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Fatherhood has been described as the cause and fulfillment of the father's creative, protective, and organizing power in his child. As a physical and symbolic bond between generations, fatherhood implies the authority of the father over the child, expressed through the transmission of the name. The sons use this aspect of paternity in the construction of their own individual and social identities, and in their respect for the law. Father-hood is the basis of all thought. Discovering in his self-analysis, through his dreams, that fatherhood satisfied both his desire for immortality, through his children, as well as his ambivalence toward his own dead father, Sigmund Freud fathered psychoanalysis when he published The Interpretation of Dreams, and established that the desire of Oedipus to sleep with his mother and kill his father is universal. Fatherhood is an organizing system indissociable from the Oedipus complex. It links the law to desire and to castration. It structures and restrains sexuality, through the father, who is simultaneously loved, protective, and feared. It condenses conflicts of ambivalence and the castration anxiety. Fatherhood induces repression and prompts progress: It is an inevitable and indestructible origin and obstacle that unites the scattered ego, while showing how to overcome ambivalence through identification with the father. Its dynamic potential is anchored in the father-mother-child triangle it structures, not in the person of the father who supports the paternal function. Hans (1909b), in the throes of an oedipal crisis at four years of age, introjects the cultural treasure linked to fatherhood into the mythical power of language and knowledge. He is ignorant of the procreative function: Paternity, as the hidden cause for the production of children, confutes childhood trust, obstructs independent thought, and betrays the subject's expectation of protection. A child affected by nostalgia for the father will displace it onto God. Fatherhood was considered to have had a phylogenetic origin, recapitulated by ontogenesis (1912-13a). Having murdered the violent and jealous primal father, the sons discover the symbolic paternity of the father in the work of mourning, made up of ambivalence, guilt, and idealization. Retrospective obedience and the renunciation of the father's omnipotence are at the origin of the social contract and the law. For Freud fatherhood also occupies a central place in the subject's genital organization through the father complex. Linked to death and sexuality, which it transcends, and serving as an atemporal and structuring reference point, it channels through its incarnated generating power the diphasic sexual development of the child-become-adolescent, opening him up to the effects of Nachträglichkeit, sublimation, and the wish to become a father in his turn. Identification is the prototype of this operation; first, the human subject constitutes itself through "primal" identification with the "father of personal prehistory" (1923b), an incorporation of paternity that includes the mother. Fatherhood then, logically, enables the subject's separation from the mother and authorizes relations of generation, dramatized as arising from a primal triangle, with differentiated parental imagos. Secondly, the oedipal crisis ends, with the installation of the impersonal superego. The bond with the father is essential for a daughter (1933a). Involved in an intense pregenital relation to her mother, she enters late into the Oedipus complex, turning her outwardly directed libido inwards. She displaces her love onto her father, from whom she wants a child-penis. Her major anxiety, that of being no longer loved, often keeps her dependent on her bond with the father. As a mother she offers fatherhood to the man who is substituting for her father, if she has transcended her own claim to the phallus. The bond of fatherhood is connected for the child with the desire that links the mother to the father. Paternity exerts itself when the child induces a "foreigner" (1939a) who is the father to adoption. For Jacques Lacan, a failure of this metaphorizing recognition is responsible for the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father, which leads to psychosis. Melanie Klein prefigured the oedipal complex through the nipple-object guiding the child's access to the breast, a paternity incarnated at the very heart of maternity. Fatherhood can be considered as a development when becoming a father leads to psychic restructuring.

See Also


  1. Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part I. SE, 4: 1-338]]
  • [[Part II. SE, 5: 339-625.
  1. ——. (1912-13a). Totem and taboo. SE, 13: 1-161.
  2. ——. (1933a [1932]). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.
  3. ——. (1939a ). Moses and monotheism: three essays. SE, 23: 1-137.
  4. Lacan, Jacques (1958). The signification of the phallus. In Alan Sheridan (Trans.),Écrits: a selection (pp. 281-291). New York: Tavistock Publications.