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Separation-Individuation - Fathers

gender infant help mother experience

The role of the father changes during the different phases of separation-individuation.

In the early stages of homeostasis he provides a complement to the mother in understanding the infant's behavior patterns and, in his help with soothing and regulating behaviors, offers an added stimulus to the baby's experience. During the symbiotic period, the father is available as another love object, adding depth to new sets of experience. In the differentiation phase, the father engages his infant in interactive ways that complement the mother's more comforting functions. During practicing, fathers are the significant other that help modulate aggression and offer additional security as a base to return to in the toddler's forays out and back. Fathers also provide another gender for comparison and identification during the period where gender differences are being discovered. The availability of the father during rapprochement helps the child organize and modulate feelings of frustration and aggression, adding to emotional and cognitive growth. By setting limits while supporting autonomous strivings, fathers help children tolerate and integrate ambivalent feeling states (Greenspan 1982). In general, fathers' play and interaction with their children tends to be more active and exciting as compared with mother's soothing. When infant care is divided between both parents, comforting and active interactions may be associated with both. The experience of personality differences with both caregivers gives the infant varied experiences, allowing them a fuller expression of emotions and participation with others (Burlingham 1973).


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over 8 years ago

This is a clear, succinct write-up on Mahler's theory regarding separation/individuation. Thank you so much! I live in a country where libraries are poor and other resources are extremely limited so this resource is very useful for me and my students!