Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

"Poppa" Psychology: The Role of Fathers in Children's Mental Well-Being

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

"Poppa" Psychology: The Role of Fathers in Children's Mental Well-Being

Article excerpt

"Poppa" Psychology: The Role of Fathers in Children's Mental Well-Being. Vicky Phares. Westport, CT Praeger. 1999. 168 pp. ISBN 0275-96367-5. $35.00 cloth.

This book's 109 pages of text fall into the following chapters: 1. Fathers in present-day families. 2. When things go right: Fathers and normal childhood development. 3. When problems develop in children: Why not just blame the mother? 4. When problems develop in children: What are the characteristics of their fathers? 5. When fathers have problems: What are the characteristics of their children? 6. What to do when there are mental health problems in fathers or children. 7. Encouraging mental health in families of the future. First, and starting on the upside, the penultimate chapter is excellent and reflects the author's strength as a clinical psychologist. It will convince anyone with family problems to seek professional help, and it provides practical information to help everyone get started. Second, the Notes section (31 pages-about double the length of each chapter) provides a fine point of entry into the research and the clinical and polemical literature on fathers. Third, the author serves the lay public well by emphasizing the complexity underlying the etiology of psychopathology, the mutually impacting interactions among family members, and genetic contributions to family behavior. Fourth, the book will be of interest to: parents seeking clinically oriented parenting advice, readers seeking to understand their impact on their children, and clinicians who have neglected to consider fathers in etiology and treatment.

However, on the downside in this reviewer's opinion, the author has not produced a book on "Poppa" Psychology. First, none of the traditional fatherhood topics, such as involvement, is covered. Second, although it seems odd to find a chapter on mother blaming in a book on "Poppa" Psychology, the eradication of mother blaming appears to be the book's agenda. Third, the author does convincingly document mother blaming in theory, research, and clinical practice. However, mother blaming must be placed in at least two perspectives: historical and legal. Historically, from the industrial revolution to the feminist revolution, childrearing has been the mother's primary "job description," so it is perhaps not surprising that when things go wrong with children we look first to the mother and only rarely to the father. …

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