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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2000;48(4):1439-65.

Barbie and the tree of life: the multiple functions of gender in development.

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  • 1Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, USA.


Gender identity is the lens through which people experience being boy or girl, man or woman. It is a complex compromise formation that is not separate from the wishes, fears, and intrapsychic conflicts of other domains. Over the course of development, gender identity becomes layered and reconfigured. This paper looks at one child's experience of gender over several phases in her development in order to learn how gender is integrated into identity. At different times, as different conflicts came to the fore, she used gender to shape and lend definition to these conflicts. Conversely, her experiences in other spheres influenced her experience of gender.

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