Sometimes it is heard that the development of an advanced society will inevitably bring about the limitation of the future family to the mother and her children. According to that opinion, the father will become a transient member of the family that will have no greater significance for their life, or will never be included in it.
It seems to us that this should not be the case. The father is not an unimportant member of the family and his role in family life, and especially in the upbringing of children, should not be underestimated. A family without a father is truncated, so we should not aspire to this type of family.
The basic role of the father in shaping a young person is primarily of an indirect nature. We have seen that the mother is the most important educator of children. But we also noticed that a mother is easily going to be a good mother, the happier she is as a woman, the more fully her natural needs are met, especially in the sexual realm. A mother’s happiness in marriage and in life, in general, depends a lot on how her husband behaves, what kind of relationship he has created with her and to what extent he loves her. That is why the father indirectly influences the mental development of his children by allowing the mother to treat the children calmly and constructively, or he will keep her in chronic mental tension which is then manifested in the mother’s unhealthy reaction to the child’s behavior.
If the father maintains harmony in the marriage it is very likely that he will get along with the wife and in dealing with the children. By approving and supporting a woman’s parenting methods, the husband gives her emotional support in the upbringing, encourages her to be patient, consistent, and adaptable, and raises her authority over the children. On the contrary, when a marriage is not happy, the husband often takes revenge on the wife for the children, provokes her to inconsistent actions, leads her to affective explosions, treats the children in the opposite way, incites them against the mother, allows them and gives them what she forbids or denies. In this way, the father violates the mother’s authority, and equally damages his own. Children in such a situation emotionally turn against him, so he often achieves just the opposite of what he wants. Instead of the children becoming more attached to him than the mother, they start to hate him.
A woman is by nature more conservative than a man and more stable in emotional relationships. If she loves him at all, the woman doesn’t like to change her sexual partner; if it is at all possible she seeks to maintain the marriage; if she loses a partner, she does not find so easily another who would satisfy her completely. All this is the reason that it is unnatural for a woman to limit the family to her and her children. She cannot be happy in such a situation, which means that she cannot be mentally settled. Children by themselves cannot fully fulfill it emotionally; she also needs a husband with whom she will be happy. And it can’t be a transient sexual partner. It is not enough for a woman to experience occasional sexual pleasures; her nature requires constant emotional satisfaction in a lasting marital union.
The father complements the mother’s personality by adding the other half of the person. Only a woman and a man together make a person- as Kant said – so for a child only a parental couple is a complete, full-fledged object of identification. When there is no father, there is a danger that the process of identification will take place in the child in an incomplete and one-sided way. Then the boy does not have enough opportunity to develop typical masculine traits. He identifies relatively too much with his mother, so he sometimes displays feminine traits in his personality. This can make it difficult for him to get along with other boys, even in his own sexual role.
A girl who is without a father usually does not have enough opportunity to adapt to the representative of mature masculinity, to build a natural emotional relationship with it, to gain trust in it. This can make her too timid and insecure towards men, and such an attitude towards the opposite sex makes it difficult for her to adjust emotionally and sexually to her sexual partner.
When the father and mother live together, the children have the opportunity to gain experience about conflicts and marriage. They are, however, often negative; in which case it is better that the child is not with both parents. But from a happy parental marriage, a child can learn a lot of positive things, which will help it to cope successfully in its own sexual life later. If the father is absent, that possibility is eliminated, so one significant component is missing in the child’s psychosexual development.
One of the basic tasks of the father in relation to the child is to surround the child with emotional warmth together with the mother and to the same extent as she does. This the father will achieve to the greatest extent if he deals with the child from the beginning of its life, cooperating with the mother in all matters in the care of the infant. Many fathers suffer from the prejudice that caring for a small child is the sole concern of the mother. Mothers often hold this view, either without much thought and adopting the traditional attitudes instilled in them by upbringing, or, when they feel neglected by their husbands, they jealously guard their motherhood monopoly as some, at least fictitious, counterbalance to men’s monopoly on many other life issues and areas. Husbands, of course, in most cases gladly accept a woman’s belief that men’s hands are too rough and clumsy to care for the baby. That is why they refrain from physical contact with a small child, justifying that they “don’t know”, that their wives are “more invited” to do so, etc. Sometimes there are fathers who declare that they are disgusted with their child while it is in diapers, while it “smells like milk” and the like.
But these same fathers have the ambition to later, when their child grows up, be the main authority for it and to guide the overall development of the young person, imposing their views on life and directing it in the direction of their personal life ideals. But a father can – like any other educator – have a positive effect on the formation of a child’s personality only if he builds a relationship of trust, understanding and emotional intimacy with it from day one. We have seen that a child develops its first social feelings through physical contact with the environment. Just as the mother encourages the child to sympathize with itself by taking it in her arms and dealing with it in various ways, so the father can create an intimate emotional relationship through physical contact with the child from its earliest childhood. There is no objective reason for a father not to be able to bathe, change clothes and feed a small child when the mother is no longer breastfeeding it. With a little goodwill and love for the child, he will do it just as skillfully as his wife.
It should be borne in mind that the physical engagement of a father with a small child does not only mean helping the mother, which, after all, contributes to the strengthening of a positive emotional relationship between spouses. By gaining trust and love from the child, the father builds his authority before it. Later, it will serve him well as a basis for a positive impact on the child and for managing its behavior. Without authority, a child cannot be properly brought up because authority is the basis of a child’s obedience. And true authority cannot be gained if one does not enjoy the trust of the person being brought up.
When you live in constant contact with someone for a long time, an emotional relationship is inevitably built. They become more and more sympathetic to each other over time, or less and less sympathetic; people fall in love with each other or hate each other, gain mutual trust or become suspicious, etc. It is impossible for two people in constant contact to remain completely indifferent to each other. This rule also applies to the relationship between the educator and the pupil, i.e. the father and his child. And the child will gradually fall in love with the father, begin to respect him, gain trust in him, or take a repulsive attitude toward him, and will be closed, suspicious, and timid. In the first case, the father will successfully influence the child at all stages of his development, even during puberty and adolescence when young people become particularly sensitive to parental authority. In the second case, the father will find it increasingly difficult to manage the development of the child’s personality the older the child becomes and the more its mental maturity increases. In the years of puberty, a father will surely want to start influencing the formation of his child’s life attitudes and to correct in its personality what he considers negative. But then it’s too late. The father will surely encounter strong resistance. The child is now prone to defiance anyway, so it will react particularly negatively to an attempt to impose a will by a person it does not trust. Many of the difficult conflicts between father and children are the main cause of the fact that the father has failed to build a close emotional relationship with the child from an early age.
When the time of physical care of a small child has passed, the father can maintain contact through play, then by reading and telling fairy tales, cooperating in various household chores, then on joint walks and excursions, attending various events together, and by helping to solve school tasks, etc. the father will have a double benefit. Not only will his authority grow stronger day by day, but over time he will adapt better and better to the child. The father will get to know his child better, will understand its needs, and will find the most successful methods of a correct approach. As a child grows, so do its demands of its educators. If they gain enough experience in working with a child at an earlier stage of its development, it will not be difficult for educators to cope with the new tasks imposed on them by the next stage. It is much more difficult to properly raise an older child to whom the educator is not accustomed to or to whom they do not know their individual characteristics.
What a father can do to damage his child’s mental development is primarily insufficient paternal love. It is most often manifested by the already mentioned neglect of the child, insufficient care for it, leaving the upbringing to the mother, at least as long as the child is small. Such distancing from the child the father most often combines with authoritative action. Although they do not deal with the child and hardly play with it, many fathers still believe that they have the right, and even the duty, to be strict with it, to punish it for various crimes against its mother or other educators. Many mothers make educational mistakes when they threaten a disobedient child with its father’s strictness and demand that the husband beat the child because “it was disobedient towards the mother”. They justify this by saying that their own sensibilities do not allow them to hit their child, or by believing that the child is more afraid of the father so that his punishment will be more successful. And the father often stumbles upon such a woman’s request and beats the child for some crime that he himself did not attend at all or refer to.
By doing so, the father is doubly wrong. Authoritarian upbringing and physical abuse of children is a very negative upbringing method. The father as the executor of the punishment of the child greatly damages his authority. The child is now more and more afraid of him, but also less and less appreciates him, developing in itself a hostile attitude towards the father which is manifested in defiance, in insolent outbursts, in rudeness, deception and other forms of aggressive behavior. It is understandable that in such a situation a father cannot raise his child properly because instead of a relationship of trust and love he leads a struggle for supremacy with it. The child’s disobedience and repulsion leads him to an increasing rigidity in his actions, and this intensifies the struggle, turning it into open enmity between the father and the child.
A negative attitude towards a child is sometimes manifested in the fact that he does not want to have a child. In that case, it’s fair to never conceive it. Yet it sometimes happens that the husband, even when he does not really want the children, forces the wife to give birth to them. This is usually due to fear that the woman might leave him. Then, with the help of children, he tries to bond with her, taking into account her feelings towards their children and her conservatism and lack of courage to deprive her children of a father or mother through a divorce. It should not be interpreted that such a gesture is extremely antisocial because it makes both the woman and the children unhappy. In a happy marriage, the husband will not do such a thing; if, on the other hand, he forces a woman to live in an unhappy marriage, he commits a crime both against her and against her children.
There are many reasons why a father is not more emotionally interested in a child. The average man falls in love with his child for the most part indirectly, ie through a good emotional connection with a woman. But this does not mean that he cannot love a child directly, i.e. even when he does not love a woman. However, such cases are relatively rare. It is more common for emotional aversion towards a woman to provoke emotional distancing from the child as well.
Weak emotional interest in the child should be expected primarily in men who are emotionally timid, difficult to access, poorly adaptable, withdrawn in social contact and more or less lonely in their mental life. These are the so-called schizophrenic personalities who in severe cases without a clear boundary turn into a state of schizoid psychopathy. All of these people are characterized by low sensitivity in relation to other people and congestion in their personal world. Such people cannot be emotionally warm to anyone satisfactorily, so they cannot be emotionally warm to their own child. He will have the hardest time showing true love for it as well as for his spouse, because in these interpersonal relationships one should give oneself to the greatest extent, open one’s psyche and get along with another person. These are the demands that a schizophrenic person can least meet. Even a mother with such qualities cannot be full-fledged, and it will be even harder for a schizophrenic father, who is already significantly less close to the child than the mother.
A common motive for a father’s weak emotional connection to a child is the father’s dissatisfaction with the marriage. Just as a mother who is not happy in marriage cannot be a completely positive educator, it is even more difficult for a father to empathize emotionally with the fruit of a failed marriage. In such a case, one should be afraid of the father’s impatience and irritability towards the child, and sometimes aggressive treatment, all the way to severe abuse. Alcoholics are particularly prone to this, and marital dissatisfaction is a common reason for neurotic men to indulge in passionate alcohol consumption.
It happens that a husband who has failed to create an intimate emotional relationship with his wife becomes jealous of his own child. He notices that a woman loves the child more than him, so it offends his vanity. At the same time, of course, he does not take into account that he himself contributed to the opening of the emotional chasm between himself and his wife. Jealousy can force the father to be aggressive towards the child or to incite it against the mother, or to treat it in the opposite way than she does. Here the father does not take into account the interests of the child or its emotional needs at all, but in the process, with the child, he is guided exclusively by his selfish motives. By treating the child in a way that tries to distance it emotionally from the mother and cause her as many educational difficulties as possible, the father actually takes revenge on the woman for failing to win her over and for her staying emotionally and sexually “a book with seven seals.”
In a disordered marriage, it sometimes happens that the father tries to tie the child too tightly to himself. If the parents have two children, it happens that the family is divided into two camps: the father’s and the mother’s. Then one child is “daddy’s” and the other is “mommy’s.” Such a division creates an unhealthy emotional relationship between the child and the parent from the other “camp.” Under the influence of “its” parent, the child begins to underestimate the other parent, loses trust in them, emotionally distances itself from them or begins to develop hostility towards them. Of course, in such a situation, a negative emotional relationship between the siblings also develops. They become rivals, they are envious of each other and jealous of “their” parent. This makes them mutually aggressive and has a bad effect on the development of their personalities.
With “dividing children”, each parent gives priority to the child they have chosen in their procedure. They deal with it more, love it more, pay more attention to it, are warmer with it, prefer to give it gifts, etc. Then the other child feels neglected, which deepens its jealousy of its brother ot sister, and aggression towards the parent strengthens. If such relationships in the family continue throughout the child’s developmental age, it is very likely that jealousy, envy, intolerance, aggression, and feelings of inferiority will remain permanent traits of a young person’s character.
The motives that guide one or the other parent in choosing “their child” are very different. The sex of the child is most often taken into account; the father usually ties the boy to himself, and the mother more often opts for the daughter. But the opposite happens. A significant reason for tying a child to himself is hidden in the similarity of that child with his parents, either physically or mentally, and most often in both.
Neurotic, sexually disordered and maritally dissatisfied fathers sometimes bond with their daughter in a sick way, regardless of whether she is an only child or there are more children in the family. The motives are analogous to those encountered in a mother’s attitude toward her son whom she emotionally fixes on herself in a painful way. A father rarely does this with a daughter, because a man generally solves his sexual problems outside the family more easily than a woman. Yet the father sometimes seeks to find in relation to the daughter a certain compensation for his emotional conflicts in the erotic realm. These are men who have not been able to get along with a woman, so they have not conquered her, have not fully experienced her femininity or are timid towards her, they feel insecure and do not show satisfactory potency. In the latter case, the man does not have the audacity to orient himself to another woman, to dissolve a failed marriage, and to try his luck in sexual life again. Then an erotic interest in the female child may appear in him to the greater extent the older the girl is. It is understandable that such a father carefully hides the essence of his relationship with his daughter, both from himself and from others. He lives in the belief that he only “loves” his child too much, but sometimes he also talks about his “falling in love” with his daughter and not realizing that he is inadvertently revealing the real motive of his actions with her. Such a father caresses his daughter conspicuously; he allows her everything, satisfies her every whim, and showers her with a somewhat intrusive tenderness. If his material possibilities allow it, he buys expensive gifts every hour, and in addition, he grants all her wishes.
A father once came to the counseling center, that treated his 15-year-old daughter in a lackey way. The girl came to us because of neurotic speech disorders in the form of stuttering, but she did not want to undergo treatment. Then her father begged her and swore in the most humble way to accept our advice regarding the elimination of her neurosis. In doing so, he promised her that he would fulfill her every wish and do for her whatever she wanted, just to comply with his request. And the girl in front of us cunningly blackmailed her father, imposed various conditions on him, treated him superiorly, sometimes she scolded and defied him, sometimes she generously agreed to obey him. In addition, she behaved almost coquettishly, just as if with her capriciousness she wanted to keep her father in suspense, tie him even closer to her and force him to be even more lenient.
Needless to say, such a father’s attitude towards his daughter seriously damages the general formation of her personality. It is natural that her egocentrism takes on quite sick proportions in such a situation, and her adaptability to the reality of life and its problems completely stunted.
By nature, more passive fathers who are erotically attached to their daughter are usually limited from the extreme cuddling of their child. In a complete submission to their daughter’s will, they find a certain affirmation of their personality, as well as their masculinity, which they failed to achieve in marriage or in some other sexual relationship. In doing so, they are burdened with severe mental scotomas, i.e. they are completely blind to major disorders in their daughter’s behavior. That is why it is difficult to bring them to the realization that their child is developing into a sick personality, and it is even more difficult to get them to change their attitude towards their daughter. The unconscious exclusion from the consciousness of all knowledge that is inconsistent with their lifestyle serves them as a defense of their own neurotic life arrangement. With this, they hide their unresolved emotional conflicts and try to find some compromise for them. If they allow themselves to know the truth about themselves, their “neurotic arrangement collapses like a house of cards” (Alfred Adler). Then the neurotic feels helpless in the face of the reality of life, so he defends himself with all his might from knowing what is not comfortable for him.
Fathers with a livelier temperament, of a more active and enterprising nature, express their covert erotic interest in their daughter differently. They usually hold her, but not as much as more passive fathers. Instead of completely submitting to her will, they try to take control of her personality and make her completely dependent on herself. At the same time, they are often intrusive and even aggressive. They try to be with their daughter as much as possible, they get involved in each of her activities. When a girl grows up, in puberty and later, such fathers are constantly on her heels, indiscreetly sniffing at her secrets, wanting to get a full insight into her intimate life, especially sexual. With intrusive advice and warnings, inappropriate intimidation or distasteful remarks, they try to participate in their daughter’s sexual activity in some way. If she takes any serious interest in a young man, such a father regularly becomes jealous, turns into a rigid moralist, restricts outings and parties, and relentlessly punishes her transgressions.
Sometimes a father who has tied his daughter to himself in a painful way shows himself more openly to his sexual desire for her. While still a small child, the father likes to play with her in such a way that it arouses- allegedly by accidental touch – her genitals or brings her into close physical contact with himself, for example when sleeping in the same bed, or bathes her regularly, even then when she has already approached puberty or completely turned into a girl. Indiscreetly watching his half-grown daughter undress, attending her intimate toilet, and excessive physical tenderness toward her also betray sexual interest.
A typical case is a father who brought his 18-year-old daughter to counseling because of poor school performance. The girl has a beautiful appearance, her sexual characteristics are well developed, so she seems very sexually attractive. She used to be an excellent student. She has been getting lower grades in the last two years. Towards the end of last school year, she suddenly left home and dropped out of school. A few days later, a relative told her parents that their daughter was with her, in another city. Her father came for her and persuaded her to return home. But the girl could no longer make up for lost time at school, so she had to repeat the class. She is now very weak at school, so her father brought her to us for an examination due to negative grades.
The analysis of this case showed that the girl found herself in a difficult emotional conflict with her father, that is, with his character in her. There are two daughters in the family. But the other, uglier, the father left to the influence of her mother, and he tied this beautiful one to himself. The parents have had disagreements for a long time now. The mother was always frigid in sexual intercourse, and the father suffered from a weak potency. After some time of mutual sexual torture, they left their sex life. The husband tried to find a replacement outside of marriage, but each time he experienced complete impotence or his partner would abandon him due to poor potency. It was then that he became increasingly sexually interested in his daughter. When she was 14, he began to sexually “educate” her. It consisted of endless sermons on all the possible dangers that threaten a woman in her sexual life. In doing so, he described sexual life and its various difficulties and quirks in unnecessary detail, sometimes with pleasure.
The girl began to have a growing fear of sexuality, but her father’s “lectures” aroused in her a painful curiosity about everything sexual. Towards the end of puberty, she became interested in young men, walked with them, allowed them to follow her home from school, went to the movies and dances with them. She moved a lot and happily in male company. But when a guy tried to approach her physically, when he hugged or kissed her, the girl would rudely reject him and leave in a panic. She wanted to get closer to a young man, fall in love with him and “walk” with him. Her lively temperament and her strong sexuality led her to do so. But every time she tried to approach a guy, for example, if she tried to be a little closer to him at the dance, something would stop her, something in her would not allow her to behave in a spontaneous and natural way. The girl described this “something” in herself as follows:
‘When I like a young man and would like to leave the stiff attitude towards him aside, between him and me a curtain descends in which my father’s figure is woven. Then I only see my father, I hear only his words, I get scared and I become even more stiff, even rude. The young man is wondering what is wrong with me, and I am embarrassed, so I try to get away as soon as possible. “
Her father’s sexual intrusion has caused a fierce fear of everything sexual and does not allow her to behave in a natural way towards the opposite sex. She tries to overcome her fear by forcing herself with young men, but she always experiences her sexual inhibition over and over again. Now she no longer approaches the guys out of sympathy, but to get rid of her difficulties in relation to them. This deprives her of the opportunity to get rid of her sexual inhibitions with the help of emotional interest in a young man, so she is less and less able to achieve what she wants so much.
Her father is jealous of her male acquaintances. When the girl returns from a date with the young man, the father asks her to tell him in detail everything they talked about and how they behaved. Then he tries to denigrate the young man or make fun of him. If, on the other hand, the girl comes home in the evening only a little later than her father has ordered, he slaps her and insults her with vulgar names. Lately, her father has been stalking her, opening her letters, rummaging through her belongings and welcoming her in front of the school to accompany her home. When one day he asked his daughter to go for a gynecological examination to bring him proof of her innocence, the girl ran away from home. When she returned, her father continued to torment her with jealousy, so it is understandable that she could no longer study calmly. She recovered mentally and successfully finished high school only when her father was transferred to another place, and after we spent in intensive psychotherapy with the girl.
In milder cases, when the father does not turn his erotic interest in the daughter into aggression, the girl also has difficulty approaching men. The father’s character is always inserted to a greater or lesser extent between her and her chosen one. Then she looks for her father’s qualities in a man, she expects from him a paternal relationship with herself, she would like to combine her relationship with her father with her sexual role. This is also where a man encounters analogous difficulties who is emotionally too attached to his mother, so he would like to be her lover and son at the same time. Just as such a man finds it difficult to get along with a woman in a very intimate way and cannot express all his sexual ability, neither can a woman who is painfully fixed on her father. It is very likely that her adaptation to her partner will be difficult, so she will stay cold in sexual contact with him.
The loss of a father, due to death or divorce, brings different consequences to the child. If the child, regardless of gender, has been in good emotional contact with the father, the loss of the father will leave a certain void in the emotional life. It will certainly miss its father as an object of identification, that is, as a source of experiences about adult men. It is therefore useful for the child to receive a replacement for the father. This is equally important for both a boy and a girl, for a small and for an older child. But only on the condition that the mother has found a good spouse with whom she will be able to live in a happy marriage and who is willing to treat her children in a fatherly way. Otherwise, it is better for the children to be left without a father figure next to them.
If the father is a negative educator, if he is emotionally cold towards his children, neglects or abuses them, if he is an alcoholic and abuses his wife, then it is more useful for the psychological development of children to remove such a father from the family. There is no doubt that a child needs a father; but it needs a good father who is a healthy person and who loves children. If a child cannot find such a person in his own father, it can find it in another man, that is, in another husband of its mother. Because it doesn’t need a physical, but a mental father. If, on the other hand, it cannot find it, then it is better for it to be without a father than to develop under the influence of its father’s negative attitude towards itself.