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Goldstein, M.Z. (1977). Fathering—a Neglected Activity. Am. J. Psychoanal., 37(4):325-336.

(1977). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 37(4):325-336

Fathering—a Neglected Activity

Marion Zucker Goldstein, M.D.

A multitude of observations on mothering are available in the psychiatric literature. Any identity or behavior pattern with such universal interest and abounding literature sooner or later becomes invoked as the cause of all good and evil that derives from it. So we have the schizophreno-genic mother. Where is the schizophreno-genic father? He is not at home, not available. We have the “over-protective mother” who has the power to stifle her child's drive for autonomy. Where is the over-protective father? He is not at home, not available. Though we well know, that protecting Johnny from injury and Sue from wandering too far from home, need hardly be a gender defined activity, our culture in general and many psychotherapists tend to perpetuate the above myths. “Steadiness of purpose, enthusiasm of interest, sense of justice and fair play, awareness of world problems, inspiration to be useful, friendly, and a participant in making the world a better place to live in”1 are attributes which are hardly gender linked.

It is indeed ironic that the powerful mother, vis-à-vis the helpless infant and growing child is still the relatively powerless, much maligned, second gender in our society at large. The most vital and creative human responsibility of facilitating the development of the next generation is still primarily dependent on the intuition and expertise of women. If the woman doesn't choose to carry out this task, or indeed is not endowed with suitable qualities for the task, she is frequently considered a failure, whereas the man, who has barely paid attention to his role as parent, is frequently considered to be that way because of his gender, and his mental health is not brought into question.

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