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Ross, J.M. (1983). Father to the Child: Psychoanalytic Reflections. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(3):301-320.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(3):301-320

Father to the Child: Psychoanalytic Reflections

John Munder Ross

This paper is about my developing interest in the father within the context of his past and present families. I will touch on the earlier phases of my work, in which I came to elaborate a line for the development of paternal identity during boyhood. Then I will sketch my current interest, the psychology of the adult father and the developmental importance of fathering. There is a rich bed of evidence for some of these reflections, much of which I cannot specify in this brief essay: the evidence of child observation, interview material, and clinical data.

A man's sense of himself as a father, an identity that is activated and crystallized by the birth and presence of children, does not spring upon him suddenly, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Rather, fatherhood is presaged in many of the real and imaginary acts of childhood. The roots of fatherhood become evident in the unfolding strivings to nurture and generate life as well as the evident parental identifications which we can discern in boys during their first ten years, identifications with mother first of all, and then with father.

A Developing Interest

Let me review the more recent roots, at least, of my interest in this topic. My interest in fatherhood and research in this area began six or seven years ago, as part of a consciousness, I now realize, which has since found concrete expression in an efflorescence of pieces on new roles for men and on the father and his developmental impact. Every-where

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* Presented to the Conference on Families and Children, Sarah Lawrence College May 12, 1979.

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