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This module covers a few theories on the personality development of women, including the work of Princess Marie Bonaparte, Nancy Chodorow, and the women who joined Jean Baker Miller to establish the Stone Center Group. The references cited in this module can be found in the accompanying module entitled "References for Personality."

Although Karen Horney was the first female psychoanalyst to openly challenge Sigmund Freud’s theories regarding the psychology of women, she abandoned this line of work when she came to the conclusion that culture was a more significant issue than gender in determining the psychology of women. Of course, that decision is based on separating gender from culture, which is not something that everyone would agree with. In the 1970s, the Stone Center was established, as a group of pioneering women began the work that led to a theory on the personality development and psychology of women based on a combination of seeking and forming relationships within a cultural context. This work continues today, and the theory is being expanded to include the personality development of all people, women and men.

However, not all female theorists have separated themselves so clearly from Freud’s basic theories. One of those women holds a special place in the history of psychology, since she was instrumental in helping both Sigmund and Anna Freud escape Austria as the Nazi regime came to power. Her name was Marie Bonaparte. Bonaparte was a princess, a great-grandniece of Emperor Napoleon I of France, a patient and student of Sigmund Freud, and in 1953 she wrote Female Sexuality (Bonaparte, 1953). Her perspective on women closely followed a traditional Freudian view. In contrast, Nancy Chodorow’s feminist perspective has significantly separated her perspective on the psychology women from that of Freud. Still, Chodorow has worked to combine feminist and psychoanalytic perspectives, in a manner similar to the object relations theories put forth by the Neo-Freudians, and she has focused on the unique female experience of mothering.

We will begin this chapter by examining the work of Princess Bonaparte, as an example of a female theorist who remained true to Freud’s own theories. Then, we will examine the alternative presented by the members of the Stone Center group. Finally, this chapter will conclude with a brief look at Chodorow’s efforts to combine the psychoanalytic and feminist perspectives.

Feminine psychology in the freudian tradition

Although Sigmund Freud believed that female psychology was the result of an incomplete and frustrated male development, he also acknowledged that he did not fully understand the psychology of women. A particularly interesting passage can be found in his New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis :

One might consider characterizing femininity psychologically as giving preference to passive aims. This is not, of course, the same thing as passivity; to achieve a passive aim may call for a large amount of activity...we must beware in this of underestimating the influence of social customs, which similarly force women into passive situations. All this is still far from being cleared up… (pgs. 143-144; Freud, 1933/1965)

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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