Electra Complex: What It Is, How to Identify & Management

Updated in October 2022

An Electra complex is a psychological concept developed by Carl Jung that describes the normal psychosexual development of many girls. His theory states that girls innately feel more affection toward their father, and more bitterness toward their mother, and that girls will compete with their mother to gain more attention from the father. 

Generally, this phase emerges between 3 to 6 years of age, and is mildly exhibited, however this can vary from girl to girl. In most cases, this complex occurs because the father is the first male contact that the girl has. 

Similar to the Oedipus complex, which was developed by Sigmund Freud, the Electra complex can impact the sexual development of a girl and influence how she interacts with the opposite sex. 

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How to identify 

Some signs that can indicate that a girl is entering into an Electra complex phase include: 

  • The girl’s need to separate her mother and father
  • Uncontrollable crying when the father leaves the home 
  • Very warm feelings of affection toward the father, in which the girl may express the desire to marry her father in the future
  • Negative feelings toward the mother, especially when the father is present 

These signs are normal and temporary and should generally not worry parents. However, if these persist after 7 years of age or if they worsen with time, you can consult a pediatric psychologist to confirm a diagnosis and initiate treatment as necessary. 

Is the Electra complex similar to the Oedipus complex? 

The Electra and Oedipus complex are similar in a basic sense. However the Electra complex describes the relationship and feelings between a father and daughter. The Oedipus complex describes the relationship and feelings between a mother and son.

These complexes were developed by different psychologists - the Oedipus complex was first reported by Freud, and the Electra complex emerged later on and was written by Carl Jung. 

When it can be a problem

The Electra complex generally resolves on its own without any further complications. Girls start to gain a better understanding of how their mothers relate to the opposite sex. Fathers should set boundaries, however, so that their daughter can understand that they should play and interact with other children. 

When mothers are very distant or if they frequently discipline girls during this phase, it can be difficult for this phase to resolve naturally. This can lead girls to feel a strong affinity toward their father, which can lead to feelings of obsession and delay resolution. 

How to manage 

There is no correct way to manage an Electra complex, however fathers should pay little attention to verbal affirmations of love from their daughters and avoid disciplining them for such actions. Consistent approaches can help the girl to progress out of this phase.

Another important intervention is to reinforce the parents’ role. In addition to providing love and affection, the father aims to protect his daughter, and the mother can be a true friend.

Once resolved, girls tend to show less bitterness toward their father and understand the roles of both parents. Many go on to favor their mother as a role model.