Jocasta complex  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In psychoanalytic analysis, the Jocasta complex is the incestuous sexual desire of a mother towards her son.

The term was first proposed in 1920 by Raymond de Saussure, and may be used to cover different degrees of attachment, including domineering but asexual mother love – something perhaps particularly prevalent with an intelligent son and an absent/weak father figure.



The Jocasta complex is named for Jocasta, the mythological Greek queen who had a sexual relationship with her son. The Jocasta complex is similar to the Oedipus complex, in which a son has sexual desire towards his mother.

Analytic discussion

Theodor Reik saw the 'Jocasta mother', with an unfulfilled adult relationship of their own and over-concern for their child instead, as a prime source of neurosis.

George Devereux went further, arguing that the child's oedipal complex was itself triggered by a pre-existing parental complex (Jocasta/Laius).

Eric Berne also explored the other (parental) side of the oedipus complex, pointing to related family dramas such as “mother sleeping with daughter's boyfriend...when mother has no son to play Jocasta with”.

Cultural analogues

  • Atossa, in the Greek tragedy of The Persians has been seen as struggling in her dreams with a Jocasta complex.
  • Indian folk-tales often feature figures, like Jocasta, expressing maternal desire for their sons.


Mother-son incestuous sexual relationships are taboo, and illegal in most countries.

See also

Covert incest


Phaedra complex

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jocasta complex" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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