Father Absence and the developement of the male self through Freud and Chodorow's theories.

Topics: Family, Gender, Masculinity Pages: 5 (1936 words) Published: April 22, 2004
In Freud's psychoanalytical analysis of the self, as well as Nancy Chodorow's theory of object-relations, the father plays a strong role in the development of male identity. The Oedipus theory explains that the need of a father is to create enough anxiety in a boy to help the boy to separate from the mother and identify with the father. The boy's fear of the father in accordance with his pre-Oedipal love interest in the mother helps the boy to identify with masculinity and separate his self from his primary love object that is his mother. The boy originally sees the mother as "not me," (Chodorow 67) which creates a gender identity for the male infant. The male infant then sees the father as close to his mother, which is his primary love interest. The son, then, is jealous of the father's closeness with the mother and therefore sees the father as a threat to his primary love interest. This creates anxiety for the son, which is thought to be the corner stone of individuality and the development of the self. With out this anxiety, the son's masculinity may not develop as would a boy would who had a present father. As the boy moves from the pre-Oedipal to the Oedipal stage, the boy now sees his father as more like himself. He uses the father as mirror. The power that his father has is now envied by the boy, this envy also creates a masculine self because the boy can relate with the father. The balance of each individual in the triangle: mother, father and son, develops a secure male identity of the self.

The following will consider the effects on the male self if the father was not present in the various stages of the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal periods. It will look at the effects of the age at which the father became absent and the presence of other male figures that are not the father in the development of the masculine self. The effects on the relationship with the mother will be affected as well as later life relationships with other females. The absence of a father will completely alter the way a male will emotionally experience his self and the world around him. It will also consider the effects of the development of the self with the father being absent at different stages of the Oedipal and pre-Oedipal periods.

Even though the Oedipus complex has many stages from pre-Oedipal to Oedipal, Shill found that, in a measure of castration anxiety among father absent men and boys, there was no difference in the level of castration anxiety according to that age that the father was lost. It was found that whether the loss of the father happened before the age of two or after the age of two, that there was no impact on the level of castration anxiety that was felt. This shows that the absence of a father is more significant to the core male gender identity through the pre-Oedipal, Oedipal and adolescent stages. (Shill 145) The absence of a father during the pre-Oedipal period seems to force the son into the Oedipal period sooner than would naturally happen if the father were present. However, there is no change in the amount of anxiety that is produced by the loss of a father. The Pre-Oedipal period is centered on the realization that the infant is an individual and that the mother is also an individual. This gets shifted and almost meshes with the Oedipal period in a boy who has an absent father. (Chodorow 196) Therefore, it can be concluded that there is no set age that a child will make the transfer from the pre-Oedipal to Oedipal stages. This is simply determined by when the child is ready to make those changes. However, a boy in a father absent home who is still in the pre-Oedipal stage, will be forced to make the change from pre-Oedipal to Oedipal much sooner than a child in a father present home. Even though this forced change seems to be a traumatic event, there still remains the same amount of castration anxiety in boys who were forced into the Oedipal stages by father absence and boys who lived in a father absent home...

Cited: Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering. California: University of California Press, 1978
Shill, Merton. "TAT Measures of Gender Identity (Castration Anxiety)." University of Michigan Journal of Personal Assessment 42.5 (1981) : 136-146
Minsky, Rosalin. "Beyond Nurture: Finding the Words for Male Identity" Journal of Psychoanalytic Studies Vol. 2 No. 3 (2000)
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