Absent father or missing father?

Absent father or missing father?

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The much-mentioned figure of "Absent father" refers not only to the idea of ​​the young man who after hearing the news of his girlfriend's pregnancy, of fright, irresponsibility or immaturity disappears or of that father who interpreted the marital separation as the convenience of establishing a final court with everything that evoked him to the supposed error of that bad choice of couple, (including the children, as if these were the exclusive belonging of the mother or part of her), but also to that father who being at ease is his own home, with his wife and their children and even being proud of having a "well-constituted" family has declined the paternal function because they consider that the raising and education of the offspring is a minor matter that belongs only to the mother.


  • 1 The role of father
  • 2 Hypothesis about the absent father
  • 3 Father and paternal function
  • 4 Probable consequences of the failure of the FP

Father's role

These parents retain for themselves the role of universal providers of family support and most of the time they are content with "not missing anything from their family." We could adjective as patriarchal to its mode of operation since they assume as "natural" the different participation of parents in parenting according to supposed differences in the skills determined by the sexes.

Generally, the woman, a necessary participant of this type of relationship also assumes as an expectation of the maternal role, the lack of involvement of the father assuming that for those who must maintain the home, the attention of the children would be an unnecessary overload, in a competitive and devastating socio-economic context .

In short, we could then say that paternity is not enough to exercise the paternal function or in other words, that it is one thing to be a genitor and another is to be a father. The first provides its genetic flow for the birth of the child, and the second, is the one that exercises parentage. Of course, if you are psychologically fit, if you are interested in doing so and if the mother gives authority to the father's word.

Here we could ask what are the paternal and maternal functions and how can it be that both do not come from you from the sexual difference between man and woman.

Let's start with the least delegated: maternal function. This has to do with the prodigal care of the child, food, tenderness, body contact, unconditional love and in the best case the facilitation of the father's task of breaking the dyadic bubble between her and the stem since birth.

Meanwhile, the paternal function is responsible for the imposition of rules tending, in short, to establish a cut in the mother-child relationship that will allow it to be constituted as an independent subject, access to culture and the internalization of the law paternal prohibition of incest and access to enjoyment.

Hypothesis about the absent father

Resume M. Varela: “The most important ideas that D. Winnicott exposes in his lectures by the BBC when talking about the "good father" of the young child are: that fathers cannot replace mothers by virtue of their inability to breastfeed; It may even be inconvenient for them to appear on the scene prematurely. His main virtue lies in allowing his wife to be a good mother. Its presence with the baby can only be episodic, it is enough to show it often so that the child experiences the feeling that it is real and alive. Moreover, he comes to accept that there are parents who are never interested in their baby. In the eyes of the child he embodies the law, the vigor, the ideal and the outside world that should make him known. He is the one who takes the child to the street, but at the request of the mother. His good fatherhood will depend on the necessary intermediation of the mother between him and his son. The baby prefers the mother, who is the one she loves the most, and the father will have to be the dump of his hatred to avoid the confusion that it would generate in the child to unload it on the mother. It would seem instead that he could hate the father without causing him problems. He has the role of putting limits on his aggression. (D: W: Winnicott, Meet your child. Psychology of the first relationships between the child and his family”.

The child psychoanalyst Francoisse Doltó (cited by E. Badinter in Is there maternal love?) When answering the questions that were asked daily by radio in France Inter complained that not mentioning the father was as if he did not exist, on opportunity of receiving the question from a listener who lamented over the teasing of his children because of his tender attitudes, he replied that “father's love never manifests through physical contact" This may exist while the child is very young but should soon be minimized.

Another position contrary to the paradigmatic conceptions of traditionalist paternity, above, and worthy of being taken into account is that of Jungian psychoanalyst Guy Corneau. He maintains in his book "Père manquant, fils manqué" that "man is born to life three times. born of his mother, born of his father and will finally be born deeply in and of himself. ” The achievement of your male identity will depend on the non-interruption of this process. If the father remained “silent”, generation after generation, the fragility of the male identity will ensue; "Silence" that denies the desire and need of the male child to be recognized and loved by the father. The children will become “defective, failed” children (fils manqué) in the event that contacts with the father are not lasting or deep or affectionate. The "children of silence" come from a "missing father." Corneau uses the adjective "missing" to give the concept of absent father a broader sense. It refers in addition to the physical absence, also to the spiritual and affective absence of the father who, even though physically present, does not relate adequately to him; unable to express affection and sensitivity; to the crushing; to the envious of the intelligence of the son; to the authoritarian and the alcoholic whose emotional fluctuations keep the children in suspense.

In order for the child to be born as a male, (G. Corneau points out that "the woman is born but the man is made") it will be necessary for the father to be a "physically" present father, allowing him to identify what they have in common and abandon primary identification with the mother. The sexual identity of the child is anchored in the body and in the affection of the father. The lack of this or an inappropriate fatherhood, which abandons the child to the exclusive care of the mother, will result in the repression of his sensuality and corporeality, in the fear of homosexuality and the woman and in his subsequent fear of intimacy with his own body and with the female body.

Father and paternal function

As it is easy to deduce, the F.P. It is not implicit in the fact of being the biological father and many times it is exercised by the mother herself (if she can), by an uncle or by the usually maternal grandfather. The latter usually occurs when the biological father has disappeared due to death, as a result of a divorce controversial, (which some authors describe as evil), or simply because it has no father's vocation or is distracted in various infidelities.

Of course, there is a social network that welcomes the idea that the man abdicates his paternal function and that has to do with "male mysticism" that prioritizes the emotional abandonment of the child, the non-recognition of the needs of emotional contact and bodily with his father from the beginning of life and the confinement of the latter to the role of economic provider.

Probable consequences of the failure of the FP

Studies in several countries show that contact with his mother and his father is so important for his normal psychosexual development and that the deficit in VT often leads to "behavioral problems" that involve varying degrees of aggressiveness. and that range from innocent lies, through robberies to their peers, their teachers and their parents, to frank acts of violence that are risky for both peers and for themselves (dissociative personality disorder).

Other studies would indicate that the paternal disinterest in being emotionally involved with the child, together with the mother's excessive attachment to the child and her real indifference to her partner, would lead to sexual identity disorders especially in the male child or other more serious disorders. .

Iris Pugliese
Degree in Psychology