Electra Complex

Electra Complex – The Origin of DADDY ISSUES

~Anushka Nadkar

The Electra Complex is a popularly known female counterpart of the Oedipus Complex. It is well defined in analytical psychology by Sigmund Freud.

Coined by Carl Jung in the year 1913, the concept was established by Freud stating that human action and human behaviour is often motivated by sexuality and attraction.

Freud associated this complex psychological behaviour of the daughter to how she would be feeling, threatened or in competition with the mother or other female figures for the absolute attention and affection of the father.


The term Electra complex has been taken from the Greek myth about Electra and Orestes, her brother. They conspired against their mother as revenge and response to their father’s death by murder.

Though Freud discarded the usage of the term, he attempted to establish and bring out the existing analogy between the attitudes and behaviour of the two sexes in discussion. 

What is the Electra Complex?

The Electra Complex (termed as Daddy Issues, in adult women) is a girl’s psychosexual contesting with her mother for the possession and attention of her father.

Generally found in girls between 3-6 years of age, the daughter struggles to get the attention of her father by trying to replace her mother.

This puts her in a position of hatred for the mother. Sometimes, this may appear in adults too, thus affecting their personal and sexual lives.

This complex, like the Oedipus Complex, is an analogy of the establishment of a powerful father-daughter relationship. It is mostly identified in young girls of about 3-6 years of age, at their phallic stage of psychosexual development.

During this stage, the daughters relatively spend more time with their fathers. It is an attitude complex that is associated with the daughter wanting to replace the mother as the father’s partner.

This as a result puts her in a position of hatred for the mother and she rivals or competes with the mother for the father’s attention and affection.  

Electra Complex

How does it work?

According to Freud and his theory of child psychology development, this specific age bracket (3-6 years) is the phase where the development of a psychosexual awareness starts taking place.

This process may also involve learning to recognize the presence of the same sex parent as a threat. This phase also involves the presence of libidinal energy in the child and if not addressed properly, may lead to a fixation of attention of sorts in the following years as well.

Such a fixation or association at this specific stage of a person’s life may lead to several difficulties. Adapting to the related behavioural reactions or anxiety due to maladjustment are some instances.

This phase also observes different stages of psychoanalytical development. There are many defensive mechanisms and behavioural patterns that can help one identify such a psychological complex in the child’s mind.

For a girl child, the resentment towards the mother may also brew out of what is called the penis envy. This refers to the mother-daughter relations being tense or strained because the daughter feels that she is not sufficiently equipped in the world, because of her mother. 

Dating and Life Choices Patterns

The Electra Complex has been disregarded and even discarded by some mental health experts and psychologists. They believe that this Freudian theory is archaic and is not valid and relevant anymore in the 21st century.

Both the Oedipus Complex and Electra Complexes are developed out of extreme psychological responses to the parent of the opposite sex and development of hatred and tense relations with the same-sex parent.

Whether we believe it or not, our long standing relationship with our parents also has an impact on our life decisions. Especially the ones involving decisions related to choosing a partner.

Of course, once you’re grown up and have the mind space to understand this concept, the mere idea of dating your mom or your dad may feel gross and make you nauseous. But in reality, it is a lot more deep seated and subconsciously impacts our choices of partners.

The kind of relationships we have and pursue with our caregivers is our primary contact with any human at all. This is why it can get embedded in our subconscious memory.

Daddy Issues

There is a phenomenon among girls especially, which is commonly termed as daddy issues. In such cases, the personal relationships are directly or indirectly impacted by the kind of relationship a girl has had with her father.

The woman having daddy issues looks for her father or any other fatherly-figure in her partner. In several cases, the woman will be attracted to men who are quite older than her and somewhat resemble her father in characteristics.

It’s a simple idea. If you think about all your past relationships, they are in some way associated with the kind of relationship you have had with your parents. The kinds of caregivers you grow up with around you influence the kind of people you are attracted to, too.

Though this theory has been discredited by modern psych experts and child therapists, it holds valid even for adults. We get a sense of it when we look deep into our parental relationships to better understand our relationships, choices and decisions as adults.

Signs You May Have Daddy Issues

A woman with daddy issues has the following psychological symptoms:

  • Attraction to men who are quite older than her and resemble her father or any fatherly figure.
  • Searches for her father’s reflection or characteristics in her boyfriend/partner.
  • She completely relies on her boyfriend/partner for decision making, protection, and seeks his shelter.
  • The woman cites her father’s personality and character as a standard for judging her boyfriend/partner’s personality.

Help and Awareness

  • If you identify these behavioural or psychological patterns in yourself as an adult, the most important step to overcome these issues is to practice self awareness.
  • Secondly, put in conscious efforts to break this pattern. In a child, it is often easier to nip such patterns in the bud so that they don’t pan out to lead to turbulent personal relationships as an adult.

What more can you do?

Practicing self awareness to overcome this complex as an adult requires consistent effort.

  • The first step is essentially to identify and acknowledge these issues and to take responsibility and charge of your future decisions.
  • You cannot be laid back and tell yourself that things are supposed to be a certain way and expect all of it to just fall back into place on its own. Such complexes are deeply rooted in human psyche.
  • They often stunt the growth of a person and cause unwanted anxiety and barriers in healthy communication. As a woman, one must be aware of the kind of equation they have.
  • Women must encourage with their father or father figure of the family and ensure that these patterns do not reoccur in their personal decisions as well.
  • If required, you must seek out for professional help to give you the necessary push required for you to move forward on the path of self discovery and recovery.

Behavioural patterns may seem difficult to let go of. However, it is very possible to get rid of them and overcome them, when you realize that they are not letting you grow as a person and are causing trouble.


Unattended complexes and behavioral patterns such as the Electra complex in young girls can lead to bad life decisions in their adult life. Especially the ones of the romantic variety.

These can be overcome through consistent efforts, conscious thinking and calculation before choosing a partner and through open, healthy communication.

The first and the most important step towards recovery is to recognize these patterns and accept these issues. You need to understand your choices and how they might impact you and your life in the future, taking reference from how similar decisions panned out in the past.

Anupam Kundu
A professional blogger and an IT freak. The atypical combo of a Civil Service aspirant and a Tech enthusiast.