Definition Essay Example: Structuralism, Functionalism, and Psychodynamic

Published: 2022-02-25
Definition Essay Example: Structuralism, Functionalism, and Psychodynamic
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Psychology Sociology Science
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1006 words
9 min read


Structuralism is an approach to the human sciences which tries to analyze a specific field as a complex system of interrelated parts. Structuralism considers all human activities including thoughts and perceptions to be constructed and not natural (Piaget, 2015). This approach was developed in Germany by Wilhelm Wundt and discovered mainly by Edward B. Titchener who was a student under Wundt. The works of Ferdinand de Saussure are believed to create the foundation of structuralism.

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Structuralism is made up of four main ideas. First, the approach states that every system must have a structure. Second, structuralism states that structure is what establishes the position of each element as a whole. The third idea indicates that the 'structura laws' deal with coexistence instead of changes. The last idea is that structures are real things which remain under the surface or the appearance of meaning. The approach can be said to be the technique which looks at the relationships between primary elements in literature and language.

Wundt is considered as the father of psychology and in the 19th century tried to experiment on his hypothesis. The hypothesis was that the human mental life can be divided into basic elements which when combined form the complex mental structures (Piaget, 2015). The success of physics and chemistry researchers pushed Wundt to look for the mental elements that made up complex experiences. The main tool that Wundt used in structuralism was introspection which involved a well-practiced form of self-examination. He believed that conscious mental states could be studied scientifically using introspection. However, this introspection was not used for a long period, and it was dropped in the 1920's. This approach contributed to the development of psychology and brought in the concept of conducting research in controlled conditions.


Functionality can be defined as the concept in sociology which views the society as made up of different but related parts with each one of them serving a particular purpose (Keller & Schoenfeld, 2014). The approach was developed to counter the structuralism. Functionalism looks at each part of the society as regards to how it contributes to the stability of the entire society. This theory is based on the idea of natural selection which suggests that individuals are adapted to their environment.

Functionalism focus on how mental activities help an individual fit in the environment. In this theory, researchers tended to focus on the operation of the whole mind instead of its parts. This theory focused more on examining the techniques in which the mind become accustomed to changing situations and environments (Newman & Newman, 2017). This approach relied on further objective measures to examine mental activities.

Functionalism believes that institutions exist only when they play essential roles in the functioning of the society. If an institution does not serve its purpose anymore, then it is most likely to disappear gradually. If new needs come up then new institutions are also developed to meet them. Functionalism insists that there needs to be social stability and order existing in the society. If one part of the system becomes dysfunctional, then all other parts are affected and lead to social problems which establish social change. Functionalism is mainly known for acting as a link in the philosophical evolution of approaches regarding the anatomy of the mind and growth and development of other theories.


The psychodynamic approach tries to explain personality in regards to conscious and unconscious forces which include unconscious beliefs and desires (Colarusso & Nemiroff, 2013). The term psychodynamics does not refer to any single theory rather it relates to many different theories which make up the psychodynamic perspective. These theories suggest that an individual's personality is due to a combination of experiences attained when growing up and unconscious desires. The theory applied here are from theorists such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Erik Erickson.

According to the structural model by Sigmund Freud, an individual's personality is made up of three parts which are id, ego, and superego. The model states that people are born with the Id which is the pleasure-seeking part of our personality which drives us to satisfy basic needs (McLeod, 2016). The ego develops as children grow up and it is based on the reality. The ego intends to satisfy the Id however it first reflects on the situation and balances the Id and the superego. The superego develops once people start learning and it tells us if something is wrong or right.

In the psychodynamic model, we also have the Alfred Adler's theory of inferiority and birth order which claims that all of us are born with a sense of inferiority which is demonstrated by how weak and helpless newborn babies are. Adler states that inferiority is an essential part of our personality which drives us to strive to become superior. We also have the Erick Erickson's theory of psychosocial development. The theory sets out challenges that an individual needs to overcome for them to be successful in later stages. First, children between 0-1 year need to be able to trust other, then secondly at age 1-3, a child needs to develop autonomy, thirdly children at age 3-6 need to be assertive and fourth between age 6-12 the child needs to develop a sense of pride and confidence (Newman & Newman, 2017). Fifth when they become teenagers they must develop a sense of identity while sixth as young adults they need to be optimistic. Seventh, in middle adulthood a person needs to feel that they are productive and lastly in late adulthood, they need to have a positive personality.


Colarusso, C. A., & Nemiroff, R. A. (2013). Adult development: A new dimension in psychodynamic theory and practice. Springer Science & Business Media.

Keller, F. S., & Schoenfeld, W. N. (2014). Principles of psychology: A systematic text in the science of behavior (Vol. 2). BF Skinner Foundation.

McLeod, S. A. (2016). Id, ego and superego. Retrieved from www. simply psychology. org/psyche. html.

Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2017). Development through life: A psychosocial approach. Cengage Learning.

Piaget, J. (2015). Structuralism (Psychology Revivals). Psychology Press.

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