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Gaddini, E. (1976). Discussion of 'The Role of Family Life in Child Development'—On 'Father Formation' in Early Child Development. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:397-401.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:397-401

Discussion of 'The Role of Family Life in Child Development'—On 'Father Formation' in Early Child Development

Eugenio Gaddini

After reading the papers by Maurice Friend (this issue) and Horst-Eberhard Richter (this issue), I found myself thinking of the word 'familiar' and of its being associated with the idea of family as something one is supposed to be well acquainted with. This is certainly not so for the growing child, for whom the task of becoming familiar with his family's structure and life is certainly immense. The unsolved mysteries and riddles of early life may later turn into psychopathology, and sometimes into creative research and expression. Once indeed they gave rise to no less than psychoanalysis itself.

Since the suggestion of the Programme Committee has been to discuss the topic of this Dialogue, rather than the excellent papers which have been given by Friend and Richter, I shall take this opportunity to make an attempt to approach what is for the child (and partly still for us, too) one of the basic mysteries, namely the father. I refer to the psychological role of the father in early child development.

While, on the sociological side, the role of the father has undergone striking changes in this century—at least in our culture—his psychological role in my view, does not seem to have changed, and possibly is not going to change in the foreseeable future. I am obviously not referring to the many ways in which his role may be distorted, rather than changed, within different family situations, but to what the father basically means to the growing child and, before then, to the child's mother.

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