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Beiser, H.R. (1989). Fatherhood and the Preference for a Younger Child. Ann. Psychoanal., 17:203-212.

(1989). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 17:203-212

Fatherhood and the Preference for a Younger Child

Helen R. Beiser, M.D.

Freud's (1900) use of the myth of Oedipus was an important contribution to understanding the negative aspects of the relationship of a boy or man to his father. It is quite possible that the shock with which people first greeted the universality of this mythical relationship had less to do with the incest with the mother than with the fact that there was no evidence of any positive aspects of the relationship of father and son.

Kohut (1982) tried to use the Greek story of Odysseus refusing to kill his infant son to avoid going off to the Trojan war as another facet of father-son relationships, but this reading has not had the impact of the Oedipus myth. Although Freud wrote a book about Moses, showing his familiarity with the Scriptures, it seems surprising that he did not use scriptural references to father-son relationships rather than Greek literature. As far as I can determine, he never mentioned the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18) in which Abraham was about to kill his son deliberately. The dynamic complexities seem much greater than in the story of Oedipus. Laius exposed the infant out of fear for his own life, whereas Abraham was acting under the direction of God. Laius had no real emotional tie to Oedipus, whereas Abraham had long awaited the coming of Isaac, and had a strong positive tie to him. The revenge of the son and the incestuous relationship with the mother are lacking in the Abraham and Isaac story, known in the Jewish literature as the Akedah. Another difference is that God changes his mind and has Abraham substitute a goat for the child, allowing him to be raised by his loving parents, whereas the exposed Oedipus is rescued and raised by foster parents.

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