I have never been in any sense a follower of psycho-analytic practice, or an adherent of psycho-analytic theory; and now, while impatient of the exorbitant claims of psycho-analysis, of its chaotic arguments and tangled terminology, I must yet acknowledge a deep sense of indepbtedness to it for stimulation as well for valuable instruction in some aspects of human psychology.
The book is divided into four parts. In Part 1 (The Formation of a Complex), he lays out the issues related to childhood sexuality through puberty and maternal roles. In Part 2 (The Mirror of Tradition) he examines myth and taboo related to family dynamics. In Part 3 (Psycho-analysis and Anthropology), he examines the rift between the two disciplines and looks at the role parricide may have as a foundation of culture. In Part 4 (Instinct and Culture), he examines how humans made the transition from animalistic instincts to organized society, situating the family as "the cradle of nascent culture." He describes how taboos that develop within a society must then be enforced through authority and repression.