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Nancy Julia Chodorow (born January 20, 1944) is an American sociologist, feminist psychoanalyst, and professor.[1] Influenced by Freud, Chodorow has written a number of influential books in contemporary feminist writing,[2] including The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978);[3][4][5] Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1989); Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond (1994); and The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture (1999). In 1995, Chodorow was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences. In 1996, The Reproduction of Mothering was chosen by Contemporary Sociology as one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years.[3][5]

Nancy Chodorow
Nancy Julia Chodorow

(1944-01-20) January 20, 1944 (age 75)
Alma materBrandeis University (1975)
Radcliffe College (1966)
Known forPsychoanalytical Feminism
AwardsTraveling Women Scholar Award, from the American Psychological Association (2007)

L. Bryce Boyer Prize, from the Society for Psychological Anthropology, for her book The Power of Feelings (November 2000)

Distinguished Contribution to Women and Psychoanalysis Award, from the American Psychological Association (April 2000)

Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences, US & Canada (1995)

Jessie Bernard Award for Women in Society for "The Reproduction of Mothering" (1979)
Scientific career
FieldsPsychology, Psychoanalysis, Feminist Sociology
InstitutionsProfessor at The University of California, Berkeley Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
Doctoral advisorPhilip Slater
InfluencesSigmund Freud

Chodorow is widely regarded as a leading psychoanalytic feminist theorist[6] and is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association, often speaking at its congresses.[7] She spent many years as a professor in the departments of sociology and clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.[8] Chodorow retired from the University of California in 2005, and later went on to teach Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance.[9]



Early lifeEdit

Born on January 20, 1944, in New York, New York[10] to a Jewish family. Her parents were [1] Marvin and Leah Chodorow. Her father was a professor of applied physics.[11][12] Chodorow married Michael Reich, a professor of economics. They had two children, Rachel and Gabriel.[10] In 1977, they separated.[13]


Chodorow graduated from Radcliffe College in 1966. There she studied under Beatrice and W.M. Whiting. Chodorow's work focused on personality and cultural anthropology now classified as pre-feminist work.[11] In 1975, she received her Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University.[14] Under the instruction of Philip Slater, Chodorow was influenced to focus her studies on the unconscious phenomena of psychoanalysis.[11] Following her Ph.D., Chodorow received clinical training at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute from 1985 to 1993.[9]


Sigmund FreudEdit

Chodorow incorporates Freudian analysis with a feminist perspective to understand the mother-child relationship.[15] Chodorow uses the Freudian model of female development to reveal that a girl's gender development is related to her closeness with her mother. Therefore, the girl is pursuing a privilege that the boy has already achieved. The boy has already received this attention because he is more valued by the mother as an object since he is a source of her own Oedipal gratification.[16] Except, the boy has both the need and the ability to detach himself from his mother. The female solves her problem by converting her envy of the male privilege into heterosexual desire.[16] Using Freudian psychoanalytic theory, Chodorow explained that young girls remain identified with their mother even after the Oedipus complex symbolically separates the male child from his mother.[2] Chodorow notes that Freud's theory of the Oedipal conflict and the Oedipal revolution is due to chance.[17] The father must be in the right place at the right time. Chodorow's analysis led to the hypothesis that a girl's desire for men results from her stronger desire for her mother.[17]

Additionally, Chodorow uses Sigmund Freud's theory to explain that the differences between men and women are due to capitalism and the absent father.[18] Chodorow acknowledges how the economy changed in 2003, and the psychological impact on both sexes with shared parenting. The development of shared parenting has challenged the traditional mothering role resulting in a paradigm where mother and children have insufficient time for each other.[17]

Chodorow argues that Freudian theory suppresses women. However, the theory also provides grounds for how people become gendered, how femininity and masculinity develops and how sexism through sexual inequality is reproduced. Furthermore, Freud explains how nature becomes culture resulting in a second nature. This explains that the formation and organization of gender occur not only through social institutions but through transformations in the consciousness and the psyche.[16]

Intrapsychic StructuresEdit

Chodorow draws on Freud's idea of intraspychic structures to understand the developmental differences between girls and boys. Freud explains that there are three parts to an individual: the id, the ego, and the super-ego. These parts produce rigid boundaries in the internal workings of our brains and impact our interactions in society. Chodorow uses this intrapsychic structure to explain that the internal workings of males and females are structurally different. Therefore, developmental differences are not inherent, instead, these differences are produced through socialization.[18]


The Reproduction of MotheringEdit

Chodorow views mothering as a dual structure, where motherhood is partly fixed by childhood experience and the social structure of kinship.[19] She explains that the process of a woman becoming a mother goes beyond biology and instinct.[15] Chodorow argues in her book, The Reproduction of Mothering (1978; 2nd ed., 1999), that gender differences are compromised from formations of the Oedipal complex. She begins with Freud's assertion that the individual is born bisexual and that the child's mother is its first sexual object. Chodorow, drawing on the work of Karen Horney and Melanie Klein, notes that the child forms its ego in reaction to the dominating figure of the mother.[20] The male child forms this sense of independent agency easily, identifying with the agency and freedom of the father and emulating his possessive interest in the mother/wife. This task is not as simple for the female child. The mother identifies with her more strongly, and the daughter attempts to make the father her new love object but is stymied in her ego formation by the intense bond with the mother. Where male children typically experience love as a dyadic relationship, daughters are caught in a libidinal triangle where the ego is pulled between love for the father, the love of the mother, and concern and worry over the relationship of the father to the mother.[5]

The strong bond between the mother and the infant, not only shapes her identity but allows the child to acknowledge that the father is a separate being. Except, in circumstances where the father provides a similar form of primary care as the mother. This separation of the father and child can result in the child developing an ambivalence in relation to the father who desires to differ from the child. Therefore, the child is confused due to the failure to recognize the mother's separateness. Consequently, children are more obedient to their father not due to being considered the authority figure or his strictness, but because of the initial relationship to the father.[5][16]


"The mother is the early caregiver and primary source of identification for all children... A daughter continues to identify with the mother."[5] Sociologically, Chodorow explains that the strong bond between mother and daughter inhibits the daughter from forming her own identity. The first bonding beings in infancy with the mother. This initial bond is true for both sexes, except, boys breakaway at an early age to identify with their fathers. Thus, maintaining the mother-daughter relationship and identity.[16]

Gender PersonalityEdit

For Chodorow, the contrast between the dyadic and triadic first love experiences explains the social construction of gender roles. This is through the universal degradation of women in culture, cross-cultural patterns in male behavior, and marital strain in Western society after Second Wave feminism. In marriage, the woman takes less of an interest in sex and more in the children. Her ambivalence towards sex eventually drives the male away. She devotes her energies to the children once she does reach sexual maturity.[5]

Furthermore, Chodorow examines the psychological development of adult females and males. Chodorow argues that the psyches of men and women are structured differently because of dissimilar childhood experiences.[18] The justification for why women tend to be more empathic is because women's ego boundaries are less fixed. Chodorow hypothesizes that if women are perceived by society as primarily and exclusively as mothers, then any liberation of women will continue to be experienced as traumatic by society.[17]

Chodorow argues that masculinity learned in the absence of an ongoing personal relationship with the father and without an available masculine role model, boys are taught more consciously how to be masculine. Boys' development of masculinity is used as a tool that would be used against them by the father. Therefore, masculine identity is due to gender role development. On the other hand, femininity is less consciously instilled in girls rather it is embedded in the ongoing relationship to the mother. Thus, female identification is predominantly parental.[17]


“Masculinity is defined as much negatively as positively.” [5][17] Chodorow argues that the production of feminine identification is a rational process. In comparison, the production of male identification is defined by rejection rather than acceptance.[17]

Honors and AwardsEdit

  • Traveling Women Scholar Award, from the American Psychological Association (2007)
  • L. Bryce Boyer Prize, from the Society for Psychological Anthropology, for her book The Power of Feelings (November 2000)
  • Distinguished Contribution to Women and Psychoanalysis Award, from the American Psychological Association (April 2000)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences, US & Canada (1995)
  • Jessie Bernard Award for Women in Society for "The Reproduction of Mothering" (1979)

See alsoEdit


  • Chodorow, Nancy (2012), "Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice," New York: Routledge, ISBN 9780415893589.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1999), "The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture," New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300089097.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1997), "The psychodynamics of the family", in Nicholson, Linda (ed.), The second wave: a reader in feminist theory, New York: Routledge, pp. 181–197, ISBN 9780415917612.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1994), "Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond," KY: University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 978-0813108285.
  • Chodorow, Nancy (1991), "Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory," New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0300051162.
  • Chodorow, Nancy, (1978), "The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender" CA: University of California Press, ISBN 9780520038929.


  1. ^ Chodorow, Nancy (1995). "Becoming a feminist foremother". In Phyllis Chesler, Esther D. Rothblum, Ellen Cole, (eds.). Feminist foremothers in women's studies, psychology, and mental health. New York: Haworth Press. pp. 141–154. ISBN 9781560247678.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b Luttrell, Wendy, "Chodorow, Nancy", Encyclopedia of Social Theory, SAGE Publications, Inc., ISBN 9780761926115, retrieved February 26, 2019
  3. ^ a b "Nancy (Julia) Chodorow." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, 2017-07-07. Also available online via
  4. ^ "CMPS Annual Conference (December 1, 2012)". Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies, New York, NY. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "The Reproduction of Mothering" [publisher's description]. University of California Press.
  6. ^ Scott, Joan W. (1986). "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis ". The American Historical Review. Ed. American Historical Association. Vol. 91, No. 5, pp. 1053-1075; here: p. 1061. doi: 10.2307/1864376.
  7. ^ Metzl, Marilyn Newman (Winter 2003). "From Sociology To Psychoanalysis: The Works Of Nancy J. Chodorow" (book reviews of Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering; Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory; Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities; and The Power of Feelings). Psychologist-Psychoanalyst (newsletter), pp. 55-60. Psychoanalysis (Division 39), American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  8. ^ "2011 Visiting Professor Nancy Chodorow, Ph.D.", Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and Society website
  9. ^ a b ""UC Berkeley Sociology Department CV"".
  10. ^ a b "Nancy Chodorow". Webster University. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^ Unger, Rhoda K. (March 1, 2009). "Psychology in the United States". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2017-03-26.
  13. ^ "Psychologist of the Week- Fall 2012 - Nancy Chodorow". Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  14. ^ Chodorow biography at Radcliffe College Magazine website
  15. ^ a b Lemert, Charles (2018). Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 9780429974267.
  16. ^ a b c d e "ALAN v22n2 - The Mother/Daughter Relationships in Young Adult Fiction". Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Chodorow, Nancy (Winter 2003). "The Reproduction of Mothering; Feminism and Psycohoanalytic Theory; Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities; The Power of Feelings (Book Reviews)". American Psychological Association. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c Allan, Kenneth (2005). Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press. p. 214. ISBN 9781412905725.
  19. ^ Allan, Kenneth (2012). Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. p. 380. ISBN 978-1412978200.
  20. ^ "Nancy Chodorow". Retrieved March 16, 2017.


  • Allan, Kenneth. 2005. Explorations in Classical Sociological Theory: Seeing the Social World. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
  • Allan, Kenneth. 2012. Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications   
  • Lemert, Charles. 2018. Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Nadeau, Frances A. n.d. The Evolving Classroom: A Study of Traditional and Technology-Based Instruction in a STEM Classroom. Retrieved February 27, 2019 (
  • Newman Metzl, Marilyn. 2019. Mothering, Feminism, Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities (Book Reviews). Retrieved February 27, 2019 (

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