Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Object (Freudian)

  • Leslie BerminghamEmail author
  • Kevin B. Meehan
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_608-1


For Freud (1915), all of human activity is motivated by instincts, or disturbances to a theorized homeostatic internal state that are transmuted into self-preservative, sexual, or aggressive urges. Every drive is aimed at a particular target, which Freud (1905) termed its object (typically, though not exclusively, some other person). The object is defined over time, as an individual comes to associate the experience of satisfaction of a drive with a particular person or thing. Children undergo a process of object loss during development, through which they wean and eventually develop independence from mother, the first sexual object. Freud laid the groundwork for object relations theory with his insight that relationships with others (objects) are influenced endogenously – experienced by an individual based on how her drives have been met and by whom previously in life.

Objects and Instincts

Freud first introduced the term object in his Three Essays on the Theory of...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bowlby, J. (1971). Attachment and Loss, Vol. 1. Attachment. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  2. Freud, S. (1905). Three essays on the theory of sexuality (Standard edition, Vol. 7, pp. 125–245).Google Scholar
  3. Freud, S. (1915). Instincts and their vicissitudes (Standard edition, Vol. 14, pp. 117–140).Google Scholar
  4. Freud, S. (1917). Mouming and melancholia (Standard edition, Vol. 14, pp. 237–258). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  5. Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Standard edition, Vol. 18, pp. 1–64).Google Scholar
  6. Freud, S. (1926). Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety (Standard edition, Vol. 20, pp. 75–175).Google Scholar
  7. Freud, S. (1940). An outline of psycho-analysis (Standard edition, Vol. 23, pp. 139–207).Google Scholar
  8. Freud, S. (1953–1974). All references are to The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Standard edition, Vols. 1–24). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  9. Greenberg, J. R., & Mitchell, S. A. (1983). Object relations in psychoanalytic theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Klein, M. (1946). “Notes on some schizoid mechanisms”. Envy and gratitude and other works 1946–1963. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis (published 1975).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLong Island UniversityBrooklynUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin B. Meehan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLong Island UniversityBrooklynUSA