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Diamond, M.J. (1998). Fathers with Sons: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on “Good Enough” Fathering Throughout the Life Cycle. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 3(3):243-299.

(1998). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 3(3):243-299

Fathers with Sons: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on “Good Enough” Fathering Throughout the Life Cycle

Michael J. Diamond, Ph.D.

This paper employs a life-span developmental framework to examine the role of the father in the life of his son. I propose a conceptual scheme (organized around twelve sequential phases) relating the developmental needs of the child with the specific aspects of the father's role functioning. This schema is based upon observational research, interviewing, and clinical analytic findings, and prominence is placed on the needs for, and contributions made by, fathers as containers, protectors, facilitators, models, challengers, initiators, sanctioners, and mentors. Competing psychoanalytic perspectives (including drive theory, object relations, self psychology, and intersubjectivity) are integrated under the roof of the life-span framework. Emphasis is placed on the father as a real person and internalized presence, enabling the formation of a sufficiently differentiated, caring paternal

imago on which sons can draw throughout the life cycle. The basic “good enough” fathering task is explicated for each phase, and an internalized “paternal imago” that results from its successful completion is defined. Case vignettes are used to suggest particular clinical consequences of the absence of such good enough fathering at selected developmental junctions. Examples from literature, mythology, and culture further illustrate the impact of fatherly provisions and deprivation on their sons' development

All the world's a stage

And one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.

Then the whining schoolboy,… creeping like snail unwilling to school.

And then the lover,… with a woeful ballad made to his mistress' eyebrow.

Then a soldier,… jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,…

And then the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined,…

Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part.

The sixth age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,… and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound.

Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

[Shakespeare, (1599), As You Like It, p. 87; II, vii, 139-165; emphasis added]

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