The apprentice complex is a psychodynamic constellation whereby a boy or youth resolves the Oedipus complex by an identification with his father, or father figure, as someone from whom to learn the future secrets of masculinity.
Fenichel considered that the apprentice complex offered a ready mode of enjoying dependence under a guise of future independence – temporary submission to the father's authority offering a means to becoming oneself a male in time. Always ambivalent in that the ultimate goal is to replace the father, the complex may disguise a powerful degree of hostility, and was open to several forms of pathological distortion. If meant by a paternal threat, the complex may regress to a passive identification with the mother.
- Daniel Defoe, with his multiplicity of careers, his shifting political allegiances, and his prolific use of irony and masks in his writing, has been seen as a lifelong example of the apprentice complex.
- The intensity of mother-attachment in Hindu youth has been seen as producing an apprentice complex-style 'identification through submission' to their fathers, as a compensatory force.
- S. Akhtar, Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (2009) p. 26
- O. Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 564
- O. Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 423
- O. Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 334 and p. 227
- O. Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 894
- C. A. Colarusso, Adult Development (2013) p. 267
- Leo Abse, The Bi-sexuality of Daniel Defoe (2006) p. 25
- P. Bansai, Youth in Contemporary India (2012) p. 240