chapter  8
10 Pages

The father

While a vast literature has grown up in recent decades on the significance of the mother-child bond, fathers have been relatively neglected. This is, perhaps, only to be expected as our culture continues to recoil from the ‘patrism’ of nineteenth-century life towards the ‘matrism’ of the present time. However, it is surely going too far to assert, as some social scientists and feminists have done, that fathers are largely irrelevant to the well-being of their progeny, that their sex is immaterial, and their sole useful contribution to child-rearing is to function from time to time as breastless mother-substitutes. Such a degree of contempt for the paternal virtues would contrast sharply with the clinical experience of psychiatrists and the personal experience of most of us that fathers do indeed have great influence on the lives of their sons and daughters. Fortunately, this dissonance between theory and fact has led to some interesting research in recent years, the implications of which we shall be examining in this chapter. Broadly speaking, the findings are in keeping with Jung’s (1909) belief that the father plays a crucial psychological role in ‘the destiny of the individual’.