This psychoanalytically-oriented qualitative research project explores the impact of a father’s death on the development of his son’s ego-ideal through and beyond adolescence. Following Freud, Chasseguet-Smirgel, and others, the ego-ideal is understood to be a psychic agency initially founded on the fantasied image of primary narcissistic bliss and power enjoyed at the outset of life in fusion with the maternal object. As an infant psychologically differentiates himself from this object, he develops an ego-ideal meant to regain his parents’ love and the primary narcissism he previously enjoyed. As he passes through the Oedipus complex and into adolescence, his ego-ideal transforms into an internalized image of psychological independence and autonomy based on the fantasied image of the Oedipal father, separate from the engulfing preoedipal mother. The main research question for this project centered on how a boy’s navigation of this process changes if his father dies early in his life. Using the Free Association Narrative Interview (FANI) protocol, I interviewed three men who lost their fathers between ages five and nine about the social behavior, affective patterns, family relations, and self-image they maintained through and beyond adolescence. The findings suggest that the death of a father influences the self-image that a boy feels internally and externally pressured to fulfill. The mother-son relationship appears to be a central modulating component in this process, as a mother’s reinforcement or counteraction of particular ego-ideal qualities can accentuate or mitigate the burdensome aspects of the ego-ideal towards which her son aspires.
|Commitee:||Ghareman, Azarm, Hapke, Kenneth|
|School:||Pacifica Graduate Institute|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Behavioral psychology, Clinical psychology|
|Keywords:||Death, Ego-ideal, Fatherhood, Narrative inquiry, Psychoanalysis|
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