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Kramer, S. Prall, R.C. (1978). The Role of the Father in the Preoedipal Years. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 26:143-161.

(1978). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 26:143-161

The Role of the Father in the Preoedipal Years

Selma Kramer, M.D. and Robert C. Prall, M.D.

In her introduction to the panel, Dr. Selma Kramer offered a historical review of psychoanalytic interest in the role of the father in child development, beginning with Freud's attention to the Oedipus complex as well as to the preoedipal role of the mother. She pointed out that until recently attention to the preoedipal father has been very sparse in the psychoanalytic literature. She noted contributions of T. Benedek, D. Burlingham, P. Greenacre, R. Greenson, H. Loewald, M. Mahler, and others who have approached the subject on the basis of adult and child analysis and early childhood direct observations. Kramer cited Loewald's 1951 paper wherein he postulates the role of the father as a positive supporting force for the preoedipal child against the threat of reengulfment by the mother. This leads to an early identification with the father, preceding that of the Oedipus complex.

Kramer also referred to the recent blurring of maternal and paternal roles and increased participation by fathers in the nurturing of their children. She observed that the analysis of some young men reveals potential conflicts related to the birth of their children. With others, fatherhood aids resolution of conflicts, especially over masculinity, and enhances maturation and increased separateness and independence from their own parents. Improved self-esteem and confidence and a revived identification with his own


Held at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, April, 1977.

Panelists: Ernst L. Abelin, Robert J. Stoller; Discussants: Jules Glenn, James A. Kleeman.

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