Feminine psychology

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Feminine psychology or the psychology of women is an approach that focuses on social, economic, and political issues confronting women all throughout their lives. It emerged as a reaction to male-dominated developmental theories such as Sigmund Freud's view of female sexuality. The original work of Karen Horney argued that male realities cannot describe female psychology or define their gender because they are not informed by girls' or women's experiences.[1] Theorists[who?] claimed this new feminist approach was required, and that women's social existence was crucial in understanding their psychology.[2] It is suggested in Dr. Carol Gilligan's research that some characteristics of female psychology emerge to comply with the given social order defined by men and not necessarily because it is the nature of their gender or psychology.[3]

Horney's theory[edit]

The "feminine psychology" approach is often attributed to the pioneering work of Karen Horney, a psychologist from the late 19th century.[4] She contradicted Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, arguing that it is male-dominated and, therefore, harbored biases and phallocentric views.[5] Horney claimed that for this reason, Freud's theory cannot describe femininity because it is informed by male reality and not by actual female experience.[5] An example of this is Freud's proposition that the female personality tends to exhibit penis envy, whereby a girl interprets her failure to possess a penis as a punishment for wrongdoing and later blames her mother.[6] As Freud stated, "she has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it."[7] Horney argued that it is not penis envy but basic anxiety, hostility, and anger towards the opposite-sex parent, whom she views as competition for the affection of the same-sex parent, and thus views her as a direct threat to her safety and security.[8] She believed as part of her feminine psychology theory, that this aspect should be resolved based on interpersonal dynamics (e.g. differences in social power) rather than sexual dynamics.[citation needed]

Horney countered the Freudian concept: she deconstructed penis envy and described it as nothing more than women wanting to express their own natural needs for success and the security that is characteristic of both sexes.[9] There is an analogy that describes Horney's feminine psychology as optimistic of the world and life affirmation in comparison with Freud's pessimism oriented towards world and life negation.[10]

Motherhood vs. Career[edit]

One dynamic outlined by feminine psychologists is the balancing act between more traditional roles of motherhood and the more modern role of a career woman. The roles do not necessarily contradict each other: additional income helps provide for the family and working mothers may feel as though they are making a contribution to society beyond the family.

Both mothers and fathers feel the pressure of balancing both work and family life, and fathers spend more time at home and engage in child care and housework more than they did a century ago. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that 42% of respondents believe that a mother who works part-time is an ideal scenario while 16% think that working full-time is ideal for mothers, and the rest think that mothers should stay at home. 46% of fathers also reported that they felt they were not spending enough time with their children: fathers who responded to this Pew research survey were spending about half as much time providing child care as the mothers. 15% of working fathers stated that it is very difficult to balance work and take care of their children.[11] The same study found that 50% of working fathers say that it is at least somewhat difficult to balance work and child care responsibilities. However, fathers who are able to assist in child care report that they like doing so, often even more-so than mothers.[12] The Pew Research Center also asked parents to rate how good of a job they are doing as parents. It was found that most mothers and women rated themselves as doing an excellent or very good job, but that working mothers rated themselves a lot higher than non-working mothers did-despite the fact that parents who felt they spent too little time with their children were less likely to rate themselves as doing an excellent job.[11] The Pew Research Center has taken on several studies and surveys in order to research and investigate the differences[13] associated with feminine psychology[14] and the people’s views on the progression of women in the workplace[15] and their place in the home.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Jennifer Stuart,[16] sometimes the history of the woman affects how she chooses to balance the two roles, or if she will balance them at all. Specifically, Stuart asserts that the primary determinant is a woman's "quality of her relationship with her mother. Women whose mothers fostered feelings of both warm attachment and confident autonomy may find ways to enjoy their children and/or work, often modifying work and family environments in ways that favor both".[16]

Working women sometimes make compromises in their careers so that they can balance paid work and motherhood responsibilities. These compromises include cutting back hours and accepting lower pay or a lower job status, which can prevent women from becoming the top performers in a workplace.[17]

According to Dr. Ramon Resa, mothers have to remember that "children are fairly resilient and will adapt to whatever changes are required. They are also astute at sensing unhappiness, disappointment and apathy".[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miletic, Michelle Price (October 2013). "The Introduction of a Feminine Psychology to Psychoanalysis". Contemporary Psychoanalysis. 38 (2): 287–299. doi:10.1080/00107530.2002.10747102. ISSN 0010-7530. S2CID 143402363.
  2. ^ Roazen, Paul (2003). Cultural Foundations of Political Psychology (Clt). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. p. 259. ISBN 978-0765801821.
  3. ^ Berger, Milton (1994). Women Beyond Freud: New Concepts Of Feminine Psychology. New York: Brunner/Mazel. pp. 150. ISBN 978-0876307090.
  4. ^ Gilman, Sander L. (1 August 2001). "Karen Horney, M.D., 1885–1952". American Journal of Psychiatry. 158 (8): 1205. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.8.1205. ISSN 0002-953X. PMID 11481151.
  5. ^ a b Miletic, Michelle Price (2002). "The Introduction of a Feminine Psychology to Psychoanalysis". Contemporary Psychoanalysis. 38 (2): 287–299. doi:10.1080/00107530.2002.10747102. ISSN 0010-7530. S2CID 143402363.
  6. ^ Erwin, Edward (2002). The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture. London: Taylor & Francis. p. 179. ISBN 978-0415936774.
  7. ^ Klages, Mary (2017). Literary Theory: The Complete Guide. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 45. ISBN 9781472592750.
  8. ^ Carducci, Bernardo (2009). The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 184. ISBN 9781405136358.
  9. ^ Winch, Robert F.; Horney, Karen (August 1946). "Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory of Neurosis". Marriage and Family Living. 8 (3): 56. doi:10.2307/348790. ISSN 0885-7059. JSTOR 348790.
  10. ^ Kelman, Harold (1967). "Karen Horney on feminine psychology". The American Journal of Psychoanalysis. 27 (1–2): 163–183. doi:10.1007/bf01873051. ISSN 0002-9548. PMID 4862394. S2CID 41571809.
  11. ^ a b "Nothing found for 2013 03 14 Modern Parenthood Roles Of Moms And Dads Converge As They Balance Work And Family %3E". Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  12. ^ Connelly, R; Kimmel, J (2015). "If You're Happy and You Know It: How Do Mothers and Fathers in the US Really Feel about Caring for Their Children?". Feminist Economics. 21: 1–34. doi:10.1080/13545701.2014.970210. S2CID 144510572.
  13. ^ Parker, Kim; Horowitz, Juliana Menasce; Stepler, Renee (5 December 2017). "2. Americans see different expectations for men and women". Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  14. ^ "Women Can't Do Math...Or Can They?". Pew Research Center. 31 August 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  15. ^ "Women are better at creating safe, respectful workplaces, say many in US". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  16. ^ a b Stuart, Jennifer J. (7 October 2008). "Work and motherhood: a clinical study". The American Psychoanalyst. Vol.42, No.1. Pp.22–23. Reprinted by Wellsphere (Archived version available here via Internet Archive. Archive date 5 October 2011.) Access date 9 February 2015.
  17. ^ Kapur, M (5 August 2005). "Balancing motherhood and a career". CNN.com International.
  18. ^ Resa, R (8 December 2009). "Give up a career or give up motherhood". The Huffington Post.


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