What A Mother Can Offer Her Son

By Olga Silverstein and Beth Rashbaum | Family Therapy Networker, March/April 1994 | Go to article overview

What A Mother Can Offer Her Son


Olga Silverstein and Beth Rashbaum, Family Therapy Networker


THE DEBATES AND COLLECTIVE SOUL-SEARCHING THAT accompanied family therapists' discovery of the psychological significance of gender have transformed the field's conception of the family. What began 15 years ago as an examination of the unacknowledged power inequities between husbands and wives has grown into a more encompassing description of family relationships.

Today, the audience for our reexamination of the family extends beyond our small professional community. Recently, two outspoken veterans of family therapy's gender debates have written provocative books addressing a wider general readership. What follows are excerpts from these books that offer contrasting visions of the gender politics and emotional crosscurrents in one of the most perplexing family relationships the mother-son bond.

 

 

WHAT A MOTHER CAN OFFER HER SON

BY OLGA SILVERSTEIN AND BETH RASHBAUM

THERE IS A FAIRLY BROAD CONSENSUS IN THE therapeutic and analytic communities about the major developmental tasks confronting the male adolescent: he is to establish a firm, unambiguous sense of his own sexuality, and he is to prepare for the final separation from his parents, most particularly his mother. The latter task is of course related to the former, for the belief is that a satisfactory masculine sexual identity can only be fully achieved through that separation. Mother's "task" is, more than ever, to get out of the way; she usually complies, however ambivalently, for adolescence is such a vivid signal of her son's incipient manhood that the taboo against closeness takes on new force.

Thus, as a boy enters adolescence at about age 12 or 13 and begins going through its physical changes, even a woman who has until then resisted her husband's warnings and ignored the dictates of the culture is likely to pull back from her son, out of a newly aroused concern for his masculinity. Not wanting him to be "soft" or "effeminate," she will now begin to guard against any kind of emotional expressiveness between herself and her son. Moreover, since one of the worst accusations that can be leveled against a mother in our Freudianized age is that she is "seductive," evidence of her son's burgeoning sexuality may cause her to be equally wary of any physical demonstrations of affection, lest she arouse his sexual feelings or her own (despite the fact that mother-son incest, and never more so than at this age.) As a friend of mine put it, describing the uneasiness she began to feel in the presence of her teenage son, "When they put that sweet little boy into my arms 15 years ago it never occurred to me that one day this big strange man would be walking around my house in his underwear."

The fear of "contaminating" her adolescent son with her own femininity, of compromising (or, alternatively, exciting) his sexuality, can cause a mother to effect a very abrupt

 

withdrawal. Indeed, it is sometimes so abrupt that it is experienced by the boy as abandonment, especially if there is some specific event that alarms the parents and thereby convinces the mother that she has been harming her son by her continuing closeness to him. At this stage of life, any kind of deviation from peer behavior can set the process in motion, whether it's something as significant as an admission of homosexuality or as trivial as a refusal to go away to camp

or take part in a class excursion. If a girl didn't want to go on a class trip, most parents wouldn't make much of it; if a male child doesn't feel ready to leave home and go off with his peers for a

few days or weeks, the parents think they have a big problem on their hands and are almost certain to make matters worse by their panicked reaction.

However they handle the immediate situation, you may be sure that the mother will feel that she is to blame. And any time a mother becomes convinced that what she is doing is harming her child, she will try to stop doing it. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

What A Mother Can Offer Her Son
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.