portrayed in that story, where a woman is beautiful, graceful, polite, supportive, hardworking, independent, and maligned by the females of her society, but she is not capable of changing her situations with her own actions and must be helped by an outside force, usually a male (i.e. the Prince).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Colette Dowling (1981). The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of Independence. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-73334-6. 

Further reading[edit]