The forgotten parent: the father’s contribution to the infant’s development during the pre-Oedipal years
Stone, Dorothea Kay
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This dissertation argues that the pre Oedipal father makes an important contribution in the development of the infant. Employing a modified systematic literature review of the psychoanalytic literature on the role of the pre-Oedipal father, this dissertation traces the works of Freud, object relations and attachment theory to more contemporary notions of the father-infant relationship, including the contributions of feminist psychoanalysts, to develop a psychoanalytic understanding of the pre-Oedipal father. Until recently, the father of the Oedipal complex has overshadowed the pre-Oedipal father. Freud placed great importance on the father’s role in the Oedipus complex, a stage of development he believed essential to the emotional development for both the boy and the girl. With the emergence of object relation’s theory, the mother-infant relationship took centre-stage while the father was cast in a supportive role. However, long before the infant has reached the Oedipal stage, much has taken place between the father and infant. The findings of the literature review reveal that the pre-Oedipal father’s relationship with both mother and infant plays a pivotal role in both the emotional and cognitive development of the infant. Attention needs to be paid to this crucial relationship, one that can easily be overlooked in the therapeutic relationship. A psychoanalytic understanding of the pre-Oedipal father’s role will significantly contribute to a clinically useful understanding of pre-Oedipal father/child dynamics and how these may manifest in the therapeutic relationship.