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Diamond, M.J. (2004). The shaping of masculinity: Revisioning boys turning away from their mothers to construct male gender identity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(2):359-380.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(2):359-380

The shaping of masculinity: Revisioning boys turning away from their mothers to construct male gender identity

Michael J. Diamond

This paper offers an understanding of the nature of the internalization processes involved in the shaping of male gender identity founded on the boy's unique struggles in separating from his mother. The underpinning for the initial development of a sense of masculinity is reconsidered as the author questions the widely held idea of Greenson and Stoller that a boy normatively has to ‘dis-identify’ from his mother to create his gender identity. Import rather is placed on the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mother's (and father's) pre-oedipal and oedipal relationship with their little boy in order better to understand the nature of the boy's unique identifications and subsequent sense of masculinity. Both the security of the boy's attachment to his mother, in providing the foundation for a transitional turning to an ‘other’, and the mother's capacity to reflect upon and recognize her own, as well as the father's and her son's, subjectivity and maleness, are crucial in comprehending boys's ‘attachment-individuation’ process. Likewise, the unconscious paternal and maternal imagos and identifications of both the boy's mother and father, as well as the father's pre-oedipal relationship with his little boy and the boy's mother, are extremely significant in shaping a son's gender identity. The author argues that these early maternal (and paternal) identifications live on in every male and continue to impact the sense of maleness in a dialectical interplay throughout the life span. A maturing gender identity develops from integrating these early, pre-oedipal maternal identifications that no longer need be repudiated nor defensively organized as polarized gender splitting.

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