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Psychology of Women, The. A Psychoanalytic Interpretation


The Psychology of Women. A Psychoanalytic Interpretation consists of two volumes. The first, entitled "Childhood and Adolescence," appeared in 1944, followed in 1945 by the second, with the sub-heading "Motherhood." This breakdown corresponds to what Helene Deutsch called "the fundamental dualism of femininity," which opposes individual development and personality with the role of "servant of the species." She was trying to shed a psychoanalytic light on the conflicts that are born of this dualism, which is only surpassed and transcended through the reconciliation of the antagonistic goals of the individual and the species, a point Freud stressed in "On Narcissism: An Introduction" (1914c).

Published at the end of World War II, The Psychology of Women reviews and develops, in the light of new observations, the author's first conclusions concerning the different problems of female psychology described in her first book, Psychoanalyse der weiblichen Sexual-funktionen (Psychoanalysis of the sexual functions of women), published by the Vienna Verlag in 1925. This, together with her work on female homosexuality, was based on clinical material gathered over a twelve-year period. As her biographers have pointed out (Roazen), The Psychology of Women is also influenced by the author's personal experiences. The book was born of her double desire to put her ideas to the test of time, and to compare them with those of Freud.

Although certain concepts have aged, some of her theses are still pertinet: the "secondary" character of penis envy in girls; the slowness of the construction of femininity (the opposite position to that of Freud, who believed the fate of femininity was prematurely sealed at the phallic stage), which explains her decision to study the psychology of women only from the latency period onward; and the psychic importance of the phenomena of "expectancy" (linked to late anatomo-physiological female maturation) and identifications. Deutsch described the development of the female personality as a process that takes place through a series of intermediary identifications that correlate with modifications affecting her objects and the links to them. Equally striking is her assertion that the rape fantasy is universal and non-pathological, being a veritable organizer of female sexuality.

There was no shortage of criticism for The Psychology of Women, either from the feminists, who reproached her for her Freudian orthodoxy, or from psychoanalysts, for the converse reason. Very few of those who welcomed Winnicott's ideas with enthusiasm were able to recognize similar ideas expressed in The Psychology of Women, particularly in volume 2, "Motherhood." Deutsch's great mistake is no doubt the fact that she named this vast psychoanalytic study of more than seven hundred pages The Psychology of Women.

Jacqueline LanouziÈre

See also: Deutsch-Rosenbach, Helene; Female sexuality; Femininity; Oedipus complex.

Source Citation

Deutsch, Helene. (1944-1945). The psychology of women. A psychoanalytic interpretation (Vols. 1-2). New York: Greene and Stratton.


Deutsch, Helene. (1991). Psychoanalysis of the sexual functions of women (P. Roazen, Ed., and Eric Mosbacher, Trans.). London: Karnac. (Original work published 1925)

Freud, Sigmund. (1914c). On narcissism: An introduction. SE, 14: 67-102.

Roazen, Paul. (1985). Helene Deutsch. A psychoanalyst's life. New York: Anchor.

Further Reading

Schuker, Eleanor, and Levinson, Nadine. (1991). Female psychology: An annotated psychoanalytic bibliography. Hillsdale, NJ, and London: Analytic Press.

Tyson, Phyllis. (1996). Female psychology: An introduction. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44(S), 11-22.

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