Psychodynamic theories of psychology emphasize the role of the unconscious mind and early childhood experiences in personality development. Despite the far-reaching influence of psychodynamic theories on the evolution and current state of psychology as a discipline, there were many initial criticisms about the relevance and validity of these theories. One criticism of early psychodynamic theories is that they fail to account for one’s free will in the relationship between early childhood experiences and subsequent behavior. Initial theories suggested that personality and existing behavior were directly and solely determined during childhood. Another criticism is what some perceived to be the lack of scientific rigor with which the theories were developed. For example, Freud’s theories were based on case studies of mostly middle class, white Victorian women. Therefore, critics argued that his theories could not be generalized or applied beyond this narrow population of patients. Another criticism of psychodynamic theories was that many of the related concepts and processes (e.g., the unconscious, ego, childhood memories, feelings of inferiority, symbolism, and interpretation of dreams) could not be objectively measured or easily replicated. This criticism gave rise to the emergence of behaviorism, which sought to establish psychology as a science through the objective and observable measures of external stimuli and behaviors.
Fortunately, researchers have attempted to address some of the criticisms of early psychodynamic theories by studying and testing the theories in a wide range of contexts. In this discussion, you will select a study involving one psychodynamic theory of interest to you and determine if and how the results supported the theory or contributed to its evolution.
- Review this week’s Learning Resources on psychodynamic theories.
- Select one psychodynamic theory (e.g., psychoanalytic, psychosocial development) that interests you the most.
- Locate a research article that includes the psychodynamic theory you selected.
- Reflect on what you learned last week about the research-theory cycle. Think about how the theory was incorporated in the study and whether or not the findings provide evidence in support of the theory.