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Katz, A.W. (2002). Fathers Facing Their Daughters' Emerging Sexuality: The Return of the Oedipal. Psychoanal. St. Child, 57:270-293.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 57:270-293

Fathers Facing Their Daughters' Emerging Sexuality: The Return of the Oedipal

Anita Weinreb Katz, Ph.D.

I propose that parents revisit their own oedipal passions and conflicts parallel to their children's passages through their oedipal phases. The child's oedipal behavior stirs up in the parent old attachment and separation issues as well as old desires and competitions. This both tests the parent's old solutions and offers the chance of new ones. In my view the parent not only is reacting to the child but is also experiencing the destabilization of his own intrapsychic structures. Such destabilizing, which occurs in any important period of psychological transition or development, is both promising and potentially dangerous; it opens

up the possibility of more mature and more adaptive resolutions of revisited conflicts but also poses the danger of cracking a brittle or rigid adjustment, prompting a return to more primitive ways of coping. The resulting inner turmoil may produce disruptive thoughts, affects, and sometimes behavior, ranging from temporary benign regression to severe decompensation.

It goes without saying that oedipal revisitations occur in both parents in conjunction with the oedipal stages of children of both sexes, but I focus here on paternal reactions to, and enactments with, daughters. It may be argued that not all men experience such a crisis, although my belief is that all fathers do. This paper illustrates the way it can appear in a number of different men. Awareness of this possibility enhances our understanding and clinical work with men and with their daughters.

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