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Diamond, M.J. (2006). Masculinity Unraveled: The Roots of Male Gender Identity and the Shifting of Male Ego Ideals Throughout Life. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 54(4):1099-1130.

(2006). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 54(4):1099-1130

Masculinity Unraveled: The Roots of Male Gender Identity and the Shifting of Male Ego Ideals Throughout Life Related Papers

Michael J. Diamond

A model of masculine gender identity development is presented that demonstrates how a male's sense of his masculinity and the ambiguities of his gender are being reworked throughout his life. Of factors shaping the boy's sense of masculinity early on, particular emphasis is placed on the role of the involved father, the nature of the parental relationship, and the mother's recognition and affirmation of her son's male-ness. While healthy masculine gender identity is founded predominantly on the boy's unique struggles in separating from his mother, it does not result from what has been traditionally viewed as the boy's dis-identification from her (and from the feminine more generally). Indeed, boys who need to violently repudiate their identifications with their mother are more susceptible to a fragile, rigid masculine identity and narcissistic psychopathology. A case example of a young adult man illustrates the impact of identifications with both parents. The interplay of early masculine identity development and later life challenges confronting the adult male is briefly noted. “Masculine” ego ideals shift across developmental junctions until, ultimately, a more mature sense of masculinity emerges: the phallic wish to deny differentiation and maintain unlimited possibility is renounced and mourned and certain real limits concerning sex, gender, and generational differences are accepted. This reshaping of the “masculine” ego ideal consequently involves the transformation of a man's previously adaptive “phallicism” into more realistic, “genital” ego ideals—an achievement involving interplay between masculine and feminine identifications and the integration of antithetical elements no longer so unconsciously gendered.

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