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Diamond, M.J. (1997). Boys to Men: The Maturing of Masculine Gender Identity through Paternal Watchful Protectiveness. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(4):443-468.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(4):443-468

Boys to Men: The Maturing of Masculine Gender Identity through Paternal Watchful Protectiveness

Michael J. Diamond, Ph.D.

This paper explores how a substantial aspect of fathering serves as one important avenue for the adult male's construction of his unique sense of masculinity. It explicates the relationship between the father's function as the primordial “protective agent” of the mother-infant dyad and his formation of a developing sense of his own “manhood.” Adult male gender development is discussed from the perspective of the search for narcissistic completion as informed by the masculine ego ideal. A psychoanalytic, developmental perspective is used to understand the male ego ideal in both its infantile and its more mature forms. In rethinking the adult pathways to such a sense of masculinity, prevailing psychoanalytic theories of masculinity are amplified by incorporating more recent advances, especially those pertaining to narcissism, the renunciation of early opposite-sex identifications, and the capacity for “fatherliness.” The impact of this early paternal holding function on the father's unconscious striving for narcissistic completion, and its effect both on his genderized ego ideal and previously renounced early maternal and paternal identifications, is considered. The significance of paternal watchful protectiveness on the father's self-esteem, sense

of “manhood,” and gender identity maturation is given prominence. I contend that adult male gender identity matures by becoming both more cohesive and more fluid as a result of this fatherly provision. A case example illustrates the painful struggle of a new father limited by his impaired capacity for such watchful protection. This father was able eventually to develop his initial fatherliness and thereby advance a maturing sense of masculinity through the treatment process.

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