Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children

Article excerpt

JAMES M. HERZOG, M.D.: Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children. The Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 2001, 336 pp., $49.95, ISBN 0881632597.

Researchers and clinicians in the mental health field have emphasized the pivotal role of the father in the development and adjustment of children. Although empirical information about the impact of parental divorce and the postdivorce family environment on children's long-term adjustment is somewhat limited, a growing clinical literature suggests that some children do suffer long-term negative outcomes when their fathers are physically or psychologically unavailable following divorce. Indeed, in Father Hunger: Explorations with Adults and Children, James M. Herzog addresses the meaning and sometimes tragic consequences of father unavailability for the developing child. The term "father hunger," defined by Herzog as the "affective state experienced when the father is felt to be absent" (p. 51), is derived from the author's clinical work with young boys whose parents were divorced. Throughout the book, which is intended for clinicians working with children and adults in long-term therapy, the author draws on both developmental and psychoanalytic theories to illustrate the father's intrapsychic role as the modulator and organizer of aggressive drive and fantasy.

The material in this book is presented in 20 rather loosely organized chapters. In the opening chapter, Herzog describes his own approach to analytic treatment, which emphasizes the creation of an intermediate space in which therapist and client can collaborate and work through pain and conflict. The remaining chapters in the book are devoted to various case examples that help to illustrate the assessment and treatment of psychological conflicts involving the father. In each chapter, the author uses extensive transcripts of actual sessions with his clients to illustrate the process of developing a therapeutic alliance, promoting insight into traumatic events involving the father, and altering the client's worldview. Herzog's case examples are very effective in highlighting the critical role that fathers play in children's and adults' ability to regulate their emotions. …