Little Hans and the Oedipal Crisis


Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. According to psychoanalytical theory, people go through five distinct phases of neural development, named for the part of the body through which we derive sexual pleasure. The phases are the oral phase, which lasts from birth to the age of eighteen months, the anal phase, eighteen-twenty four months, the phallic phase, 3-5 years, the latent phase, 5 years-puberty, and the genital phase, from puberty onwards. One of the central theories of psychoanalysis is the Oedipus complex (Electra complex for females), the desire of a boy to engage in sexual activities with his mother. Another central concept of psychoanalysis is that of the conscious and unconscious mind, broken down into three parts, the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. The Id, which exists only in the unconscious mind, is the self centered, pleasure driven part of the mind that seeks gratification and is incapable of determining the difference between fantasy and reality. The Superego is the morality driven sense of right and wrong part of the mind that counters the Id and exists partly in the conscious mind and partly in the unconscious mind. The ego is the part of the mind that mediates between the Id and Superego, existing partly in the conscious and partly in the subconscious mind.

Little Hans' father was a friend of Freud's who told Freud that his son was developing several phobias and a strange obsession with his and other peoples "widdlers". Freud interpreted this as meaning that Hans was going through his Oedipus complex. Little Hans was also having strange dreams, such as him taking a smaller crumpled up giraffe away from a larger crumpled up giraffe, which Freud interpreted as a fear of Hans' father taking his mother away from him. As time went on, Hans had dreams in which he eliminated his father and had children with his mother. When things came to a head Hans' dreams began to adapt to include his father, such as one dream when he had children with his mother and his father was retained as the grandfather, indicating that Hans no longer wish to remove his father from the competition for his mother. Hans' also had a dream in which the plumber came and gave Hans a larger "widdler" and posterior, which indicated to Freud that Hans was beginning to relate more with his father and had completed his Oedipal Crisis.


The aim of this study was to help Little Hans go through his Oedipal crisis and eliminate his phobias. Freud would later use this study to reinforce the case for his psychoanalytical method of psychology.

Participant Group

Little Hans was the only participant in the study.

Research Method

This was a case study with only one participant.

Data Collection

All data was collected from Little Hans through his father interviewing him.


The study was conducted by having Little Hans' father ask him questions about his dreams, which the father would then relay to Freud for analysis.


Little Hans was able to resolve his Oedipal crisis with Freud's help and began to identify more with his father, with his fantasies of killing his father disappearing.


Indepth look at one person
Special relationship with his father


Only one participant
Father was a supporter of Freud, may have corrupted data to support Freud's ideas

Ecological Validity

Though this study was helpful for therapeutic use, it has low ecological validity as Hans was the only participant and this was an examination of only his Oedipal crisis.


As was stated before, Hans' father was a supporter of Freud and could have falsified information conveyed to Freud to support the theory of psychoanalysis.