James M. Herzog's Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children will quickly take its place both as a landmark contribution to development psychology and as an enduring classic in the clinical literature of psychoanalysis. We live in an era when a great many children grow up without a father, or, worse still, with fathers who traumatically abuse them. Yet, society continues to ignore the emotional price that children pay, and often continue to pay throughout their lives, for this tragic state of affairs. At the heart of this lack of compassionate responsibility is our collective failure to comprehend the distinctive role of fathers in the normal development of children.
Father hunger will change this situation. First drawn to his topic by observing the recurring nightmares of clinic-referred children of newly separated parents -- nightmares in which the children's fear of their own aggression was coupled with desperate wishes for their fathers' return -- Herzog went on to spend more than two decades exploring the role of the father in a variety of naturalistic settings. He discovered that the characteristically intense manner in which fathers engaged their children provided an experience of contained excitement that served as a necessary scaffolding to the children's emerging sense of self and as a potential buffer against future trauma.
For clinicians, Herzog opens up new conceptual domains by relating the management of aggression to the vicissitudes of trauma and developmental repair. For lay readers, he identifies the essential psychological elements of successful fathering and explains, in a highly accessible manner why these features of "normal" fathering matter so much to children. (Author abstract modified)
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