Nancy Chodorow

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Nancy Chodorow
Nancy Julia Chodorow

(1944-01-20) January 20, 1944 (age 77)
New York City, US
Alma materRadcliffe College (1966)
London School of Economics and Political Science (1967)
Harvard University (1968)
Brandeis University (1975)
Known forPsychoanalytical Feminism
AwardsTraveling Women Scholar Award, from the American Psychological Association (2007)

L. Bryce Boyer Prize, from the Society for Psychological Anthropology, for her book The Power of Feelings (November 2000)

Distinguished Contribution to Women and Psychoanalysis Award, from the American Psychological Association (April 2000)

Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences, US & Canada (1995)

Jessie Bernard Award for Women in Society for "The Reproduction of Mothering" (1979)
Scientific career
FieldsPsychology, Psychoanalysis, Feminist Sociology, Sociology
InstitutionsProfessor at The University of California, Berkeley Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Doctoral advisorEgon Bittner[1]
Other academic advisorsPhilip Slater
InfluencesSigmund Freud, Karen Horney, Beatrice Whiting, W.M. Whiting, Philip Slater, Melanie Klein

Nancy Julia Chodorow (born January 20, 1944) is an American sociologist and professor.[2] She describes herself as a humanistic psychoanalytic sociologist and psychoanalytic feminist.[3] Throughout her career, she has been influenced by psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Karen Horney, as well as feminist theorists Beatrice Whiting and Phillip Slater. She is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and often speaks at its congresses.[4] She began as a professor at Wellesley College in 1973, a year later she began at the University of California, Santa Cruz until 1986.[5] She then went on to spend many years as a professor in the departments of sociology and clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley until her retirement in 2005. Later, she began her career teaching psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance.[6] Chodorow is often described as a leader in feminist thought, especially in the realms of psychoanalysis and psychology.[7]

Chodorow has written a number of influential books in contemporary feminist writing,[8] including The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978);[6][9][10] Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1989); Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond (1994); and The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture (1999). In 1995, Chodorow was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences. In 1996, The Reproduction of Mothering was chosen by Contemporary Sociology as one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years.[6][10]


Personal life[edit]

Dr. Chodorow was born on January 20, 1944, in New York, New York[11] to a Jewish family. Her parents were Marvin Chodorow and Leah (Turitz) Chodorow. Her father was a professor of applied physics.[12][13] Chodorow married Michael Reich, a professor of economics. They had two children, Rachel and Gabriel.[11] In 1977, they separated.[14]


Chodorow graduated from Radcliffe College in 1966. There she studied under Beatrice and W.M. Whiting. Chodorow's work focused on personality and cultural anthropology now classified as pre-feminist work.[12] She focused on the study of personality through a Freudian lens.[3] In 1975, she received her Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University.[4] Under the instruction of Philip Slater, Chodorow was influenced to focus her studies on the unconscious phenomena of psychoanalysis.[12] Following her Ph.D., Chodorow received clinical training at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute from 1985 to 1993.[5]

Postdoctoral Clinical Training[edit]

  • University of California, Berkeley, Dept. of Psychology, 1984-86,
  • Postdoctoral Intern San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute 1986-1993

Fellowships and Research Grants[edit]

  • Summer Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018
  • Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, 2001- 2002
  • Guggenheim Fellowship, 1995-96
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1995-96
  • Humanities Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley, 1991-92
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 1991-92
  • Research Grant, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1982-1986
  • Research Grant, Russell Sage Foundation, 1981-1986 Fellow[15]


Sigmund Freud[edit]

Chodorow's most profound influence stems from Freudian psychoanalysis. She critiques Freudian analysis with a feminist perspective to understand the mother-child relationship.[16] Chodorow uses the Freudian model of female development to reveal that a girl's gender development is related to her closeness with her mother. Therefore, the girl is pursuing a privilege that a boy has already achieved. The boy has already received this attention, because he is more valued by the mother, as an object since he is a source of her own Oedipal gratification.[17] However, the boy has both the need and the ability to detach himself from his mother. The female solves her inner conflict by converting her envy of male privilege into heterosexual desire.[17] Using Freudian psychoanalytic theory, Chodorow explains that the Oedipus complex symbolically separates the male child from his mother, but young girls continue to identify with their mother.[8] Chodorow notes that Freud's theory of the Oedipal conflict and the Oedipal revolution is due to chance;[18] the father must be in the right place at the right time. Chodorow's analysis led to the hypothesis that a female's desire for men is a direct result of her strong desire for her mother.[18]

Additionally, Chodorow uses Sigmund Freud's theory to explain that the differences between men and women are largely due to capitalism and the absent father.[19] Chodorow acknowledges the ways in which the economy changed in 2003, and the psychological impact this had on both sexes in regards to shared parenting.[20] The development of shared parenting has challenged the traditional mothering role, resulting in a paradigm where mother and children have insufficient time for each other.[18]

Chodorow also argues that Freudian theory suppresses women. Nonetheless, the theory provides grounds for how people become gendered, how femininity and masculinity develops, and how sexism via sexual inequality is reproduced. Furthermore, Freud explains how nature becomes culture resulting in a second nature. Chodorow argues that this explains that the formation and organization of gender occur, not only through social institutions, but also through transformations in the consciousness and the psyche.[17]

Chodorow draws on Freud's idea of intraspsychic structures to understand the developmental differences between girls and boys. Freud explains that there are three parts to an individual: the id, the ego, and the super-ego. These parts produce rigid boundaries in the internal workings of our brains and impact our interactions in society. Chodorow uses this intrapsychic structure to explain that the internal workings of males and females are structurally different. Therefore, developmental differences are not inherent, rather these differences are produced through socialization.[19]

Karen Horney[edit]

Chodorow also draws influence from Karen Horney, a 20th-century psychoanalyst who challenged Freudian ideas, ultimately leading to the foundation of feminist psychology.[3] Horney argued against Freud's idea that females are defective or limited, and rather argued that women possess positive feminine qualities and self valuation.[3]

Philip Slater[edit]

Nancy Chodorow studied under the sociologist Philip Slater while she was earning her PhD at Brandeis University in 1975. Slater encouraged her to study unconscious phenomena in order to deepen her understanding of personality.[3] Chodorow refers to Slater's book, Glory of Hera, as one of the most influential books in regards to a man's immense fear of women and its manifestation in culture.[3]


The Reproduction of Mothering (1978)[edit]

Chodorow views mothering as a dual structure, where motherhood is partly fixed by childhood experience and the social structure of kinship.[21] She explains that the process of a woman becoming a mother goes beyond biology and instinct alone.[16] Chodorow argues in her book, The Reproduction of Mothering (1978; 2nd ed., 1999), that gender differences are compromised from formations of the Oedipal complex. She begins with Freud's assertion that the individual is born bisexual and that the child's mother is its first sexual object. Chodorow, drawing on the work of Karen Horney and Melanie Klein, notes that the child forms its ego in reaction to the dominating figure of the mother.[22] The male child forms this sense of independent agency easily, identifying with the agency and freedom of the father, and emulating his possessive interest in the mother/wife. This task is not as simple for the female child. The mother identifies with her more strongly, and the daughter attempts to make the father her new love object. The female child is then is stymied in her ego formation by the intense bond with the mother. Where male children typically experience love as a dyadic relationship, daughters are caught in a libidinal triangle where the ego is pulled between love for the father, the love of the mother, and concern and worry over the relationship of the father to the mother.[10]

The strong bond between the mother and the infant, not only shapes her identity, but allows the child to acknowledge that the father is a separate being. Except, in circumstances where the father provides a similar form of primary care as the mother.[23] This separation of the father and child can result in the child developing an ambivalence with the father.[23] Therefore, the child is confused by the failure to recognize the mother's separateness. Consequently, children are more obedient to their father, but not because he is considered the authority figure or because of his strictness, but rather because of the child's initial relationship to the father.[10][17]

Nancy Chodorow and The Reproduction of Mothering Forty Years (2021)[edit]

This work was so influential that in 2021, forty years after its initial release, Chodorow is revisiting it in Nancy Chodorow and The Reproduction of Mothering Forty Years.[24]

In the book, she says "The mother is the early caregiver and primary source of identification for all children... A daughter continues to identify with the mother."[10] Chodorow explains that the strong bond between mother and daughter inhibits the daughter from forming her own identity. The first bonding beings in infancy with the mother. This initial bond is true for both sexes, except, boys breakaway at an early age to identify with their fathers. Thus, maintaining the mother-daughter relationship and identity.[17]

Gender personality[edit]

For Chodorow, the contrast between the dyadic and triadic first love experiences explains the social construction of gender roles. This is through the universal degradation of women in culture, cross-cultural patterns in male behavior, and marital strain in Western society after Second Wave feminism. In marriage, the woman takes less of an interest in sex and more in the children. Her ambivalence towards sex eventually drives the male away. She devotes her energies to the children once she does reach sexual maturity.[10]

Chodorow examines the psychological development of adult females and males. Chodorow argues that the psyches of men and women are structured differently because of dissimilar childhood experiences.[19] The justification for why women tend to be more empathic is because women's ego boundaries are less fixed. Chodorow hypothesizes that if women are perceived by society as primarily and exclusively as mothers, then any liberation of women will continue to be experienced as traumatic by society.[18]

Chodorow argues that masculinity learned in the absence of an ongoing personal relationship with the father and without an available masculine role model, boys are taught more consciously how to be masculine. Boys' development of masculinity is used as a tool that would be used against them by the father. Therefore, masculine identity is due to gender role development. On the other hand, femininity is less consciously instilled in girls rather it is embedded in the ongoing relationship to the mother. Thus, female identification is predominantly parental.[18]

She says, “Masculinity is defined as much negatively as positively.”[10][18] Chodorow argues that the production of feminine identification is a rational process. In comparison, the production of male identification is defined by rejection rather than acceptance.[18]

Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1991)[edit]

In her book, Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory, Chodorow expands on the finding that a man's suppression and denial of his need for love, often leads to an inability to tolerate others who can express their desire for love.[25] Women, on the other hand, have not suppressed these needs, and thus may be willing to deal with their lover or husband being somewhat emotionally unresponsive, in exchange for some amount of caring and love.[26] Since this desire for love cannot be silenced through repression, men will simultaneously protect themselves against the threat of invasion by women, while still being in a heterosexual relationship.[25] Chodorow suggests that if the father figure could become more visible and participatory in family life, then the emotional ambiguities in both sexes would be rectified.[25]

Chodorow further synthesizes the female closeness with the mother quiets the sex drive toward men, because their inner emotional lives are far more satisfied.[25] On the other hand, she suggests that the intense sex drive of men is a result of repression, and thus men fall in love much more romantically.[25] She argues that this idea may be the basis for male aggression toward women.[25]

Additionally, Chodorow focuses on the ways in which society values women for "being," but men for "action."[25] More specifically, women are often viewed as objects, but men are rather viewed as subjects. She suggests that this idea has deeper implications, as women tend to be very relationship-oriented.[25] Chodorow ties this idea back to Freudian theory by arguing that men pay a price for the rushed detachment from their mother, and the resulting repression of their feminine selves.[25]

The Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye: Toward an American Independent Tradition (2019)[edit]

Dr. Nancy Chodorow explores her evolution from a sociologist and feminist scholar to a highly renowned psychoanalyst with her release of: “The Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye: Toward an American Independent Tradition." Her publishers at Routledge CRC Press described one of her most recent works as: “A project which brings together her two professional identities, psychoanalyst and sociologist, as she also brings together and moves beyond two traditions within American psychoanalysis, naming for the first time an American independent tradition. The book's chapters move inward, toward fine-tuned discussions of the theory and epistemology of the American independent tradition, which Chodorow locates originally in the writings of Erik Erikson and Hans Loewald, and outward toward what Chodorow sees as a missing but necessary connection between psychoanalysis, the social sciences, and the social world.”[27]

Key Concepts[edit]

In the "Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye," Dr. Chodorow's primary focus is on the relationship between social relationships and individuality. Sociology and psychoanalysis, she says, have both been impoverished by not exploring the links and tensions between them. She finds parallels within psychoanalysis itself, where some analysts stress relationships as primary, while others emphasise the individual psyche. Chodorow’s twin peaks in this landscape are Erik Erikson and Hans Loewald. Setting these in dialogue with each other, Chodorow reflects her own cultural and psychoanalytic journeyings. Her discussion of Erikson’s and Loewald’s ideas, and of what others have done with them, amounts to a history of American psychoanalysis. It is an extraordinary survey. It also extends well beyond America, to include the British Independent Group and other aspects of European psychoanalysis. Chodorow’s call for a fresh relationship between psychoanalysis and sociology, anthropology and psychology, and between clinical practice and the university, opens new horizons in many directions. [27]

Critical responses[edit]

Chodorow has received some criticism by sociologists for lacking empirical evidence and for her individualistic approach to social theory.[3] Other sociologists argue that she lacks emphasis on the impact of social reality in her theories, and does not understand the idea of social determinism.[3] Conversely, Lacanian psychoanalytic feminists argue that she is too empirical and socially deterministic. They further argue against her view of the unconscious as a sociological phenomena rather than an indisputable level of analysis.[3]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 1979 Jessie Bernard Award for The Reproduction of Mothering American Sociological Association
  • 1988—Elected to Membership of Honorary Society Sociological Research Association
  • 1990 Blazer Lecturer University of Kentucky
  • 1991 Iichiko Prize for Cultural Study (first awardee) Editions, Iichiko, Tokyo
  • 1993 Robert Stoller Memorial Lecturer (first awardee) Robert Stoller Foundation and Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Institute and Society
  • 1996 The Reproduction of Mothering named as one of "Ten Most Influential Books of the Past Twenty-five Years" Contemporary Sociology
  • 1997 Tillie K. Lubin Symposium in honor of The Reproduction of Mothering Brandeis University
  • 1980s—Who's Who in the West Marquis Who's Who
  • 1980s—Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare Marquis Who's Who
  • 1980s—Who's Who among American Women Marquis Who's Who
  • 1980s—Who's Who in the World Marquis Who's Who
  • 1980s—Who's Who in America Marquis Who's Who
  • 2000 Plenary address Meetings of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, New York
  • 2000 Distinguished Contribution to Women and Psychoanalysis Award Division 39, Section 3, American Psychological Association, New York
  • 2000 L. Bryce Boyer Prize for The Power of Feelings Society for Psychological Anthropology
  • 2004 CORST (Committee on Research and Special Training) Award American Psychoanalytic Association Committee on Research and Special Training
  • 2004 Robert S. Liebert Memorial Lecturer Columbia Psychoanalytic Society and Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine
  • 2006 Selected contributor Contemporary Psychoanalysis in America: Leading Analysts Present their Work. A. Cooper, ed.
  • 2006 David Raphling Memorial Lecturer Washington, D.C. Psychoanalytic Institute
  • 2006 Yasmin Roberts Memorial Lecturer Austin Riggs Center, Stockbridge
  • 2006—Invited member Center for Advanced Psychoanalytic Studies (CAPS) 2007 Traveling Woman Scholar Award American Psychoanalytic Association
  • 2007 Meet the Analyst: Nancy J. Chodorow Meetings of the International Psychoanalytic Association, Berlin
  • 2010 Plenary address American Psychoanalytic Association Meetings, New York 2011 Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and Society, Detroit
  • 2011 Section III, Division 39, American Psychological Association, Boston, April, 2013 Scholarship
  • 2013 Scholarship Award: “Contributions to the Psychoanalytic Understanding of Women” Section III, Division 39, American Psychological Association, Boston

Professional societies[edit]

  • American Psychoanalytic Association[28]
  • International Psychoanalytic Association[28]
  • Boston Psychoanalytic Society & Institute[28]
  • San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis[28]

See also[edit]



  • Chodorow, Nancy (2020), Nancy Chodorow and The Reproduction of Mothering Forty Years On. Editor: Petra Bueskens. Palgrave Macmillan ISBN 978-3-030-55590-0
  • Chodorow, Nancy (2019), "The Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye: Toward an American Independent Tradition," New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0367134211.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (2012), "Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice," New York: Routledge, ISBN 9780415893589.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1999), "The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture," New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300089097.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1994), "Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond," KY: University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 978-0813108285.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1991), "Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory," New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300051162.
  • Chodorow, Nancy, (1978), "The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender" CA: University of California Press, ISBN 9780520038929.



  1. ^ Chodorow, Nancy Julia (1975). Family Structure and Feminine Personality: The Reproduction of Mothering (PhD). Brandeis University. p. i. OCLC 217167326. ProQuest 302744378.
  2. ^ Chodorow, Nancy (1995). "Becoming a feminist foremother". In Phyllis Chesler; Esther D. Rothblum; Ellen Cole (eds.). Feminist foremothers in women's studies, psychology, and mental health. New York: Haworth Press. pp. 141–154. ISBN 9781560247678.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Nancy Chodorow". Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Chodorow biography at Radcliffe College Magazine website
  5. ^ a b "UC Berkeley Sociology Department CV".
  6. ^ a b c "Chodorow, Nancy (Julia) 1944-".
  7. ^ Feminist Writers: Nancy Chodorow[full citation needed]
  8. ^ a b Luttrell, Wendy (2005). "Chodorow, Nancy". Encyclopedia of Social Theory. doi:10.4135/9781412952552.n41. ISBN 9780761926115.
  9. ^ "CMPS Annual Conference (December 1, 2012)". Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies, New York, NY. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "The Reproduction of Mothering" [publisher's description]. University of California Press.
  11. ^ a b "Nancy Chodorow". Webster University. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c "Nancy J. Chodorow '65, RI '02". April 2, 2012.
  13. ^ Unger, Rhoda K. (March 1, 2009). "Psychology in the United States". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2017-03-26.
  14. ^ "Psychologist of the Week- Fall 2012 - Nancy Chodorow". September 11, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  15. ^ Chodorow, Nancy (2020). "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Berkley Sociology Department.
  16. ^ a b Lemert, Charles (2018). Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 9780429974267.
  17. ^ a b c d e Nadeau, Frances A. (December 1, 1995). "The Mother/Daughter Relationships in Young Adult Fiction". The ALAN Review. 22 (2). doi:10.21061/alan.v22i2.a.5.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Chodorow, Nancy (Winter 2003). "The Reproduction of Mothering; Feminism and Psycohoanalytic Theory; Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities; The Power of Feelings (Book Reviews)". American Psychological Association. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c Allan, Kenneth (2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press. pp. 214. ISBN 9781412905725.
  20. ^ Chodorow, Nancy (1996). "Nancy Chodorow". Feminist Writers. 1996.
  21. ^ Allan, Kenneth (2012). Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 380. ISBN 978-1412978200.
  22. ^ "Nancy Chodorow". Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Nancy Chodorow". Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (6th ed.). March 2017.
  24. ^ Bueskens, Petra, ed. (2021). Nancy Chodorow and the Reproduction of Mothering. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-55590-0. ISBN 978-3-030-55589-4.[page needed]
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i Newman Metzl, Marilyn (Winter 2003). "The Reproduction of Mothering; Feminism and Psycohoanalytic Theory; Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities; The Power of Feelings (Book Reviews)". American Psychological Association. pp. 55–60.
  26. ^ Chodorow, Nancy J. (1989). Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300173376. nancy chodorow.
  27. ^ a b "The Psychoanalytic Ear and the Sociological Eye: Toward an American Independent Tradition". Routledge & CRC Press. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  28. ^ a b c d Chodorow, Nancy (April 2017). "Nancy Chodorow Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Berkeley Sociology Department. Retrieved October 7, 2019.


  • Allan, Kenneth. 2005. Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
  • Allan, Kenneth. 2012. Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications
  • Lemert, Charles. 2018. Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Nadeau, Frances A. n.d. The Evolving Classroom: A Study of Traditional and Technology-Based Instruction in a STEM Classroom. Retrieved February 27, 2019 (
  • Newman Metzl, Marilyn. 2019. Mothering, Feminism, Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities (Book Reviews). Retrieved October 7, 2019 (

External links[edit]