The Changing Faces of Fatherhood and Father–Child Relationships

From Fatherhood as Status to Father as Dad

Authored by: Michael E. Lamb

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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The role of the father has been the focus of speculation for millennia, with multiple references to fathers and fatherhood in the Old and New Testaments, as well as in countless folk-tales, myths, fables, and books. This is not surprising. Unlike narrowly defined psychologic concepts like “working memory,” fatherhood is a concept like “love” that has been invoked, defined, and analyzed from an extraordinarily diverse array of perspectives, with psychologists and other social scientists joining the party very late. Unlike the other chapters in this volume that provide up-to-date reviews of how theory has been used in previous content areas, this chapter takes a more historic approach and directs attention to how we reached present understandings of fatherhood. Although I do not attempt to survey the broad expanse of writing and theorizing about fatherhood and father–child relationships here, my task is undeniably complicated by the fact that each reader “knows” what fatherhood means, and what significance it has for children, families, and for society.

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