Nancy Chodorow

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Nancy Julia Chodorow (born January 20, 1944) is a feminist sociologist and psychoanalyst.[1] She has written a number of influential books, including The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978);[2][3][4] 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 1996, The Reproduction of Mothering was chosen by Contemporary Sociology as one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years.[2][4]

She is widely regarded as a leading psychoanalytic feminist theorist[5] and is a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association, often speaking at its congresses.[6] She spent many years as a professor in the departments of sociology and clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.[7] She retired from the University of California in 2005, and later went on to teach Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Born on January 20, 1944 in New York, New York[9] to a Jewish family. Her parents were [1] Marvin and Leah Chodorow. Her father was a professor of applied physics[10][11] Chodorow graduated from Radcliffe College in 1966. There she studied under Beatrice and W.M. Whiting Her work focused on personality and cultural anthropology now classified as prefeminist work.[12]

In 1975, she received her PhD in sociology from Brandeis University.[13] Under the instruction of Philip Slater, Chodorow was influenced to focus her studies on the unconscious phenomena of psychoanalytics.[14] Following her PhD, she also received clinical training at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute from 1985 to 1993.[8]

Chodorow was married professor of economics, Michael Reich; they had two children, Rachel and Gabriel.[9] In 1977, they separated.[15]


As she argues in her book The Reproduction of Mothering (1978; 2nd ed., 1999), Chodorow sees gender differences as compromise 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.[16] 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. For Chodorow, the contrast between the dyadic and triadic first love experiences explains the social construction of gender roles, the universal degradation of women in culture, cross-cultural patterns in male behavior, and marital strain in the West 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.

Honors and awards[edit]

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

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Chodorow, Nancy (1997), "The psychodynamics of the family", in Nicholson, Linda, The second wave: a reader in feminist theory, New York: Routledge, pp. 181–197, ISBN 9780415917612.


  1. ^ Chodorow, Nancy (1995). "Becoming a feminist foremother". In Phyllis Chesler, Esther D. Rothblum, Ellen Cole,. 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 "Nancy (Julia) Chodorow." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, 2017-07-07. Also available online via
  3. ^ "CMPS Annual Conference (December 1, 2012)". Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies, New York, NY. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  4. ^ a b "The Reproduction of Mothering" [publisher's description]. University of California Press.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "2011 Visiting Professor Nancy Chodorow, Ph.D.", Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and Society website
  8. ^ a b ""UC Berkeley Sociology Department CV"".
  9. ^ a b "Nancy Chodorow". Webster University. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  10. ^
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Chodorow biography at Radcliffe College Magazine website
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Psychologist of the Week- Fall 2012 - Nancy Chodorow". Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  16. ^ "Nancy Chodorow". Retrieved 2017-03-16.

External links[edit]

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