5 Modern Parenting Tips From Freud


Dads Don't Matter Much

Freud largely disregarded dads' roles as caregivers.
Freud largely disregarded dads' roles as caregivers.
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Freud's interpretation of parent-child relationships, though groundbreaking, was firmly entrenched in the traditional gender roles of his time. Fathers were considered the authoritarian heads of household, and infant care giving existed entirely in the maternal domain. Consequently, dads don't play much of a role in child development, so said Freud, until the phallic phase from ages 3 to 6. During that window, boys especially begin to take note of their fathers, subconsciously detesting their sexual access to mothers. And with that internal conflict and the potential of a father-son Oedipal showdown, castration anxiety -- a fear of dad lopping of junior's penis to defend his patriarchal position -- supposedly arises. But until then, it's mothers that make or break psychosexual development.

Contemporary scholars have taken issue with Freud's decidedly unprogressive portrayal of domestic gender roles [source: Parke]. Even Dr. Spock updated later editions of "Baby and Child Care" to take into account the important contributions that fathers make with child care from infancy into adolescence [source: Sullivan]. Pediatric research has also come a long way since Freud's death in 1939 to establish empirically sound guideposts for raising healthy babies and children, no psychoanalysis required.

Author's Note: 5 Modern Parenting Tips from Freud

When people think of parenting experts, Sigmund Freud probably doesn't come to mind. But while I was researching the work of Dr. Benjamin Spock who wrote the best-selling "Baby and Child Care," first published in 1946, I learned that Freud played an enormous role in shaping the advice doled out in the popular parenting manual. In addition to Spock's pediatric work, he also dabbled in psychoanalysis in the late 1930s, and he wrote "Baby and Child Care" as a way to translate Freudian theories about psychosexual development into casual language that any parent could understand. Hence, millions of baby-boom mothers and fathers were inadvertently bringing up their babies not so much according to the beloved Dr. Spock, but the formidable Dr. Freud. With that in mind, I wanted to take a tongue-in-cheek look at what Freud might say about modern parenting in its various iterations.

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  • Belkin, Lisa. "The Dangers of Sleeping with Baby." The New York Times. Jan. 26, 2009. (May 04, 2012) http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/26/the-risks-of-sleeping-with-your-baby/
  • Burton, Neel. "Totem and Taboo: The Life and Thought of Sigmund Freud." Psychology Today. April 15, 2012. (May 04, 2012) http://www.psychologytoday.com/print/92983
  • Dewar, Gwen. "Is Freud in your bathroom?" BabyCenter. April 15, 2011. (May 04, 2012) http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/is-freud-in-your-bathroom/
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  • La Leche League International. "A Brief History of La Leche League." July 2003. (May 04, 2012) http://www.llli.org/lllihistory.html
  • Mander, Gertrude. "Fatherhood Today: Variations on a Theme." Psychodynamic Counseling. 2001.
  • Oswalt, Angela. "Sigmund Freud and Child Development." Child & Adolescent Development: An Overview. Gulf Bend Center. (May 04, 2012)
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  • Sullivan, James. "Dr. Freud and Dr. Spock." Library Associates. Syracuse University. 1995. (May 04, 2012)
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