Klein’s article differs from the other pieces collected here in that it is based upon analysis with children rather than recollections of childhood by adults. Read at the Tenth International Psycho-Analytical Congress, Innsbruck, September 3, 1927, this paper was published in 1928.

The article synthesises and endorses the ideas of authors whose views on the Oedipus complex were very different from Freud’s. Klein mentions the work of Horney and Deutsch, but Abraham could well be added to the list. Klein argues that there exists a primary, ‘incorporative’, femininity in both sexes, based on an early identification with the mother. In the case of the little girl, it is the receptive and passive aims of the oral and anal phases that determine the girl’s turning towards the father.

For Klein, the Oedipus complex occurs much earlier than it does for Freud, prompted as it is by the frustrations experienced by the child at weaning. The Oedipal situation is then reinforced as a result of the frustrations experienced during toilet training. It follows that penis envy is, as for Horney, a secondary formation. In attributing a much greater influence on the Oedipus complex to pregenital conflicts, Klein downplays the role of the anatomical difference between the sexes in the development of female sexuality.

The primary femininity Klein discusses here is grounded on the anal-sadistic level and imparts to this level a new content with two aims: the desire for children and the jealousy aroused by the prospect of future siblings. A third object of the boy’s oral-sadistic tendencies is the womb that contains the penis, in other words, the mother as castrator. This dread of the mother, Klein argues, gives rise to a fem- ininity complex in men which goes together with an asocial and sadistic attitude of contempt—the mask of ‘anxiety and ignorance’.

The end of the paper focuses on the development of girls. Like Deutsch and Abraham, she argues that the genital development of the woman finds its completion in the successful shift of oral libido onto the genital. Unlike them though, she also argues that the arousal of vaginal sensations is contemporaneous with the Oedipus complex.