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Anal Retentive - Origin

Posted by R. Berg on March 27, 2001

In Reply to: Anal Retentive - Origin posted by Bruce Kahl on March 27, 2001

: : I believe the term refers to an infant who retains his/her excrement for fear of soiling his/her diaper.

: From memories of Psych 101 circa 1967:

: Parents who are very strict with their children when it comes to toilet training and who disapprove of soiling will produce an anal retentive offspring. This offspring person will be very neat and concerned about order and cleanliness. Any psych students out there to give more detail?

I'm not a psych student, but I've copy-edited lots of writings in psychology. In psychoanalytic theory, a cluster of traits grouped under the anal-retentive heading, including compulsiveness and miserliness, is said to result from conflicts experienced by a child at the stage when adults start demanding that the poop be put in the potty.

For a modified, updated, and intuition-friendly version of this theory, a good book is "Childhood and Society" by Erik Erikson.