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Dick, G.L. (2011). The Changing Role of Fatherhood: The Father as a Provider of Selfobject Functions. Psychoanal. Soc. Work, 18(2):107-125.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Social Work, 18(2):107-125

The Changing Role of Fatherhood: The Father as a Provider of Selfobject Functions

Gary L. Dick

Fatherhood is evolving. The way that men carry out their paternal role is reflective of the historical time era in which they live, social and cultural forces, both the mother and the father's expectations for fathering behaviors, as well as the father's own innate capabilities, wishes, and desires. Fatherhood is also greatly influenced by men's relationships with their own fathers, the quality of that relationship, and the extent to which the father was emotionally available. The ever-changing role of fathers has been a challenge for the psychoanalytic literature. There is no comprehensive theoretical body of knowledge about fatherhood that takes into account the changing nature of fathering, especially considering men's desires to be emotionally responsive and nurturing parents. This article examines the changing role of the father and suggests a model of paternal involvement that expands the nurturing and available father role to include the father as a selfobject. It discusses the importance of understanding men's relationships with their fathers, a central dynamic in shaping fathers’ involvement with their children. The residual impact of paternal deprivation is explored, followed by two clinical vignettes that symbolize the search for missing selfobject functions. This article concludes by outlining clinical implications and questions to pose to assess the selfobject relationship with one's father.

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