In his l95l World Health Organization report, Maternal Care and Mental Health, the psychoanalyst John Bowlby claimed that the secure attachment of sons and daughters to their mothers as babies is as crucial to their future mental well-being as vitamins are to their future physical well-being. On the grounds that babies therefore need to be with their mothers full-time, Bowlby's claim was used to justify the closure of day nurseries opened to enable women to work during the war. It was also used more generally to oppose measures aimed at securing women, as mothers, the same employment opportunities as men. As such, Bowlby's attachment theory-as his l95l thesis came to be known-was bitterly opposed by feminists.
Now, however, feminist theorists and therapists are more friendly to attachment theory (Orbach). This is in part due to evidence of the ill effects on men's mental health of prematurely losing attachment to their mothers when as children they are pressured to forge a male identity separate from, and superior to, that of their mothers and women generally. In this chapter, using examples of men's memories and dreams and two clinical illustrations, I will seek to highlight some of these ill effects, including men's stammering, recurring nightmares, self-division, schizophrenia, suicide, and manic self-glorification. Arguably each of these is a result, at least in part, of sons' early loss of attachment to their mothers.
In l968 the U.S. psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson argued that sons must detach, separate, and “dis-identify” from their mothers so as to achieve a