Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Social Fatherhood as a Prophylactic against Violent Behavior: An Empirical Analysis of the Kinder, Gentler Side of Freud's Oedipus Complex

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Social Fatherhood as a Prophylactic against Violent Behavior: An Empirical Analysis of the Kinder, Gentler Side of Freud's Oedipus Complex

Article excerpt

The preclusion of a social father, due to out-of-wediock births, within a community is strongly associated with the level of violent crime within that same community. Both U.S. and cross-cultural data are presented as examples. The association remains strong even when an index of poverty - rates of male unempioyment - are controlled. An argument for causation rather than mere correlation is presented. However, divorce, a second method of separating a child from a father, generates a very different societal mosaic. Divorce rates are not associated with violent crime rates. The argument is presented that, if a social, on-going fether is able to share the same residence with his young, developing son, the son is less likely to engage in violent behavior as an adult. Freud's construct of and analysis of the OediPus Complex is thereby given empirical support (only) along the dimension of male aggression.

KEY WORDS: Father-child relations, divorce, out-of-wediock births, violent crime, Freud, Oedipus Complex, male unemployment.

The generalized imagery of the (U.S.) father figure has become something of a kaleidoscope which has been repeatedly turned by academics and the literati within the last quarter century. (See Demos 1986, Griswold 1993, LaRossa 1997, LaRossa et al. 1991, Nash 1965, 1976 for historical perspectives on the U.S. father).

Until very recently, the social father was a given in virtually any and all societies (Hendrix 1996, Hewlett 1992, Lamb 1987, Mackey 1996, Malinowski 1927, Van den Berghe 1979). Two very distinct, antinomous interpretations of this given are available in relationship to the value or function of the current generation of fathers within the U.S. and within any other society with an industrialized-service oriented economy. First, it can be argued that prior fathers had served the dual roles of protector & provider which were essential to the survival of his wife and his children. However, current governmental protectors, viz. local police, state police, FBI, national guard, and the U.S. armed forces, have efficiently and successfully undertaken the role of protector. The husband/father, who is less well trained for this role, is not needed. Similarly, governmental agencies, through local, state, and federal programs, have made death from privation and malnutrition extremely unlikely. Hence, the father's role of provider can also be supplanted either by working mothers and/or by governmental agencies. The argument would finish with the conclusion that social fathers in an industrialized, service-oriented, information based economy are somewhere between supernumerary or optional.

On the other hand, the second interpretation argues that the sheer omnipresence of social fathers strongly infers important functions of fatherhood that transcend differences in economies, religions, political structures, ecologies or diets. This paper suggests the latter position has validity and further suggests that one such function of a father is the domestication of his sons.' As a corollary, it is also proffers that there is no government agency of program which can replace or supplant this function of the child's biological & social father (see Blankenhorn [1995] and Popenoe [1996] for similar discussion).

Fatherlessness and Violent Behavior within the Community The U.S. and other countries e.g. Sweden, are currently undergoing a social experiment. To wit, can a society perform efficiently and competitively if it assumes that the social father is either optional or supernumerary? For several decades, other studies have documented the association between fatherlessness and unwanted behavior on the part of children (Anderson 1968, Bereczkei & Csanaky 1996, Blau & Blau 1982, Chilton & Markle 1972, Mischel 1961a, 1961b, Monahan 1972, Mosher 1969, Robins & Hill 1966, Stevenson & Black 1988, Wilson & Herrnstein 1985, cf Adams et al. 1984). This exercise will focus upon serious violent behavior. …

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