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Jacobson, E. (1950). Development of the Wish for a Child in Boys. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:139-152.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:139-152

Development of the Wish for a Child in Boys

Edith Jacobson, M.D.

It is woman's biological destiny to bear and deliver, to nurse and to rear children. However great the father's share in the care of his offspring, it is the "mother-child unit" which develops the first germs of human love and functioning in the child.

No wonder that biological instincts, experience and education combine, already in childhood, to prepare the woman for her future role as a mother. In fact, the wish for a child plays a predominant part in the psychosexual development of the little girl. Promoted and influenced by her castration conflict it may have normal vicissitudes, may be inhibited or warped but eventually will shape up to specifically patterned attitudes which find individual expression in more or less mature or infantile, loving or ambivalent relationships to her children.

Since this problem is of such paramount significance in a woman's life, the analytic productions of female patients inevitably force attention on it. Hence, we have studied the normal and pathological vicissitudes of the female wish for a child from all possible perspectives. But what about the corresponding problems in man? Although Freud (1), (2) long ago described pregnancy fantasies and the wish for a baby in boys or men, respectively, there are no psychoanalytic papers dealing explicitly with such problems in men, except for a paragraph in Brunswick's article on the "Pre-oedipal Phase of the Libido Development" (6). Yet men, too, must be psychologically prepared for their role as a father. Certainly, the wish for a child in men must also have an infantile history which deserves interest. There are few male cases, indeed, whose analysis could not contribute pertinent genetic material, although this issue is not in such a central position as in women. Why such studies have been so conspicuously neglected is a question which I shall venture to answer below.

Occasionally we even meet male patients whose frustrated wish for children has been essential in the causation of their neurosis. In two such cases the patients—both obsessional-compulsive types with paranoid mechanisms—came for treatment with the same complaints: that their marital relationship had been seriously affected by the sterility of their wives.

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