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The Information icon (an i in a circle) will give you valuable information about PEP Web data and features. You can find it besides a PEP Web feature and the author’s name in every journal article. Simply move the mouse pointer over the icon and click on it for the information to appear.

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Smith, G. (1987). The crisis of fatherhood. Free Associations, 1(9):72-90.

(1987). Free Associations, 1(9):72-90

The crisis of fatherhood

Gavin Smith

I am not a psychoanalyst or psychotherapist, nor is the literature very familiar to me. There is, however, a growing body of non-psychoanalytic literature on the subject of fatherhood which is open to people such as myself. What follows in this paper is a reflective mining of that literature and of my own experience, written in the hope that it may be of interest to readers of Free Associations. I look forward to being able to read something psychoanalytic on these topics in the future — something accessible to a broader audience. In the meantime, this is what is available to me — and to many others — for sorting out feelings and practice.

The Identity of a Father

Who is a father? Is he the man who provides the sperm… or the man who cares for the child? How often are the two the same?

Does artificial insemination represent a challenge to our current organization of society? Are there ‘equal opportunities’ for women and men in the appointment of nursery nurses? These apparently unrelated questions, and many others, ought to be part of the debate about ‘fathering’. They rarely are.

None the less, fathering has attracted a growing literature. Partly, this is because feminists have desired to re-evaluate the role of men in childcare and marriage. In addition, some men (especially, but not exclusively, ‘anti-sexist’ men) have replied to this feminist initiative. My article is a review of this literature. Particularly illuminating, I find, are the differences between and within female and male perspectives.

I would like also to offer an experiential view of fathering. I am a father, albeit of only fifteen months' standing, and with the joys and crises of fathering fresh in my mind.

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