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Leonard, M.R. (1966). Fathers and Daughters—The Significance of 'Fathering' in the Psychosexual Development of the Girl. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:325-334.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:325-334

Fathers and Daughters—The Significance of 'Fathering' in the Psychosexual Development of the Girl

Marjorie R. Leonard


Emphasis in this paper has been on the father's influence on the girl's libidinal development. I hope to make his role in the development of the girl's ego and superego the subject of a future paper.

Following the oedipal conflict, the girl must establish a desexualized object-relationship to her father, enabling her later to accept the feminine role without guilt or anxiety and to give love to a young man in her peer group. What I have tried to point out is that whether or not the girl is able to achieve this, depends as

much on the kind of counter-oedipal relationship offered by the father as on the intrapsychic development of the girl.

Crucial to the girl's development is whether or not her father was available to her as a love-object and whether or not he was capable of offering her affection without being seduced by her fantasies, or seducing her with his counter-oedipal feelings.

The oedipal relationship cannot develop normally if the father is non-participating in the family situation. Two possible outcomes have been demonstrated: The first, in which the girl builds an idealized image of her father. In adolescence she seeks as love-object someone who will be as much like this ideal as possible. We saw this to be true in the case of Rita and in part, in Linda. In the second outcome, illustrated by Jeannie, the preoedipal narcissistic attitude persists. The girl is unable to give love, but rather seeks narcissistic gratification in being loved. She seeks a man who will 'mother' her, or she uses her awareness of being attractive to boys to fulfill her need for adulation. Sexuality serves as a means to that end.

Contrasted with the non-participating father, is the father who is seductive because of poorly defended incestuous wishes. This attitude in the father may produce extreme defence measures on the girl's part as seen in Nancy who consciously hated her father. She either regressed to pre-oedipal expressions of hostility or sought to replace her father with a love-object who satisfied her unconscious oedipal wishes.

When the girl's oedipal conflict has been intense and the father's counter-oedipal response has caused him to develop strong defences, these may be reactivated at the time of the girl's adolescence. His behaviour usually alternates between hostility and unreasonable demands precipitating defence measures on her part, for example, an attachment to an object chosen as father's opposite, as illustrated by Jill. If on the other hand, as with Lori and her father, a reciprocal attachment persists, the relationship may become almost as crippling to her psychosexual development as a symbiotic relationship with the mother.

It is obvious that normal, wholesome fathering is difficult to achieve. A beautiful illustration of this point occurs in a novel by Geigerstam quoted by Hug-Hellmuth (1917):

It takes a mature man, one who has found an unneurotic solution to his own oedipal conflict and has achieved a satisfying marriage relationship, to be able to offer his daughter desexualized affection at the crucial stages in her development.

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