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Understanding father: adult sons look back Adam, Bodhi D. 1992

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UNDERSTANDING FATHER: ADULT SONS LOOK BACKAn analysis of the longitudinal father relationshipfrom the perspective of adult sons.byBODHI DAVID ADAMB.A., The University of British Columbia, 1989A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF SOCIAL WORKinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESSCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORKWe accept this thesis as conformingto the standard required for theDegree of Master of Social WorkTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASeptember, 1992© Bodhi David Adam, 1992In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of ^„Coci 4 L \dj C) The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate C-)a-ro isc--; . I DE-6 (2/88)UNDERSTANDING FATHER: Adult Sons' Reflections on the Father RelationshipABSTRACTThe present study explored the experience of relationship with fatherfrom the retrospective viewpoint of adult sons. Healing the father relationshiphas become an interest for many men and gender specific research in otherfields of social enquiry has recently investigated the changing father role, yetin the social work and family therapy research literature, a lacuna wasidentified concerning the particulars of interpersonal relations with fathers.Twelve adult sons were asked to relate stories involving themselves and theirfathers from progressive stages in their lives. Additional specific questioningsought the sons' perspectives on their relationships with father. Data wastranscribed, qualitatively coded and grouped into 9 themes descriptive of fatherand son relations. Limitations of the study resulted from the small samplesize, bias introduced by self selection and the problem of reliability ofretrospective accounts, thus limiting the confidence with which findings canbe generalized. Interviewing and analysis were guided by eclectic applicationof existing social science theory.Multiple levels of factors were found to characterize the relationsbetween fathers and sons. Themes distinctly emerged which involved (i)personal dynamics of the relationship including rivalry, conflict and approvalseeking, (ii) family concerns including the importance of mother,multigenerational patterns and developmental factors impacting on therelationship and, (iii) within the societal rubric, the experience of father asstranger, an image of him as hero and the role he engages in as provider. Theiiprimary clinical implications of the study are the confirmation of theimportance of addressing the father relationship for adult men and thepossibility of utilizing father as an opening into male emotionality. Futureresearch will be required in order to confirm the salience of these themes byincorporating random designs, larger samples, multiple sources of evidenceand cultural comparisons. This will also refine and focus an initialdevelopmental model of father-son relations and longitudinal malepsychological development which is proposed here.iiiTABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT^ .^iiLIST OF TABLES viACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .^.^.^viiCHAPTERI. INTRODUCTION 1Structure of the thesis^.^6A Brief History of Fathering 7Introduction to the study^Father research 14Methodological focus^ 16II. METHODOLOGYSample^ .^19Procedures 22Interview .^23Stories 25Limitations .^.^. 26Sample Profile^. 29III. ANALYSIS^ 34IV. PERSONAL THEMESIntroduction^.^.^441. Rivals: father as challenger^. 512. Conflict and violence: father as foe .^553. Approval: father as judge .^.^63V. FAMILY THEMES^. 73Introduction: attachment 741. Mother: The pivotal parent^ 77ivCHAPTERV. (continued)2. Father's father: multiple generations^913. Father and son: growing up together 97VI. SOCIETAL THEMESIntroduction^.^103Gendered questions 1051. Absence: Father as stranger^. 1082. Image: Father as hero 1143. Role: Father as provider .^ 121VII. CONCLUSIONSA. Summary^.^ 126B. Results . 128C. Implications 135D. Conclusion^ 144REFERENCES^. 145APPENDICESA. Research Advertisements^ 156U.B.C. Ethical ConsentB. Introductory Letter 159C.^Interview Guide^. 161a. Family storiesb. Structured questionsc. Demographic fact sheet .d. Consent formD.^Interview Summaries^ 165E.^Father and Son Stories 178vLIST OF TABLES Table 1:^"Demographic data"^ 30Table 2.^"Initial coding factors and sources"^38Table 3.^"Development of themes"^42viACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to acknowledge my father, Hugh Adam, for thecourage with which he has lived his life and my son, Tane, for toleratingmy attempts to learn how to father. Both are important sources ofexperience, insights and inspiration for this work. The journey from oneto the other is a source of meaning in my life.Thank you also to the students and professors who have showed thecourage to share their convictions with me through this journey.And to Caroline, thanks for your support. It did end.Finally, I am profoundly grateful to the men who shared with metheir experiences of their fathers. I felt moved and honoured to be witnessto your stories. My hope is that this work does justice to the contributionyou have made.viiChapter IINTRODUCTION: Popular attention has recently begun to focus on the experiences and issues men aredealing with in their lives and one of the most consistent themes to emerge is that of menidentifying the painful difficulties in relationships with their fathers. The father and son dyadhas been described as "the most challenging of family relationships" (Yablonsky, 1990). Ourmyths and stories, religions and literature, as well as these personal experiences all confirmthat this is both an important and a problematic relationship. Yet the social sciences haveoffered few meaningful insights into the nature of father and son interaction. This lacunabecomes important in light of the fact that family structures and relationships are underpressure from many directions and are changing in many ways. The chances that a boy willgrow up living in an intact family unit together with his father, or that a father will activelyfather his son, are not good and are getting worse. What does that mean to a son? Whatimplications does this have for male development? What is behind this widespread interestby men in their fathers?This study focuses on understanding fathers in relation to sons, looking upon thefather son relationship as an important component of family dynamics and a key to thereproduction of fathering and of masculinity. The questions addressed are "how do adult sonsperceive and understand the influences of their fathers, in looking back over the course oftheir lives?," and "what characteristic themes typify these relationships?". "Understandingfathers" is a challenging and complex task requiring the integration of a multitude of diverseand interactive factors. Comprehensive use of a broad range of literature guided this work.Relevance for Social Work Social work has long been a female dominated profession and very seldom has itdeliberately focused on male psychology or experiences. The question "what do socialworkers know about fathers?" was raised in an important survey of the literature by Grief andBailey (1990) which concluded that what we do know, we don't get from the literature.When fathers are studied, it is in their role as perpetrators (particularly of sexual and physicalabuse), as alcoholics in dysfunctional families, as missing and needed in the home, as1embattled and suffering, as "disengaged" and resistant to clinical intervention, as unwillingor unhelpful parents or as contributors to antisocial or unhealthy attitudes and lifestyles. Thisauthor's own recent search for fathers in family therapy literature turned up 32 items: 10referred to sex abuse, 5 to father resistance in therapy, 4 to single fathers, 3 to father's rolein child psychopathology and 4 to alcoholic fathers. Spurred by a conviction that thisdepressing picture of fathers is distorted, simplistic and harmful to practice, this project hopedto focus attention on more healthy father functioning in order to describe "what works?"rather than simply "what's wrong?".Culture relies on the father-son relationship for the transmission of masculinity andpassing along of guidelines for appropriate male behaviours. The suggestion has frequentlybeen made that certain serious social problems may be linked to inadequate fathering. Whilemany apparently stereotypical "masculine" behaviours have apparently lost their utility inmodern culture, we should be careful to separate those behaviours from the deeper sense ofwhat it is to be male today, a topic many men are re-examining widely. The view thatmasculinity itself is the problem is not helpful because it is likely to polarize the discourseand easily leads to blaming, guilt or to inappropriate attempts at change. Fathers areespecially important to sons because it is they who can most effectively impart a more maturemasculinity. It is important therefore to focus on this relationship in order to gain a greaterappreciation of the possibilities for change.Social workers deal daily with the casualties of family problems and must makedecisions influencing the lives of clients and their families based on their values andconceptions about normal and healthy family dynamics, including for example, what to expectfrom fathers' participation in the family. Over the past twenty years, we have come also toappreciate more fully the persisting influence of one's historical family throughout adult life.In assessing needs and in considering options for our interventions in the lives of families,it is important to optimize our understanding of the experiences of all its members: we shouldtherefore not ignore the father and son relationship.2Goal of the study This study was an exploratory investigation into the general question of father and sonrelationships. Its primary goal was to describe themes typical of these relationship and toidentify factors which influence their quality. A significant part of this goal was to givevoice to the experience men have of their fathers and so further our understanding of bothmale relationships and psychology.The image of father is widespread and pervasive in our culture. Religions havedescribed God as the father or grandfather, our society has been identified as patriarchal, andmany of our social roles are apparently based on an image from past constructs of the fatherrole including teacher, policeman, hero, ruler and healer. Yet in recent times, the personalexperience of father has diminished greatly and in many ways it is more difficult now forfather, the man, to participate in the life of the family, than ever before. This study soughtto identify and describe some of the obstacles to that participation.This focus on males in family relationships is not intended to diminish the obviousimportance of females in the family. Rather, it hopes to contribute towards a more honest,complete and apparently burgeoning literature on male experience, just as the past twentyyears has seen massive amounts of work on the corresponding phenomenon of being female.Such work has helped to reveal the gap in social science research and writing on specificallymale experience.Although there seems to be much loss and anger at the absence of fathers, both in theliterature and in life, no general agreement exists about whether fathers play essential rolesand what that role should optimally be. One working hypothesis is held that much of whatpasses between fathers and sons is seldom verbalized, and hence is unstudied. A primarygoal of this investigation was to hear respondents' stories, and to use those stories toenlighten others about what passes between fathers and sons. The study sought out men'spersonal accounts and makes frequent use of respondent's stories toward this end. Despitemany problems inherent in these relationships including the difficulties of making verbal whatmay not often be articulated, it is felt that the search for eloquent and powerful voices wasnot futile.3Theoretical Orientation This work is guided by principles taken from a variety of theoretical orientations.Insights from theories of psychosocial development (Erikson, 1950) are used in the overalldesign of the study, biological and psychoanalytic work describes some of the predispositionslooked for in understanding the dynamics of male interactions and family systems theory andsocial learning theory helped to identify some of the factors influencing the current state ofthe relationships under consideration and the context within which these relationships exist.This eclectic approach has previously been labelled "human ecology" in an attempt to unifythe social sciences with a concept borrowed from the physical sciences (Hawley, 1950;Dutton, 1987; Nett, 1988). Often considered together with family systems theory, it appliesmany of the important theories seen in the social sciences to human endeavours in a multi-levelled approach to analysis and understanding.The most fundamental tenet of ecological theory is that of interdependence betweenthe population under study and the environment in which it exists (Micklin, 1984).Environment has been defined as "whatever is external to and potentially or actuallyinfluential on a phenomenon under investigation" (Hawley, 1950, p.65). In this case thepopulation is father and son relationships and the environment is the multitude of family andsocial characteristics which heavily influence those relationships. This ecological emphasison physical and social context has been transposed to social work previously (Germain,1979).Bronfenbrenner (1979) has described the ecological environment as a series of "nestedstructures, each inside the next, like Russian dolls" (in Nett, 1988, 282) in order to emphasizethe way each approach to understanding is contained within the larger realm or rubric. In thiscontext, biological and psychoanalytic theories are used to understand intimate factors relatedto self and interpersonal relationships; family systems and psychosocial theory is used toexamine human phenomena in the context of the family and personal journey through life;and culturally deterministic theories such as social learning enlighten us about forces exertedby the greater context within which the object of enquiry is situated. The direction ofinfluence between levels is generally from the broadest to the narrowest, that is the societalcontext shapes the family experience and the family context in turn shapes the personalexperience (Freeman, 1991). Conversely, it takes tremendous unity and force from the4personal levels to impact upon the higher levels of family and especially on society.The differences between these various levels has been blurred in some cases by, forexample, feminist theory on attachment which links the psychoanalytic developmental theoriesabout early parent infant interaction with the sociological observations on how parenting isdone in our society (Chodorow, 1978). Family systems theory has strong overlaps withecological theory in that it also emphasizes multiple levels of meaning and analysis, theimportance of power relationships within the systems and the interdependence of individualswithin a system. The emphasis on the family as an independent emotional system (Kerr &Bowen, 1988) found in family systems theory is perhaps the greatest difference.In practice, each application of ecological theory will differ in emphasis accordingboth to the researcher's orientation and to the question under study. There is some movementcurrently towards an erosion of the traditional boundaries between the social sciences. Anecological framework seems particularly well suited for organizing a study of fathers and sonsbecause of the multitude of factors involved in these relationships and because of the balanceit can bring to this complex topic.In order to cover the full range of dynamics within these relationships, blind spots inour theory must be avoided, when possible, although there is always danger in using ananalytic tool which is then too broad or diffuse. It is this author's own belief that politicallyinspired theories which dominate much sociological, feminist and social work thinking, ignoreor condemn, at the peril of their usefulness, much of psychological and biologicalcontributions to human understanding.This study has also been influenced by feminist thinking in some important ways.One important feminist contribution to the social science research dialogue has been to castdoubt on the notion of true objectivity in the positivistic search for knowledge. Thus, aresearcher's own agenda or personal biases should be made clear at the outset. This authorbelieves that although males have, as has been charged by feminist scholars, dominated socialscience theory and research, that this prior work does not necessarily describe actual maleexperience of the world; that in fact it often obscures it. An insistence on the rational at theexpense of the experiential actually masks much about how males live in their world.Certainly, this prior work has seldom allowed that it is deliberately studying specifically male5experience as such. To base our understanding of male psychology on this prior worktherefore is seriously mistaken.What is required is exploration of the emotional world of men, an area all too oftendeclared empty or frozen. This study intends to focus on sons' personal experiences of theirfathers in the context of their families and society with the expectation that father may proveto be a key to men's inner lives. Many men are currently turning their attention to theirfathers in attempting to understand themselves and their experiences. It is hoped this workwill help to shed some light on what they can expect to find.Structure of the thesis The balance of this introductory chapter (I) includes a brief history of fatherparticipation in the family. It will serve to highlight contributions from various perspectivesinto understanding fathers and at the same time allow some of the more persistent themesabout fathers to begin to emerge. The last section of this chapter briefly introduces broadthemes from prior father research and then describes the rationale for the focus, method andstyle of analysis used in the study.The method chapter (II) provides detailed research procedures including comments onthe sample, interview, limitations of the study and a descriptive profile of the sampleobtained. Appendices A, B and C provide the research material used in these procedures.The analysis chapter (III) describes the procedures used to organize and analyze data,resulting in nine themes typical of father and son relations. Appendix D gives a casesummary of each subject interviewed and Appendix E presents a compilation andcategorization of the material obtained in the form of chronological stories from therelationships.These nine themes are divided into three chapters (IV, V, and VI), each addressinga different level or category of theme: personal, family and societal. Each of these chaptersintegrates both relevant theory and more detailed consideration of previous father researchinto a discussion of the various themes identified.Finally, chapter VII summarizes the study, highlights the more salient findings,identifies some of the implications both for practice and research and concludes the work.6A Brief History of FatheringEvolutionary/biological The first question about fathers and families is how long have they been around inmore or less recognizable form. It seems clear that families have emerged as discrete unitsseparate from larger tribal or extended family groupings only in the last several thousandyears of European history, but also that some form of bond and mutual cooperation hasexisted between mothers, children and fathers in most cultures for much of history (Mount,1982). For our purposes, the meaningful question becomes "how did father become involvedbeyond the sexual act itself?" One currently accepted view includes an evolutionaryperspective while another offers an analysis based on power. We shall return to this latterposition after a brief exploration of the former through some bio-evolutionary history.The evolutionary position basically argues that at some point in our ancestral past, itbecame adaptive for parents of both sexes to participate in post parturition care of theoffspring: children with fathers assisting in their care were more likely to survive than thosewithout. Our closer relatives - apes, gorillas and chimpanzees - generally exhibit little fatherinvolvement with offspring: the primary task for dominant males seems to be to ward offcompeting males. Both human babies and their lactating mothers require large supplies ofhigh energy nutrients and benefit greatly with protection from difficult environments. Withinthis view pure altruism cannot exist so that if fathers participate by protecting andcontributing sustenance, it is because this provides some advantage to the survival and spreadof their own genes (Alcock, 1984). Although the mechanisms involved in the heritability ofsuch behaviours as protecting and providing are not well understood, it is not unusual forsociobiologists to theorize in this manner nonetheless.We can begin to see some themes emerge here from the gender division of roles inreproduction. In prehistory, females clearly gave birth and nursed infants and males'contribution took the form of protecting and to some extent providing, and later on inteaching skills relevant to survival (Wilson, 1975). These aspects of fatherhood - providing,protecting and teaching; and a strong sense of its social construction - will re-appear with7varying emphasis constantly throughout history.Only a brief word about the other approach to understanding the evolution of thefamily is required initially. Based on the work of American ethnographer H.L. Morgan,Engels (1884/1942) described a pre-historic time of promiscuous sexual relations and loose,maternal dominated social organization. According to this view, only with the advent ofhorticulture approximately 12,000 years ago did more or less monogamous male/femalefamily units begin to become the dominant form of social organization. Prior to this era, atime of matriarchal rule and rather ductile sexual relations was thought to be the norm.Engels and a number of feminist writers since have described this "historical subjugation ofwomen" by men who were envious of maternal power and chose nuclear family styles as away of dominating women and children and protecting personal property. Fatherhood is thenthe primary means of maintaining control over women's reproductive rights (Kraemer, 1991).This analysis attributes patriarchal family structures to male authority and patrilineality asevidence of continued male derogation of women's position.It is interesting to note how contrary this explanation of male involvement in familyis to sociobiological theories which see this participation in monogamous family arrangementsas only reluctantly agreed to by males as a trade-off in the struggle to differentiallyreproduce. We must resist the temptation to become sidetracked at this point into a debateon cultural versus biological determinism: the view taken here is that there is an interactiverelationship between the two and it is important to understand the influence of both on familydevelopment. That women menstruate, parturate and lactate is not inconsequential, nor isbasic sexual dimorphism. Neither are we bound to make our life choices solely accordingto biological predispositions. We can see however from these examples how "scientific"evidence can be evoked in support of contrary views of human behaviour and understandingsof male motivation.Cultural Comparisons One way social scientists have tried to examine pre-historical parental styles is to studycultures which appear to have changed little for many thousands of years. Hunting andgathering was the primary mode of economic activity for the vast majority of human history8(Washburn and Dolhinow, 1976). The Aka Pygmies of Central Africa are interesting in thattheir fathers are more involved in caretaking than in any other known culture (Hewlett, 1987).Children are held continually for the first 18 to 24 months of their lives, with fathers doingas much as 40% of the holding. Still, during hunting fathers don't hold children; this is doneby mothers. Rather, they carry infants with them during travel or while engaged socially withother men. The hunt is crucial at certain seasons for the protein rich food it brings and malesare said to run faster and so hunt more successfully. The role of provider far outweighs thatof nurturer for males even here in this very highly father involved culture. It is typical ofthe gender division of labour in hunter gatherer societies that males primarily hunt large gameand females hunt small animals, gather food and care for the young. Getting a workable andequitable balance between the two parental functions, providing and nurturing, seems to bea key in modern western families as well.The sociologist Alice Rossi (1978) says that there are theoretical upward limits on theamount of nurturant behaviours that we can expect from fathers, based on biologicalpredispositions. While this seems to be confirmed in this brief examination of fatherhoodthusfar, it would be difficult to make the case that in mainstream North American culture weare at or near this limit. We should also be careful not to assume that nurturance is the sumtotal of parenting behaviours, that fathering is simply mothering by males. There are manyfactors at work in our own society which influence, well beyond the bioevolutionary levels,the amount and kind of parenting that fathers do.Pre-industrial fathers This look at fathers now moves forward in history to pre-industrial western Europeand North America. There is no doubt that agriculture, notwithstanding the excesses ofEngel's accounts of family origins, had a profound effect on social organization. Settlementsand cities expanded while nomadic lifestyles disappeared. Families and extended familiesgrew as food supplies became more stable, and economic activity was organized aroundagriculture, especially animal husbandry and cropping.Again, we can find evidence of this historical rural lifestyle in present day form in therelatively few mixed family farms that have survived here in Canada. This style of9production emphasized the cooperative aspect of the family as an economic unit. There aredistinct spheres of interest, particularly in relation to jobs requiring physical strength versusendurance (resulting primarily in fathers being active on the farm itself and mothers withinthe nurturant atmosphere of the home), yet it is also far more likely that fathers have somedaily presence in the home and especially that women and children participated importantlyin economic activities on the farm (Hareven, 1978). Each member contributed to the overallproduction of the family according to ability. Correspondingly, other family functions suchas caretaking, teaching and healing were contributed to by several family members as well.Greater family size and the tendency to spread childrearing over many years are, of course,also important factors affecting the distribution of labour within the family. Pre-industrialAmerican families averaged 8 children (Demos, 1983).Industrial Revolution These general comments about huge and complex patterns of social change are offeredas broad descriptions of those times and may be rightly viewed as selective historicizing. Itis fathers' place with which we are concerned, however, and it seems quite defensible toargue for example that the overall impact of the industrial revolution and urbanization on thefamily had its most serious repercussions for the fathers.Although some refuse to admit that the industrial revolution was a revolution at all -it spanned several generations and came in several waves in transforming economic andsocial lives in Europe and North America - there is no doubt that profound changes werebrought upon the social lives of individuals in those countries, and in the remainder of theworld, by the industrialization of economies over the past hundred and fifty years. Ascapitalist factories arose, virtually everyone - men, women and children - became involvedin production for wages. This was a profound change from the economy of the family farmboth because it introduced the direct relationship between time worked and money earned andbecause family members began to earn wages separately from other family members. Thisis indeed consequential: it involved a shift from a time in which the family unit was theprimary element of economic production to one in which individuals became labour in themarketplace: from being a part of a collective economic unit, family members becameisolated components in the production of wealth. No longer were family members required10to cooperate on a daily basis for their survival. Rather, they would go out of the home forlong periods daily, alone, to earn a living.As wealth accumulated and fewer workers were required to participate in the wageeconomy, more social changes took place. Evolving concerns for social justice and adecreased demand for labour led to children being taken out of the active workforce andinstead placed daily in schools, particularly in growing urban areas. Teaching childrenbecame a professional occupation so that fathers, now busy wage earners, stepped back fromtheir previous involvement in such activities (Lasch, 1978). Also as wealth becameaccumulated, women began to leave the workforce: it was a new sign of capitalistachievement for a man to earn enough income that his wife did not need to work. Wealthyearly capitalists would often hire maids in the home, so that child care and nurturant dutieswould be provided by paid help, but take place in the family home. Families still tended tobe much larger and nurturant activities beyond breastfeeding were much more likely to becarried out by older siblings or relatives. Children would have been, by our standards, largelyleft to rear themselves.With the establishment of the industrial wage economy, women spending most of theirtime in the home, and new beliefs about the developmental needs of children, the role of themother within the family came to be seen as paramount (Demos, 1982). The rearing ofchildren became more clearly the mother's task as an appreciation grew of the importanceof early childhood and even prenatal experiences on adult development, both contributionsof the new fields of psychology and the social sciences. This continued the process of greatergender diversification or family role segregation which was occurring especially for thegrowing North American middle class men and women.Increasingly then, father's role became more solely defined in terms of thebreadwinner role. The measure of his worth became a question of his ability to accumulatewealth and to provide adequately for his family. Gender based divisions of labour developeddistinct spheres of influence in the family, with the mother clearly dominant in terms ofinfluence in the home and father in the marketplace. As father's role in the home wanedhowever, his financial power in the family became more profound. By relying completelyupon his income the family became dependent on his earning ability. So, at the same time11as his presence and influence within the family was attenuating, his absolute power, in aneconomic sense, over the family was growing.Fathers leaving the family on a daily and sustained basis influenced not only his rolein the family, but also his experience of the family: as well as becoming an emotionalstranger, as alluded to previously, his continued experience of the world has been shaping hischaracter (Demos, 1982). Daily contact with workmates with whom he may only share hisexternal self can tend to contribute to a reliance on qualities which are suitable for successin work - competitiveness, ambition, aggression, need for control, lack of emotionality - butseem to be inappropriate in the context of the family. These same characteristics are ofcourse recognizable as male sex role stereotypes. When we see these attributes as beingshaped by our economic role, we can begin to look beyond the apparent incongruity of suchcharacteristics in relation to the family and appreciate their developmental function in aneconomically competitive world.Especially in a prosperous and ambitious North America, this identification with theprovider role came to mean great expectations for males: rather than contenting oneself withcarrying on the work the father had done before, it was expected that a man should surpassthe material achievements of his father. These, of course, are developments which exert astrong continuing presence in our families today.Absence is really what this economic based shift has meant for the father's role. Heleft home daily and is gone from view for most of it. His emotional connection with thefamily decreased and his identification with the role of provider grew enormously. As avirtual stranger, his power as feared disciplinarian of last resort grew. His commitment towork often seemed to surpass that to family, for this is where society measures his success.Men have always contributed economically to their families but probably never as exclusivelyas in modern middle class North American families.Post War Fathers Post war responsibilities of the father's role at home were expanded marginally in thesense that it became expected that he would ensure adequate sex role identification in hischildren (Pleck, 1987). One could argue that concern for this particular function actuallycame as a result of the lack of a humane father presence in the family and of the over12importance, in an emotional sense, of the American mother. The fear was that without astrong male presence (as was now common), boys would become emasculated but even thatgirls would be adversely affected. Mead (1961) and Parsons and Bales (1956) both arguedagainst the emotionally dominant mother influence and called for more father involvementto balance the family and lead toward a population less fearful and less obliging of authority.The dominant paradigm for research into father influence in this era was one whichcompared children from father absent and father present families. The theory was that lackof strong male figures might leave children confused about "normal" sex role identities. Ittook thirty years of research to show that the presence of fathers did indeed help children tohave a stronger sense of self, but that the particular style - traditionally masculine, feminineor otherwise - of the father had no bearing on the sex role identity of the children: therelationship is more important than the content (May, 1992). Father absent research showedthat sons in families without fathers tended to show more delinquent behaviours, werecognitively disadvantaged and less socially able than two parent families; although themultitude of potential intervening variables presents difficulties for this type of study(Pederson, 1976).The concern that fathers should teach children, especially sons, sex appropriatebehaviours is really a re-appearance of the father in his role as moral guardian, whichpredominated in pre-industrial times. What has changed is the nature of the teaching -instead of a very sectarian concern for the souls of one's offspring, fathers now becameresponsible for shaping their social psyches, their super egos in fact. The responsibility isthe same: to teach children, especially sons, about the nature of the world, theirresponsibilities in it and to prepare them to survive "out there", on their own. The differenceis in the nature of that world and the type of preparation required by children; but not in thenature of social expectations of the father role. Note however the malleability in the socialrole of father, how some aspects of his function vary with those of mother and with thenature of society's demands, even while the theme of father as provider runs clearlythroughout history.13Introduction to the Study Father Research The lack of a clear and developed body of social work research literature on thequestion of father-son relationships led to a widened scope in a search for relevant work.Four major and related areas address the topic of fathers and fatherhood in various ways: theabsent father research investigations which originated after the second world war; thepsychological and developmental literature, some of which has recently shown usefultheoretical developments; the feminist inspired investigations of the "emergent" or involvedfather; and the recent popular writings from the men's movements which address variousthemes of men's experience, including the "hunger for father". These areas will be brieflydescribed here in this introductory chapter and then discussed in more depth in the contextof results in the discussion chapters. Ecological theory is useful in order to frame apresentation of this research because the groupings appear to fall naturally into our threelevels of understanding: social, personal and family.Absent father research sought to determine the influence on families of loss of themale parent primarily in terms of the family's diminished ability to adequately socializechildren. An appeal of this type of research has been the power of the simple logic in thenatural design: if children with fathers act one way and children without father act another,then differences must be due to the father. Results have not shown unequivocal relationshipsbetween the absence of fathers and such suspected deficiencies. This seems to be due tocomplications from other variables, for example mother attributes and skills, socio-economicstatus, age at loss of father, ethnic background and presence of other adult figures (Pederson,1976). The paradigm does not permit statements about the influence of fathers, only abouthis absence (Lamb, 1986b).Correlational studies have sought to determine father influence by measuringsimilarities between fathers and sons in terms of personality, behavioural and social outcomes.Overall, these studies found that boys most closely modelled fathers with whom they hadsolid relationships, whatever the personal characteristics of the fathers (Biller, 1971). Thepresent study re-opened some of these types of questions from the perspective of sons who14are fully grown. It asked adult men how they perceive the influence of father in their lifechoices and how similar to their fathers do they see themselves as becoming? The subjectsin this study were socialized in an era when Parsons' notions of "instrumental" and"expressive" roles more accurately described gender roles for fathers and mothers. Structuralfunctionalist explanations may still contribute something to our understanding of father,particularly in his primary function as "provider" (Daly, 1992).On the personal level, many modem theories about the role fathers play in the psychicdevelopment of their sons may be traced to Freud's Oedipal theory of 1913. The key elementfor our purposes is the role fathers play in helping boys to come to identify themselves asseparate and different from mother, and thus in opposition, male. It is the resolution of thisdynamic which is thought to strongly influence the relationship between a father and his son.The question of whether fathers do actually play a large role in helping sons to breakmother attachment underlay this study. How would evidence of this process manifest itselfin adult life? The extent to which interviews about father yield information about mothermay give a good sense of the extent to which she plays a vital part still in the adult man'slife. One shortcoming of psychoanalytic theorizing is in its tendency to see the role of thefather passively, as if his mere presence were enough to satisfactorily influence his son. Ithas been noted in the current men's movement literature that even if modem fathers arephysically present, they are not unlikely to be emotionally absent (Comeau, 1991; Osherson,1988). This study sought to explore whether a strong relationship in itself is vital to a boy'sdevelopment.On the family level, little research has been done which focuses on the particular rolefather plays in his involvement with sons. Recent developmental work has tried to show that,given their absence from the family, fathers are indeed capable of greater nurturantinvolvement with their children. Fein (1978) advocated the emergent father as a moreinvolved, nurturant role within which men would actively participate in care giving to theiryoung children. This participation is believed to benefit both children and fathers (Lamb,1976). Work like that of Radin, 1981) and Pietropinto (1986) has attempted to erase the15"myth" of male inadequacy around childraising. This study looked for signs of differencesin outcome for sons who describe their boyhood father relationship in warm, intimate terms,as opposed to one which is characterized as harsh or distant.A major theme emerging from the popular literature on men's issues (e.g. Bly, 1990;Keen, 1991) also addresses the relationship between father and son on all three of theselevels. Many writers have noted for example the importance of decreased father-son contactdue to technological and economic developments over the past one hundred and fifty years(Engels, 1880/1942; Kelly, 1989). The suggestion has been made that this has resulted in alack of direction and a sense of spiritual connection for modem men and a lack of stronginterpersonal relationships with other males (Bly, 1990; Comeau, 1990). Jungian inspiredwork on archetypes and mythology suggest the personal need of men for mentors; idealizedmale figures from whom they learn how to be moral men themselves (Moore and Gillette,1990). It is not clear to what extent a father can play this role for his own son, but this studylooked for indications that sons found learning, inspiration and wisdom in their fathers.In sum, many of the questions this study addressed were those which dominated pastresearch as well: How do men see and understand their fathers? What are the long termeffects of father influence? Can we see differences attributable to the nature of therelationship? Do fathers play instrumental, teaching or mentoring roles, and help their sons"break" from mother? It asked these broad questions of the adult men themselves, seekingtheir stories from a long term perspective on the past and used narrative and qualitativemethodology to organize and analyze the responses.Research Focus of the Study It was the exploration and description of meaning or significance to respondents oftheir fathers that is central to the study. A research methodology was required which wouldprovide sufficient sensitivity to detect differences in meaning, but also be broad enough tocover a wide range of experiences and flexible enough to follow up and amplify results.Qualitative analysis is particularly suitable to investigate questions of meaning or personal16significance (Mishler, 1986). The problem of studying what events actually mean torespondents suffers from the paradox of being on the one hand, perhaps philosophicallyunknowable, while on the other hand, key to our goal of understanding experience. It wasbelieved that relatively unstructured interviews would provide closer approximations of realityfor subjects than normative data. The assumption made here is that, in the last analysis,meaning is only meaningful to oneself, but that our deepest experiences are common.MethodThe telling of family stories has become an area of interest for family therapistsrecently (Stone, 1988; White, 1986; Freeman, 1991) who believe that there is a closerelationship between the story told and personal experience and attitudes. The story may tellfacts but it also reveals how the teller sees him/herself within the context of the story andhow they have come to understand the meaning of different events in their life. The analysisof narratives has also become the focus of some research attention as well (Polkinghorne,1988; Mishler, 1987). Colin Peile (1988) has summarized the important debate between whathe labels the empirical and the normative approaches to social work research and proposesa creative paradigm which utilizes a synthesis of methodologies.Credibility problems of narrative research revolve around questions of generalizabilityand replicability (Hudson, 1982; Fischer, 1981). However, investigations which areexploratory and descriptive enjoy an abated need for scientific agreement. Where conclusionsare drawn full explanations are required (Patton, 1990). Qualitative techniques can supportand give breadth to normative findings (Peile, 1988). This research intends liberal use ofverbatim responses in order to minimize interpretation and distortion. As Polkinghorne says,"the realm of meaning is best captured through its expression in ordinary language" (1988,p.10).The relationship between story telling and self identity has received some attentionin narrative literature. One hypothesis is that each piece of a narrative serves to reinforce theself that is being presented in the interview (Mishler, 1986). The suggestion has also beenmade that the telling of the story serves to provide a sense of continuity of self for the teller(Crites, 1986) and hence its therapeutic function. The association between the story teller selfin the interview and the historical actor self in the story is an interesting one. Because in a17sense, the father son relationship is about how men reproduce themselves, this study addedanother dimension to the dynamic: much from both of the primary actors in the narratives iscontained within the present day narrator. The hypothesis was that men as they age not onlybecome more like their fathers, they begin to feel as if somehow they are their fathers.AnalysisWhile qualitative analysis attempts to be led by the data in building theory throughaccumulating and successively organizing recurring patterns found within the results (Glaser& Straus, 1967; Patton, 1990), it is important to identify and describe the influence that priorknowledge, research and theory has in approaching analysis, for this will lead to some extenthow data is organized and what categories are found. The position taken here is thatespecially in the social sciences, true objectivity is not possible and claims for freedom frombias is likely to obscure important preconceptions. Taking sides, according to Becker (1966)is inevitable. The bias brought to this study then should be made clear. This author seeshimself as an advocate for men as fathers, bringing attention and hopefully understandingtowards their relationships. Beyond that, the sources of theoretical insights, influences anddecisions made in analysis will be made clear whenever possible.Qualitative analysis as described by Straus (1987) works closely with the data itselfto build conceptualizations and theory with which to view and interpret the evidence gathered,but does not attempt to test hypotheses. Rather than imposing a particular theoreticalframework, it attempts to see what emerges from close inspection and successiveorganizations of the data. The primary aim of this research was to identify and describeemergent themes typical of father-son relationships, and to begin to identify factors whichenhance or impede healthy father and son relationships. Qualitative research thereforeseemed well suited to use as an approach toward the analysis of the interview data.18Chapter IIMETHOD This study used a qualitative methodology. Subjects were interviewed using a guidewhich combined unstructured and structured questions. The relatively unstructured questionsgathered self report data in the form of anecdotes or stories to address the primary objective,which was to explore the nature of adult sons' perceptions of their relationships with theirfathers. Structured questions focused on respondents' own assessments of their father andhis influence on their lives. These retrospective accounts of father and son relationships werethen subjected to qualitative content analysis to yield themes descriptive of these relationshipsand to identify factors which are important to their quality.Sample The goal of sampling was to obtain for interviewing a broad range of men with aheterogeneity of experiences of their fathers. While truly representative sampling was notfeasible, it was hoped that the group of subjects would not be atypical or significantly skewedin any particular direction. Deciding how to select a sample required making an assessmentof the relative importance of several factors with little solid or definite information forguidance. The first method considered was a purposive sample selected by the researcher onthe basis of known interest or involvement in issues between fathers and sons. It had theadvantage that informed and articulate subjects would have been used. The disadvantage ofthis course was in the problem of getting a sample with only very limited range or diversity.These subjects would have been limited to those known directly or indirectly by theresearcher and his relatively academic and professional contacts. It seemed likely that priormen's movement literature has already identified and described many of their concerns (forexample Comeau, 1991, Osherson, 1988).The other sampling method considered was self selection. It was thought that self selectionwould be more likely to obtain subjects from a broader strata of society. A certain amountof bias would also be introduced with this method however, although its extent andsignificance was unknown. Based on widespread popular interest in the media and in various19men's movements and writings, it was expected that many men would have some interest indiscussing their relationship with their father, that this is not an unusual thing for many mentoday to be doing. At the same time, there was some concern that those who would respondmight be those with more difficult experiences with their fathers than was typical and actuallybe looking for counselling or insight into their problems. Still, it was felt that this latterfactor could be identified in subjects and to some extent controlled. The opportunity toaccess a wide variety of men from different social strata was a strong incentive, so the selfselection method was used to obtain a sample. Any sample as small as this (12 subjects) willnot be representative of fathers and sons generally, but may still provide useful and importantdata. The problem of bias in the sample selection is discussed further in the sample profile.Advertisements seeking participants in a study on father-son relationships were placedin various locations on a large university campus, in one edition of the bi-weekly universitynewspaper and in one edition of a regular relationship column in a major daily newspaper.Copies of these advertisements can be found in Appendix A. This latter source yielded themajority (8) of respondents for the study so that 4 men responded from the universityenvironment and 8 from the wider community. A total of 12 men were interviewed, each forabout 90 minutes. The self selection bias of the sample may be significant with referenceto age. This is also discussed in the sample profile.The sample size was limited to 12 in the interests of manageability of data. While12 would be considered a small sample if quantitative data were being gathered andhypotheses tested, the exploratory nature of this investigation meant it was not required tobe organized around the use of statistical manipulation. Rather, given the depth ofinformation gathered from each respondent, this design was expected to provide amplematerial from which to extract descriptive information with enough subjects to be able toidentify commonalities in their experiences. There is always a compromise made inqualitative research between depth and breadth of data collected. This size of sample wasalso influenced by the limited time and resources available in a project of this nature(Master's Thesis). Sampling decisions attempted to balance fairly equally the issue of gainingimportant information from a range of subjects, rather than focusing on either depth ofinformation or a broad based sample.20It was decided to limit the sample to men over the age of 30. More will be said aboutage in the discussion but the initial rationale is described here. It was believed that all caseswould be interesting and so no general exclusionary criteria were established other than thatfor age and absence of serious mental health problems. Some men were parents themselves,some had minimal contact with their father over a long time period and others' fathers weredeceased. Assessing the relative importance of these particular factors was outside theparameters of this study, although they may well be interesting. It has been suggested thatthe birth of a son and the death of his father are the two most important events in a man'slife (Osherson, 1986).An assessment of the mental health of subjects was limited to the fact that no subjectswere currently under psychiatric care, nor did any appear to have psychological problemswhich obviously impaired their life functioning. This judgement was based on an initialtelephone conversation during which subjects' interest in participating in the research wasexplored. The researcher has some experience in the mental health field.The decision of where exactly to set the age criteria was somewhat arbitrary althoughit does follow Clark (1986) who studied the experiences of 10 blue collar adult sons (over30) of blue collar fathers. However, even though empirical support is limited, clinical andtheoretical justification for this 30 year criteria is not lacking. First, the obvious point is thatin order to experience a longitudinal relationship, one must have lived sufficient time. Theintent was to gather stories from different ages, including one from the adult period of eachman's life. Second, individuals in this stage of life are generally expected to be well intowhat Erickson (1950) terms generativity, a time of being productive in society. It wasexpected that subjects' involvement in this developmental task would be of interest in relationto their fathers. Thirdly, it is believed that at around this age individuals begin, generally,to realistically appraise their place in the world (Freeman, 1991; Bly, 1990; Osherson, 1986).The dreams or delusions we acquire as adolescents begin to fade and questioning may beginabout society's rules and our ideals that have guided life thusfar. Finally, by this age,individuals have normally gained some emotional distance from their family of origin andmay therefore tell stories with more candour and insight. For many sons, their fathers areapproaching death at this time as well, a fact which we would expect to intensify father-son21concerns.The impact of other demographic variables was not expected to play a significantfactor in predicting the nature of father-son relationship, but can provide useful indirectinformation about life functioning. A heterogeneity of personal histories and backgroundswas anticipated. A summary of demographic information for each subject is included inTable 1 and is discussed in the sample profile.Incorporating design structures which would result in cultural or class heterogeneityof the sample was not part of the design, nor does the research deliberately consider howsuch variables influence the nature of father and son relationships. These variables may beinteresting but are outside the parameters of this investigation, which allows that it may bedescribing predominately mainstream experience. The hope of course is that some of whatis found to pass between these fathers and sons is true generally. Similarly, the focus onmale experience does not imply that female experience is not important. Rather the beliefis that male experience has not generally been well described. It may well be that many ofthe observations made about fathers and sons are true also for daughters and mothers, or forfathers and daughters.Procedures Subjects responded by telephone to advertisements, over a period of approximatelyfour weeks. The daily newspaper notice yielded 8 subjects, flyers posted at the university3 calls and the university newspaper ad only one respondent. During the initial conversation,the research project and requirements of their participation was outlined. Every callermeeting the age criteria agreed to participate. Interestingly, only one caller responded whowas younger than the age limit of 30 and had to be excluded on that basis.Each subject received the introductory letter by mail at least one week prior to theinterview. Audiotaped one to one interviews were conducted by the researcher to gather data.Interviews took place no longer than 3 weeks after initial contact. It was expected that theadvertisement, the telephone conversation and the introductory letter (Appendix A and B)which outlined the basic interview format, would stimulate respondents to begin to reflectabout their fathers prior to the interview itself. It was hoped that by giving subjects time to22think about stories ahead of time, they might be more articulate and perhaps more forthright.Subjects were offered no financial remuneration, but at the end of the interview they wereinvited to select a book from a selection on the topic of men and fathers.Interviews were conducted by the researcher at times of mutual convenience at theUBC School of Social Work or the researcher's office. Interview format is discussed in thenext section. As well as being audiotaped, notes were frequently taken during the interviewprocess which occasionally assisted in clarifying transcription. No follow-up contact wasmade unless subjects specifically requested transcripts or research summaries. No attemptwas made to validate or cross check the accuracy of data obtained in the interviews becauseit was felt that this information as presented was itself the object of the research. Althoughit would be interesting to interview the fathers as well, for example, it was the adult sons'perspective that was under investigation in this project.Interview Face to face interviews were the primary data gathering method. The assumption wasmade that the perspective of respondents is meaningful, knowable and expressible (Patton,1990) and that an interview is not primarily a stimulus - response activity which attempts tore-create identical questions and contexts for each respondent. Although a standardized guidewas developed, other probes were also used and occasionally tangents followed during thecourse of an interview if this seemed likely to shed light on the relationship. It was the goalof the researcher to create a relaxed and relatively informal atmosphere so that subjects wouldspeak freely. According to a feedback form administered at the end of the interview, mostreported feeling comfortable during the interview.The interview was developed through three pilot interviews with known informantsin which content and order of questions was varied and feedback obtained about the interviewprocess. These initial questions were developed through readings of the literature, discussionswith peers and several "expert" consultants and through the direction of the researcher's ownknowledge, experience and curiosity. Through several revisions questions were clarified,dropped or expanded and the order of the interview varied. The material from these pilotinterviews was not included in the final sample. A three part interview resulted (Append. C)23which consisted of a brief demographic fact sheet, a guide to the personal or family stories,and a set of open ended but structured questions. Interviews lasted approximately 90minutes. This order gave subjects a chance to begin with straightforward factual material andthen to narrate their stories.The focus in the interview was on stories or vignettes. It was requested that thesedescribe an episode typifying something of the relationship between themselves and theirfather at various stages throughout life. The first was to come from birth to 7 years of age,the second from 8 to 13, the third from 14 to 19 or the age at leaving home, and the finalfrom any period in adulthood, usually the most recent interaction. This information wasoutlined prior to the interview, in the introductory letter. The age distinctions also followClark (1986) who interviewed 10 blue collar sons of blue collar workers, and is meant toroughly mirror pre, primary and high school age levels. Also, the first two agesapproximately bracket the Freudian latency stage of psychosexual development which isbegun with Oedipal resolution and ends with puberty. It was not required that stories befactually accurate, or even that they refer to real life events, although respondents seemed toassume that this was the expectation. Stories were assumed to be meaningful as presentedand no attempt was made to validate the data objectively. Appendix C (part a) outlines thefamily stories portion of the interview guide.It was not anticipated that all subjects would present complete prepared stories andprompts were made, as needed, to gain a lucid image from each time period. Questions wereasked in descending order on a default basis, so that if the first, "is there an incident thatstands out in your memory?" got adequate response, questioning would then move on to thenext time period. If not, the next prompt would be "what sort of things did you (and yourfather) do together?", and so on. It was decided by the interviewer that an area had beencovered adequately when it was thought that an image of the subject at that period could bedescribed. Several respondents had very little to say about particular time periods.The structured questions sought information describing father, family, self and father'sinfluence. These topic areas were often covered in the course of telling the stories and sothey also were asked only on a default basis. The specific questions were designed toprovide more objective and comparative evidence about how the subjects perceived their24fathers, their awareness of his influence on them, the particular style of their family and howthey saw themselves. The questions in this last area were expected to help identify imagesof self which could be compared with the material on father. Generally, questions on familyand self were asked last and contributed least to the overall data. See appendix C (part b)for this section of the interview guide.At the end of the verbal response part of the interview, a brief feedback form wasadministered.Stories Family stories as a data gathering method can vividly represent information in a verycondensed manner. The use of stories can also convey rather intimate personal informationfrom respondents because they may be less likely to be examined, controlled and filtered byconcerns for social appropriateness. Sometimes the meaning of events is not consciouslyclear to story tellers, they are merely relating historical and memorable incidents.Theoretically this project gathered 48 stories (4 from each time period for 12 subjects).There is in reality no completely precise way to count the narratives obtained because of thedifficulty of precise definition. For the purposes of analysis, stories were defined as accountswhich involved at least the two characters, father and son, and something happening. Toanswer the question of definition for respondents, they were told that this simply meantdescriptions of incidents or interactions that involved fathers and respondents and ideallytypified something of their relationship.In some cases, respondents' stories included elaborate settings, detailed narratives andseveral levels of analysis or interpretation of the events. In other cases, subjects denied thatthey had any such stories - and then gave many. Still others described and analyzed theirinterpretations rather than related things which actually happened. Some stories wereconveyed with moving eloquence and went on for many minutes while others were verysuccinct: "So I hit him and left" for example. Prompts as outlined in the interview guidewere sometimes helpful. Three or four men were obviously not in the habit of story tellingand remembered illustrative incidents only when they were asked specific questions aboutfather or family.25Many organizing decisions are made continually in the course of such an analysis andsome of this is outlined in the next chapter. The basis for choices made about the inclusionof verbatim examples however should be clarified. Generally, these examples were selectedon the basis of their ability to highlight a specific point which had been raised in thediscussion. In some cases, many potential examples existed which would also highlight thesame point and so clarity and impact also became criteria for selection. Several speakerswere highly articulate and their words are used much more frequently in the results. It wasthe intention however, to select stories which were generally representative and not simplythose which contain unique impact or interest. The point is not to tell an individual's storyexcept to the extent that it illuminates the topic as a whole.Limitations of the StudyThe limitations of this study result from characteristics of the method, limitations dueto finite resources and the problems that are inherent in the broad nature of the researchquestion.Qualitative methodsProblems with qualitative research are frequently identified as pertaining to reliabilityand generalizability (Hudson, 1982). Ideally, qualitative research has high construct andcontent validity because it can directly address questions of psychological meaning forrespondents. In this study many of the stories stand alone, presented as results of theresearch. Confidence is held that these pictures of the father relationship are indicative ofthe subject's perceptions. There is of course no way to verify any of the events or otherinterview material and it is easily conceivable that fathers and other family members wouldgive different viewpoints. In some cases, interpretation of stories was provided by subjects.Checks on the meaning of incidents or other statements were made by the researcher duringthe course of the interview.The problem that the meaning assumed by the researcher is not that of the story tellercompounds into a larger problem related to the assembly of categories of variables of fatherson relationship. Errors made in understanding individuals might be expected to beexaggerated when considering more subjects. In practice, it appeared to work in the opposite26direction: observations about individuals may be mistaken, but themes are supported byevidence from many respondents and so would tend to prevent erroneous directions beingtaken in the presentation of results. The groupings of factors are held together by a logicwhich is generated by the researcher and he freely admits that many other ways of makingsense of this data could be found.It is believed that this material is highly meaningful to respondents. For some,speaking of painful or difficult times was obviously therapeutic. At no time however, did theinterviewer feel the need to stop the interview or avoid any questioning due to emotionalityin the respondents. Several subjects indicated, either on the feedback form at the end of theinterview, during the interview itself or informally in conversation with the researcher, that"it was good to talk about it". The meaningfulness of the material does however compoundthe issue of veracity. It must be remembered that results are those reported as meaningfulto the respondents at the time of the interview, but that they do not necessarily correspondto any objective accounting of events.The retrospective nature of data gathered does not present a problem to the credibilityof this research since verifying accuracy was not a goal of the study. The stories which a sontold as an adult may well be quite different than those that he would have told at any of theprevious developmental stages. The retrospective nature of the material does however limitwhat inferences we can draw about the actual course of events or development of therelationships. Especially for men who had consciously attempted to understand and work ontheir relationships with father, we can expect that the emphasis they place on events currentlyreveals more about their present understanding than about what actually happened at the time.How men speak in the present and how they understand the past are both believed to beimportant to giving a picture of the relationship with father. The important thing is toremember that when we get a picture from the past in this manner, it conveys muchinformation about the present as well. We may in fact be learning more about the sons'current life issues than about what actually happened in the past. Several other studieslooking for effects of the paternal relationship on sons concluded that contemporaryinfluences were equally as strong to the developmental process as the relationships themselves(Kay, 1989; Gorsuch, 1987).27Highly anecdotal results such as these will often contain limited generalizability andthe discussion must address which points are clearly restricted in this way. The intention,however, in using men's own narratives is to provoke an appreciation of situations andexamples which the reader can recognize. When we strike a cord in this manner, results canbe said to be highly relevant. When we manage to suggest alternate explanations for familiarmaterial, the results can be said to be useful. The real research outcome in qualitativeanalysis is the generation of hypotheses from the results. This is addressed in the finalchapter.The interviewer would have preferred to meet with subjects several times. Subjectswere interviewed only once and were asked to describe sometimes sensitive information aboutthemselves and their family history in a relatively unstructured way. Great reliance wastherefore placed on the ability of the researcher to quickly gain rapport with each subject andof course, this was established with varying success. Problems of inaccuracy due to subjectspresenting socially appropriate material and issues of reliability such as whether they wouldrepeat the same story over time would also have been addressed more adequately with adesign that included several meetings between researcher and subject.The study would also have benefitted from a larger sample because one as small asthis cannot claim to be representative of the broader population. Attempts have been madeto describe the sample in detail so as to identify any dimensions in which it seemsuncharacteristic. Despite this, any conclusions must be tempered by the knowledge that thiswas a small self selected sample of men who volunteered to speak to a researcher about theirrelationship with their father. This self selection skews the sample so that we cannot considerit representative of the general population.The original intent of the design was to use quantitative methods to triangulate andthus strengthen the data gathered. Qualitative and quantitative methods together can be usedto deal with each other's weaknesses (Peile, 1988). A questionnaire would have beendeveloped which asked a broad range of questions of each respondent in a format that wouldallow comparison of results. Standard measures were also to have been used in order tocompare family profiles and indices of current life functioning. This type of design could28have permitted the testing of hypotheses but would also have required a sample of manymore men. It was decided that the most important initial step would be this exploratory studyseeking descriptive information about relevant themes involving fathers and sons.Sample Profile The intention in the research was to interview as "average" a sample of men aspossible, so as to be able to identify common themes of typical father and son relationships.It was hoped that the sample would be reasonably broad in terms of the range of experiencesand socio-economic backgrounds and not skewed in any particular direction. A purerandomly selected sample would have ensured adequate representation from different sectorsof society but, because of resource limitations, the method of volunteer response toadvertisements and notices was used to select the sample.The overall psychological well-being of this sample was, however, slightly unusualrelative to what we expect to be "normal" or "average". Four of 12 men had received orwere currently having some form of counselling: one of these four subjects requested referralinformation from the researcher in order to continue to be able to work on issues related tohis relationship with his father, another was currently but infrequently seeing a counsellor -his marriage had broken up several months previously, and the two others indirectlymentioned therapy or counselling they had received at some time in the past in attributing thesource of insights or awakened memories. Two other men mentioned that they hadparticipated in men's groups.This researcher's belief is that many of these men volunteered to participate in theresearch because they were aware of father related issues which had current interest for themand they saw this interview as an opportunity to explore these further. For example, thesubject who requested further referral information had identified a connection between hispattern of difficulty with males in authority and his experience with his father. Other subjectswere facing challenges which the close involvement of an older male might help to resolve,such as relationship, career or direction in life questions. These interests were not seriouslyimpeding life functions so as to warrant clinical intervention, nor did they appear to beparticularly unusual age related concerns. The subjects did seem to have gained the insight29Table I.^Demographic profile and associated factors: *-ythat talking about things helped them to gain understanding. Also, they would almostinvariably have claimed that the father relationship was an important factor in their lives.A summary of the demographic profile of the sample is found in Table 1. Nameshave all been changed. Ages ranged from 30 to 54 with a mean of 38 and median of 35.Fathers were an average of 30 years old when the subjects were born. Subjects came fromfamilies with a mean of 4.8 children (median = 4), with three having 9 or more siblings.1 . Brent ! 33 ! 1 f 3f 4 f 21 3 I 1 19 22. Bruce 43 3 4 35 1 1 18 13. Dan 37 1 4 3 33 9 1 20 44. Dave 30 3 4 1 29 2 3 17 3,45. Frank 54^14 1 4 36 4 5 216. Gord 33^I^2 3 26 4 2 18 17. Kevin 34^I^2 2 2 26 1 1 15 38. Kyle 40 3 4 3 38 3 3 19 49. Marty 32 1 4 1 26 1 2 21 110. Marvin 35^I 2 3 4 33 8 5 17/26 111.^Paul 49 3 2 31 9 2 29 412. Rick 31 3 2 4 29 2 2 19^,, 4Subiect X 38 2.3 3.3 2.9 30 4 20Key:Income: MaritalStatus:<S20,000 — 1 married — 4520-35,000 — 2 separated — 3535-50,000 — 3 dating — 2>550,000 — 4 single — 1Education: Frequency of contact:<highschool 1 > weekly — 1high school 2 > monthly — 2some university— 3 > yearly — 3degree — 4 < yearly — 4SWLS Range: 5 (low) — 35 (high)^Median age:^3530Only five of the 12 men currently have children of their own, (an average of 2 each), whichisperhaps a sign of times changing over a generation. It is difficult to say how many more ofthose interviewed will eventually become fathers themselves, (perhaps 3) but those that dowill be considerably older than the age at which their fathers became parents. This is aninteresting factor influencing all family relationships. The self selected age bias of thesample is interesting. None of the advertising mentioned the age criteria for participationbecause it was thought that the response pattern might be informative. Three of the 4 oldestmen (and none of the younger men) said that their wives had suggested they volunteer forthe research. The younger men tended not to be in satisfactory marital relationships. If weexclude them from consideration, the age range is 30 to 43 with a mean of 34. Only oneman replied to a notice who was under the cut-off age. He was 21 and had to be excludedfrom the study. It is possible that the ages of men reading a newspaper relationship columnmay be similarly narrow, but it also seems probable that exploring the significance andmeaning of father in one's life is a concern for men during a relatively narrow time framein their thirties and early forties. In the discussion chapter, possible explanations for thisphenomenon will be proposed within a context of life span development.Average annual income of the sample was low at around $25,000 with only one manearning over $50,000 and three earning less than $20,000. Seven men were employed fulltime: three in traditionally blue collar occupations (painting, mechanic and telephonelineman), three in middle management jobs (editing, producing and community work) and onein construction sales. Four subjects were students or working part time (one as a musicianand actor) and one was officially and recently unemployed. Men who were extremely busywith career or family involvement would be less likely to volunteer to participate in this typeof project.If incomes were a little low on the average, education may have been slightly high:five men are university graduates, three more began but did not complete post secondaryeducation, three have high school diplomas and one, the highest income earner, did not finishhigh school. Fathers' incomes averaged over the last five years were higher, averagingalmost $35,000: four earned more than $50,000 annually and only two less than $20,000.Education might have influenced participant's interest in a research study, but is unlikely to31have directly influenced reports about fathers.The marital status of the men in the sample is weighted towards the single or divorcedend of the population spectrum for men in the age group. Only five were currently married.Of these, Rick had just announced his intention to separate from his wife of 8 months andDan spoke openly about his unhappy marriage so that only 3 of 12 reported being happilymarried. These same men were 3 of the 4 respondents over 40. Brent had been separatedfor several months. Dave, Marty, and Kevin all have non cohabiting relationships, and Gord,Marvin and Bruce have all been single for some time. It may be that a failure of maritalrelations prompted the interest for many of these men in same sex relationships in generaland father in particular.Overall then, the average subject was between 30 and 40, well educated, earning lessthan $30,000 per year and of course, white. He was slightly less likely than not to becurrently married. Certainly, there are large segments of Canadian population which thissample does not represent, but there is good range of employment, income and educationlevels.The sample obtained was atypical in the inclusion of only one ethnic minority, Dan,who is a married Sri Lankan graduate student with a son of 7. Only two others, Gord andPaul were born outside Canada, both with British parents. Brent, Frank, and Rick were allborn here in British Columbia. The remaining six men came from the Prairies or EasternCanada.The other dimension in which this sample seems a little unusual is that 7 of the 12men were first born sons, although the families averaged 3 boys in each and so we wouldexpect only 4. Two of the 5 other subjects mentioned older brothers who also had seriousproblems in their lives. In relation to this, the hypothesis was generated that perhaps firstborn sons have a more difficult relationship with fathers than their younger brothers. Someof the possible reasons for this are addressed in Chapter VIII. For the purposes of describingthis sample, this factor would then support the suggestion that these men had somewhat morepressing issues than usual to deal with involving their fathers, and volunteered to participatein order to examine this for themselves.The most serious sources of potential bias in the sample then would be related to age,32marital status and birth order. Answering the question as to why these particular menvolunteered for the study became an important focus which is addressed in various waysthroughout the discussion chapters. This question also helped to generate hypotheses suitablefor follow-up by further (quantitative) research as noted in the conclusion. Given this groupof potentially biasing factors in the sample and the nature of the results obtained, the focusin the analysis shifted from the original intention to describe simply "normal" father and sonrelationships towards one which also identifies obstacles to those relationships. Our interestand attention seems to naturally go towards understanding and resolving "problems" ratherthan towards uncovering and examining what works well in our lives.33Chapter IIIANALYSIS: GENERATING THEMES To begin with the results of this analysis, 300 pages of data transcribed from the 12interviews were condensed into 9 themes which typify various aspects of father and sonrelationships. These themes were grouped into three levels or categories of perspective, eachone containing three themes. This chapter details the process by which those themes andcategories were obtained. Each of the next three chapters will identify and describe thethemes within the context of that particular perspective on the research question.Grounded Theory In its purest form, grounded theory attempts to build theory from the data bysuccessively organizing and grouping and regrouping data into categories and factors (Glaser& Strauss, 1967). As Glaser and Straus (1971) point out however, the process of datacollection, analysis and coding all tend to merge together with distinctions between thembeing frequently blurred. Ideally, the groupings become more and more coherent and unifiedby stronger and stronger associations internally and less and less extraneous or uncategorizeddata external to the classifications (Patton, 1990).Categories are expected to emerge from the data and theory is built upon how thisorganization emerges, at the last stage of analysis. Perhaps every approach to qualitativeanalysis attempts to use this type of strategy to some degree. The "fitting" of data intogroupings and successive organization of evidence is necessary in order to be able to presentinformation in coherent fashion and in a manner which fairly and adequately represents thefindings. As a method of analysis, however, it is most suited to field research where massiveamounts of passive observations are collected and then ordered in some way. In an interviewsituation, the very questions we ask already impose some order on the material collected andso provide initial codings with which to organize and view the data.That categories "emerge" purely from the data itself rather than from the mind of theresearcher is also not completely accurate. The number of ways that a simple sentence couldbe classified will be used as an example to show how many permutations are possible.34Consider this comment from the Sri Lankan subject, Dan, drawn at random from the 300pages of transcripts:"Generally my father - when I wanted to stay at the residence during myvacation - if I had asked my father, he would have asked me to come home,but i f I ask my mother, she would send me money, like that."Some of the possible categorizations that come to mind (one filled with thoughts aboutfathers and sons) which we could conceivably make about this sentence alone are that itrelates to:1. Communication (with father or mother)2. Differentiation from family3. Poverty4. Education5. Expectations6. Parental differences7. Absence or distance from family8. Mother preference9. Distance from father10. Attachment to motherThe list is limited only by the imagination and the truth is that the statement may contributeto any, all or none of these categories. Another researcher might develop a quite differentlist of categories from the same statement.Given that the goal of analysis is simplification and ordering of data, then it is notfeasible nor helpful to apply such a list to each and every statement on each page of data.To a large extent, the categories we select to organize data must therefore be taken fromeither theory or prior evidence and where it is possible, the sources of each identified. Theway that they "fit" the data is important however, and this analysis followed the importantprinciple of repeatedly returning to the data to see that concepts and formulations in factrepresented the material.35Case Analysis The approach to the data began with several close readings of the transcripts and whatPatton (1990) calls case analysis. This initial strategy focused on the individual cases orsubjects. For each subject a one page summary of the information given in the interview wascreated (Appendix D). These summaries contain a brief family history, some descriptiveinformation about the father, condensations of the major stories related by respondents at thedifferent ages, any important or relevant information currently influencing the sons in relationto their fathers and a brief comment about the current life situation of the respondents. Theyare intended to help orient the reader with brief pictures of each of the respondents so thatquotations and discussion used subsequently in the text may be read contextually.Cross sample analysisThe goal of the next stage of analysis was to build categories and groupings for thedata obtained which apply across the sample. It began with the research questions as outlinedin the interview guide (Appendix C). A large number of pages were headed with questionsfrom this guide and as transcripts were re-read relevant answers, comments or quotes werenoted under the appropriate headings. For example, all of the information given involvingthe subjects while they were younger than 8 years of age was recorded in a single categorytitled "earliest stories", a grouping which was obtained directly from the interview guide.Descriptive material characterizing the stories obtained at different ages is appended(Appendix E). The material from the stories was then further broken down and included inthe factors and categories whose development is described next.Categories Originally, it was hoped that a single developmental framework could organize thedata with responses to fixed questions being used to expand the story material in building atheory of developmental stages of father and son relationships. While this idea will bereturned to later, it was found to be too unitary a concept in that an inordinately large amountof material would not fit within such a framework. The primary motivation in the analysiswas to fmd a way to fairly and comprehensively represent the information given in theinterviews.As discussed previously in the introduction and as suggested by both ecological and36family systems theory, a division of overall categories into three rubrics was established: thepersonal factors related to the dyad itself including issues of self and growth for both fathersand sons; the family factors in which other members, especially mothers, play a part; and thesocial realm in which we find the societal context and external influences on the family andthe dyad. How well this framework suited the data depended upon sufficient informationbeing gathered which could justify such a frame. If, for example, little data was gatheredabout influences on the dyad from other members of the family system, this category wouldhave to have been dropped. It was found that more than sufficient material justified thesethree categories and the challenge was both in limiting the results to these categories andfrequently in deciding to which category a particular factor belonged. In some cases itemswere placed in several categories. Comments about communication for example, were afactor which had both personal and familial application. Others such as "hero" seemed to bederived largely from societal images about men as fathers and how they should ideally be,but this image impacted upon the personal connection between the fathers and sons. A listof initial coding factors, the categories in which they were placed and their source (as far asis known), is provided in Table 2.Source of factors Where particular social science "theory" or "academic" (literature) is referred to in thetable as sources of factors, they have been described initially in the introduction and will bediscussed in detail in later chapters. The sources listed as "research" refers to areas whichhave previously been the object of specific attention from academic researchers, those labelled"hunches" were hypothetically thought to be important based upon the researcher's ownexperience, those listed as "family theory" came from that literature specifically and thoselisted as "popular" (readings) came from broader psychological, sociological or men'smovement writings. The term "interview" indicates that direct questions were asked aboutthese items in the interview itself. Where several sources are listed they are in order ofimportance. "Data" refers to unanticipated factors that came from the interviews themselves.Factors The factors themselves are those items thought be important components or aspectsof the relationship between fathers and sons. They are both influences upon the quality of37the relationship and symptomatic effects determined by the nature of each relationship, thatis they both result from and influence how fathers and sons relate. Factors which came fromthe data are those which the researcher had not anticipated finding, but rather did actuallyemerge from their repetition in the material. In some sense, this was the discovery part ofthe process.Table 2.^Initial Coding Factors and Sources Factors Category1. Similarities^Personal2. Accomplishments listed3. Lessons from father4. Gifts5. Loyalty6. Violence7. Competition8. Approval9. Communication10. Personal heroSource interview, theorydatapopular reading, hunchesfamily theory, hunchacademic literatureresearch, popular readingstheory, hunchesdatatheory, popular readingspopular readings11. Attachment12. Birth order13. Siblings14. Discipline15. Territory or "turf'16. Communication17. Father's familyFamily theory, researchfamily theoryfamily theorydataacademic, hunchesdata, academicfamily theory18. Work^Societal^data, academic19. Success interview, theory20. Images of father^ theory, data21. Absence research22. Role^ research, academic23. Hero data, popular reading24. Career choice^ interview, hunchesPrinciples of codingPerhaps the most important stance taken in approaching the analysis was that ofdeciding to focus on intended or assumed meaning as fundamental units in the data.38Sentences were not "deconstructed" into grammatical points of interest. While this may bean interesting task for narrative analysis, it was avoided in this case for fear of distorting theintended meaning of responses and out of doubt that the result would be either more objectiveor more profound. The approach adopted can also make the error of assuming understandingwhere there is none, but this is minimized by demanding repetition from and across subjectsin the various categories.Initially, a fourth category was formed into which all personal characterizations by therespondents and comments indicating self analysis could be placed. These statements wouldtend to be offered as factors which explained insights the sons held about the interactivenature of their particular relationship. They would include factors such as feelings held aboutor within the dyad, whether they "clicked' on an interpersonal level, whether the sons heldviews of their father independent of their experience of him, what changes the sons noticedthemselves in the course of the relationship and other "process" oriented items. This categorywas used in a multiplicative fashion to narrow the long list of factors, each of which couldbe isolated as important aspects of father and son relationships. The process items interactwith the more fixed factor items listed above and so helped to determine their relativeimportance.An example may help to clarify this procedure. Rick made the statement that hisfather never included him as a young boy in showing him what he did at his work. Heexplained that the importance of this fact was in his having no chance to see his father as ahero and so to want to model his example. We also learn from Rick that he still feels likean 11 year old in terms of his anxiety or nervousness around his father. This feeling inrelation to his father then informs the comment made about work and his father as a hero andwe hypothesize that the lack of modelling may be as much related to the feelings experiencedaround father as to father's behaviours with his son. If there is other material supporting thatsupposition within the interview, it would then influence whether we place the statement asa comment about heroes or about father as distant stranger. In some cases of course, thesame statement would legitimately be included with several factors. This "process" categoryof factors was used then, in assisting in the categorization of the other types of factors by39providing a crude measure of emotionality, intensity and level of awareness.This process of simplification of these recurrent factors into salient themes was guidedby several other principles. The first is democratic in nature: the more often a factor wasrepeated, both in an interview and between various subjects, the more likely it would beregarded as a fundamental or basic theme. For example, virtually every respondentmentioned the role father played in discipline in the family, whether it were active or passive.The next is in a sense, the perpendicular case to that dimension: if a factor seemedparticularly salient, profound or important it may have been included on that basis, even ifit was a clear feature from only several respondents. Rivalry is a case in point for thissituation: theory existed which would predict and explain such phenomena, thus lendingweight to the decision to include it as a theme. In such a case, we should also be able toexplain the reason why it was not found frequently in the interviews with other respondents.Here for example, it was suspected that those subjects mentioning rivalry with father wereparticularly astute and sensitive observers and the notion of rivalry would not occur withoutsome self examination.The way various factors subsumed into others was also a determinant in how the finalthematic arrangements were settled. For example, the phenomenon that was noted in the datathat respondents frequently described their successes, achievements or "moments of glory"was initially listed as achievements, but was then incorporated as a component of the theme"approval" as a major theme influencing the nature of father and son relationships. If factorscould not be adequately incorporated into others but were too incomplete to stand alone, theywere abandoned altogether. The details and rationale for all such decisions made in this waycould not feasibly be included in this report. The strength and clarity of the discussion ofeach theme will have to provide indirect evidence that such decisions were made soundly.Themes Arriving at a manageable number of themes was not an easy or altogether satisfyingprocess. Occasionally material is forced into areas where it may not be as salient orcompelling as it would be on its own. A number of important observations must be lostaltogether. Most unhappily, the researcher runs the strong risk of losing "closeness with the40data" (Filstead, 1970) in imposing his own final ordering upon the results.Table 3 shows how various factors were subsumed into the final 9 themes. Theywere, as described earlier, grouped into the 3 categories, personal, family and societal. Theterm "theme" is used broadly in this context. In the case of the personal and societal themes,it refers primarily to typical or characteristics dynamics between fathers and sons. The familythemes describe important influences upon the relationship which determine to a large extenthow those typical characteristics manifest.1. PersonalThe personal category of themes attempts to limit discussion to issues involvingfathers and sons as if they existed in isolation, independent of the influence of others. Eventhis distinction is artificial because of course, there is no son without a mother, but mothers'role is addressed separately in the family category. We address first inherited or innate drivesand motivations and how they manifest in the psyche of men.The three themes which emerged as most comprehensively describing the data on thismost intimate or personal level of the relationships themselves are rivalry between fathers andsons, conflict and violence within the relationships, and a multitude of interpersonal dynamicsassociated with fathers' judging or giving approval to their sons. These themes weredeveloped from the factors in groupings that are depicted in Table 3 and are discussed inChapter IV.2. FamilyFamily themes address fathers and sons in the formative "cauldron" of their immediatesocial context. In the family, "mother: the pivotal parent?", emerged as powerfully andprimally affecting the relationships between fathers and sons. Other family members wereoccasionally significant but generally faded in comparison to mothers. Father's own familyof origin experiences and the continuing impact of family traditions and history are discussedin the theme "father's father: forces from the past". The interaction of stages of developmentfor both father and son and how this impacts upon the relationship is the focus in theme 6:"father and son: growing up together". Chapter V contains this discussion.41Table 3.^Development of Themes Theme^Factor^Category1. Rivals(father as challenger)2. Conflict/Violence(father as foe)3. Approval(father as judge)4. Mother(the pivotal parent)5. Father's father(forces from the past)6. Father and son(growing up together)7. Father as stranger8. Father as hero9. Father as providercompetition Personalsimilaritiescommunicationviolencepersonal heroapproval seekinggiftsaccomplishmentscommunication^Familyturfdisciplinegiftsfather's familydevelopmentattachmentpassagesabsence^Socialrolesuccessheroimagesworkcareer choice3. SocialCulturally specific constructions of the father-son dyad are addressed in the societalcategory of themes. Adult sons' images of fathers, their sense of his role as a father and theirexperience of him in relation to these factors yielded three themes of fathers as strangers, asheroes and as providers for the family which are all highly influenced by external societal42factors. Chapter VI addresses these societal themes.These various themes are pictures of father in different perspectives from the eyes oftheir adult sons. The rationale and explanations of these themes and factors which formedthem will be made much more explicit in the following three chapters. This table is offeredhere as a guide from which to follow the discussion.TheoryA variety of sources of theory were used in the analysis to frame this complex topic,helping to organize conceptualizations, categorize findings and generate new questions.The personal level of themes uses primarily biologically based theory because of theinsight this can offer to interpersonal dynamics. Although the personal level has perhaps themost fundamental application, it is not argued to hold the greatest importance in twins of sizeof effect. Father is first a biological relationship but also importantly a social construction.The second discussion chapter addressing fathers and sons in the family context, usesfamily systems thinking to enlighten and expand the results. Feminism and psychoanalysishave also influenced the developmental theories examined which attempt to integrate thepsychological within a social context.The final category of results uses socialization and social learning theory to organizeits themes of fathers and sons. These help us identify which factors in the social environmentparticularly influence interactions between fathers and sons.43Chapter IVPERSONAL THEMES: FATHER'S SONIntroduction This introduction addresses questions of relevant theory and literature, setting the stagefor an examination of the personal themes between fathers and sons which were obtainedthrough this research. As suggested in the introductory chapter, there is little in the way ofa body of research and literature which directly addresses the types of specific interactionswe can expect longitudinally between fathers and sons. The most comprehensive review ofrecent father research which has been directed to social work was by Norma Radin (1986)who summarized for social workers the past 15 years of feminist led developmental research,much of which supports a notion of the highly involved father as a capable parent. Radinconcludes "In sum, fathers are not mere substitutes for mothers. They don't mother; theyfather... and the child undoubtedly profits from the diversity of experiences" (p.85). Beyondthis, little meaningful discussion has appeared in social work literature with direct relevanceto this topic, so the search for sources was broadened.It seems appropriate to consider biological theories of fathering because first andforemost, father and son is a biological relationship. There has been longstanding debate inthe social sciences on the extent to which biology influences human behaviour and even asmajor a proponent of sociobiology as E.O. Wilson allows that perhaps only 10% of humanbehaviour is clearly biologically driven (Baldwin, 1980). Still, an appreciation of how thosefactors influence fathers and sons is critical. Biology is clearly not destiny, but it is "animportant component of male experience" (Doyle, 1983). One of the useful applications ofbiological theory is in its clear metaphors for human cognitive or emotional processes.Life itself can be defined as that which grows or develops to reproduce itself (Keeton& Gould, 1986). Sons of course, are fathers' way of making more of themselves, of dealingwith the fact of our mortality and passing on that which of us survives - our genes. Theminimal investment in terms of energy required to be spent reproductively does not diminishthe fact that fully half the genetic material in every offspring is contributed by fathers.Biological theories assume that the primary motivation within every living organism is this44wish to make more of itself, the drive to reproduce. Sociobiology in particular emphasizesthe difference between males and females in terms of their best strategies towards this end(Wilson, 1974), although it was Darwin himself who suggested that sexual selection createdsexual dimorphism: females are said to "choose" males with which to mate on the basis oftheir ability to contribute good (strongly adaptive) genes and their willingness to assist in therearing of offspring. For this reason, according to the theory, "weaker" males do not mateand thus their "inferior" genes die out. Males are said to compete with each other in orderto be chosen as a mate. As well as many supposedly stereotypical sexual behaviours,sociobiologists argue that the aggression which we still see disproportionately in males is aresult of this predisposing influence, that aggression in males has survived precisely becauseit has helped them in fact to become successful fathers.One of the predictions this theory correctly makes is that in difficult times, moredaughters will be born, because individually their contribution to the survival of the groupis greater - one male can impregnate many females (Ruse, 1980). Anotherprediction/explanation directly relating to fathers and sons is made by Trivers (1971) whosuggests that some amount of conflict between parents and offspring is inevitable becausealthough they share genes, they are also genetic rivals. The greater investment a parentmakes in any particular offspring, the less energy they have for others, yet the moreinvestment any one offspring receives, the more likely he or she will survive. The otherimportant consideration between fathers and sons is that they may become competitors foraccess to unrelated females.These are the important principles of biological influences on social behaviours -competition, aggression, sexual differences in the reproductive process - and we can examineresults in the context of any of these ideas. The father and son relationship is thereforeexpected to be marked by tension and ambivalence (Freud, 1905/1949): on the one hand sonsprovide proof that fathers have reproduced successfully and their genes will carry on. On theother hand, this is another male who could threaten his supremacy and even his life.An example of this ambivalence is conveyed in this Oedipal age story from Dave,who grew up on a prairie farm. The wish for the son to carry on his father's work and thefamily's biological line is clearly expressed as an awareness of responsibility for this son.45Interestingly, the mother in the family situation is described as dominant and the son is gayand so unlikely to carry on to reproduce the family name. (He had tried to conceive a babywith a close lesbian friend, unsuccessfully, several years before!) Repeatedly during theinterview his ambivalence towards the father is expressed as qualified or indulgent praise: thisson already feels the superior of his father in some ways. His narrative is punctuated byseveral stories in which the father is a disappointment for his failures to stand up either tothe mother or even to the very young son himself:"The earliest remembrance I have of my dad and I being alone, there's a realsense of disappointment on my part. That I disappointed him... I was this littlegolden child who was going to carry on my father's name, and I was the onlygrandchild. I was named after my grandfather.Anyways, so the earliest memory I have of being alone and this senseof disappointment came from - I remember going to a Thrasherman' s Paradein Maple (rural Saskatchewan) and A and P Motors, which is the John DeereDealership in Maple, was giving out these emblems that you can iron onto aplain T shirt. I remember it was this piece of paper with this yellow iron-onon it, that was for me. And I remember my father encouraging me as this kid,to go up and get it. And so I had this iron-on transfer.I remember taking it home and being very proud of it. It sat on thefridge for what must have been an eternity and I wanted this thing on myshirt. I used to always check this thing and make sure it was ok. And beinga kid at home, I wasn't yet at school. And it came to the point where we weregoing to get this thing put on a T shirt.And I don't remember what the circumstances were, what I had donewrong, but I had obviously misbehaved. I was in the truck, standing besidemy dad. There were no seat belts at that point, and I remember my fathersaying 'don't you dare rip that. I'll slap you if you do.' He'd never hit meto that point and did not hit me since, but I don't know if I did something orif he was having a bad day, or if there had been a conflict with mother, or ifthere was financial stress or what. But I remember standing beside him andripping this transfer. [deliberately?] Deliberately. To test him, I suppose, totest him. He stopped the truck and he slapped me. I just remember the lookof... the tears and the crying were not from being hurt - my father had not hitme that hard - it was the shock that 'holy cow, I really pushed that man overthe limit'... I just remember being so disappointed, in him, in myself And Idon't know why but that T shirt is still at home somewhere. We were takingthis damn transfer into town to get it put on in one of those shops."He remembers being so disappointed because he had defeated his father by making him losecontrol over something apparently trite, but also symbolically powerful because it represents46interest and respect in the father's life and work. This was a gift from the tractor dealer intown that his father had wanted for him to value. In tearing the transfer, Dave rejected aroute of fulfilling the family path towards a life of farming as his father had taken and whichthere was great hope that he would follow. The importance of "this damn transfer" isrevealed by the fact that the family is still in possession of it, 25 years later.Psychoanalytic literature is one area which has substantial writings on father and sonsrelationships. Classically Freudian theory posits biological drives as the source of internalpsychological processes which give rise to the development of the personality and the psyche.The father/son dynamic is seen as a defensive source of masculinity for the son whoessentially submits to his father's power and thus comes to identify with him. In the originalformulation, which still receives both much theoretical and research attention (Ross, 1982;Blos, 1984), it is the boy's erotic desire that leads to competition for mother, then fear ofcastration and finally the defensive submission to father. This jealous rivalry and fear offather with ultimately an acknowledgement of father's superior power brings Hans to resolvethe issue of identifying with father and breaking with mother. The father himself isessentially passive in the sense that it is his presence alone and not his actions which presentsthe threat and the power over his son.Although Freud's contributions to direct understanding of parenting in general andfatherhood in particular is rather limited, there have been important psychoanalyticdevelopments attempting to fill these gaps. Many feminist writers, beginning with theFreudian Karen Homey have criticized the androcentric nature of this formulation ofpersonality formation. Rather than penis envy and castration anxiety, Homey proposed thatwomb envy motivates the early identification with mother by sons (1928). She argues thatmen are overawed and envious of the power of women to give life, an ability against whichmen's influence and place in the world seems limited and insignificant. Only when the boycomes to sacrifice his wish to grow babies will he come to identify with his father. Duringthe phallic phase boys must overcome this desire to be fecund like mother and according toHomey, are at risk of developing misogynous tendencies. This envy of the power of thereproductive capacity of the female combines with a strong early identification with mother47as the major caregiver or nurturer to produce in males a powerful but obviously frustrateddesire to give life. By this theory then, males father in order to live out their unconsciousdesires to mother and to be like mother. Again, this does not seem a particularly compellingor complete formulation of the human psyche but a look at recent trends societally showsthere is diminished opportunity for many men to father, and the suspicion arises thatfatherhood itself, beyond the sexual act, may not either be strongly "set" in male behaviourpatterns.Male awe, if not envy, of women's reproductive ability has been a theme for manywriters. Fromm spoke of man's envy of the power mothers hold over humanity by producingchildren who would love her always. According to Edith Jacobson (1950) men onlyovercome their desire to be like mother when they become fathers themselves and so finallycome to emulate father. The narcissistic impulse in men is lived out only through fatheringa son themselves, on whom they can both transfer the failings apparent by their owndiminished potential and can idealize themselves as significantly impacting the future. Asfathers, men can also experience themselves altruistically, balancing the narcissism withwhich they are cursed. Also, fathering provides a way for men to answer the question of themeaning in their existence, particularly in light of a mother's awesome reproductivecapability. Jacobson also suggests that men's intense awareness of the shortness of life (dueto their limited reproductive contribution) and fear of death combine to heighten an avoidanceor fear of commitment which we can recognize as being labelled a stereotypically malecharacteristic that could inhibit involvement in fathering.Recent themes in reworkings of the original theory have replaced drive theory withobject relations formation thus shifting some of the emphasis from biology onto socialfactors. There has also been an appreciation of the possibility of the boy's "non defensiveidentification with the Oedipal father", (Lerner, 1986, p.vi) in effect, that fathers can play animportant active role pre and post Oedipally in identification, individuation and personalityformation of their sons. Beth Fineberg (1986) argued for example that rather than fear offather being the cause of Little Hans' phobia, it was actually the greater involvement by thefather which cured it: the father was the cure rather than cause of the phobia. It was theincreased closeness with the father that allowed him to lessen his identification with his48mother and strengthen his identity as a male. This formulation converges with much recentresearch that has shown active involvement with fathers preoedipally to be beneficial,especially for sons (Lamb, 1976 & 1981; Yogman, 1984; Parke, 1985; Radin, 1986).Interestingly, in this study, the adult men enjoying the best relationships with theirfathers generally were those coming from larger families and from those who had oldersiblings. It is likely that inexperienced and overinvolved parenting resulting from modern lowparent child ratios actually presents new psychodynamic problems for the relationships. Mostchildren will be the first born of their gender and there is much less opportunity to besocialized by older siblings. When benefits are reported for children with higher fatherinvolvement we should also consider his contribution as a percentage of the overall parentingand indeed, socialization, which a child receives.Other writers have focused on fathers' active role in the Oedipal drama by remindingus that Oedipus was the son of a father (Issacs, 1978: Ross, 1982). Ross pointed out that notonly did Freud ignore the active father, he also ignored the reports of many patients in casehistories, attributing their stories to fantasy rather than actual depictions of family dynamics.Ross suggests that much of the darker side of the father role results from universal pederasticand filicidal inclinations among fathers. He named this conceptualization the "Laius motif',highlighting the fact that, in order for Oedipus to slay him, Laius (his father) actively stoodup, as competitor and foe, to block his way on the road. We will find evidence of this themein our discussion of fathers and sons based on these interviews. Although the notion thatfathers universally have such impulses is definitely unpleasant, in the light of recent societalrevelations about the apparently vast extent of incest and other highly inappropriate sexualbehaviour, it is a notion worth examining closely. If social strictures are really going tomove from "behind closed doors" (Straus, Gelles & Steinmetz, 1980), the lights will have tobe turned on as well.Other post Freudian feminist authors have contributed to a reworking ofpsychoanalytic attachment theory which acknowledges the importance on later developmentof the fact mothers do most early parenting but arguing that father can play equally vital rolesand that social and relational factors play a role as well as the psychodynamic (Chodorow,1978; Yogman, 1982). Unlike girls, boys must go through a process of separation from a49sense of unity with mother in gender identity formation (Stoller and Herdt, 1982). Gilligan(1982) argues that this has dramatic repercussions for differences in psychological and moraldevelopment, some of which is also played out in parental roles. The appeal of theseconceptualizations is in their ability to impart the cathexis or intensity of emotion involvedfor males in trying to separate from dependence on mothers and intimate relationships. Mostmen in these interviews still felt safer and emotionally closer to their mothers (and wives)than their fathers (and other men), a situation which has been described as broadly true inNorth American culture (Bly, 1990; Keen, 1991).It was Freud who described the father and son relationship as marked by tension andambivalence, although as we have seen, the actual contribution of the father is a phenomenonof his mere presence, rather than his behaviour. The major point of agreement that thesevarious versions of psychoanalytic theories contain is in the responsibility the father has tohelp his sons separate from mother in the formation of their core gender identity and theirgender role identity (Tyson, 1986). These dynamics are no longer considered as limited tooedipal stage processes and are perhaps better understood as part of a continual process ofdefining self and identity for man as father and as son. The process sons go through frombeing father's rival, his foe to finally perhaps, his pride, symbolizes this progression ofthemes which are particular parts of the dynamic between them.501.^ Rivals: father as challengerTheory would predict research to find ample evidence of rivalry between father andson for mother's love and affection, particulary in early stages. Indeed, competition forapprobation between parents is a major theme found in this data which is discussed in moredetail in the chapter on family themes. In the personal context, however, we can look fordirect evidence of such a dynamic of competition between fathers and sons.Three men reported being aware of feeling competitive with father in relation tomother. (Not incidentally, these same men also all had major problems gaining recognitionfrom father, a phenomenon addressed in the theme discussing "approval".) Of course, thisdoes not mean that rivalry did not play a part in many more of the relationships; simply thatmost men did not claim to be aware of such a phenomenon. Psychodynamicconceptualizations of course apply to the subconscious; this was thought to be the source oftheir power. These three men were amongst the most articulate and insightful of therespondents and described many subtle family dynamics. They were all aware of powerfulcharacter influences they had received from mother and spoke of traits in themselves to whichthey attributed her influence. For example, Gord spoke of the "artsy" characteristics whichhe'd received from his mother. He felt that these traits made his father feel threatened,creating a tension which caused their problems relating to one another."I know how to draw and I can play musical instruments to a degree. I'mgood on the clarinet. I've got his talent but its uh, you know [spasmodic?]My mom was heavily into arts. Her lifestyle was art. And she pushed me, sheused to sit on my bed - which I believe is one of the influencing factors of mylife that makes me so fucked up today - is because she sat down and she'd say"Gord, one day you're gonna be a great man". And she was just using me,because Robert was dad's favourite and so she picked me and she used meagainst him. Like she'd turn me into everything my dad felt threatening. Mydad has been even to this day, he's threatened by me like you wouldn'tbelieve."Bruce clearly felt himself to be in competition with his father, and was alsocompletely aligned with his mother. As his parents' marriage deteriorated into physical51violence through his late adolescence, Bruce attempted several times to intervene physicallyon his mother's behalf. He was injured himself on one occasion that he remembers vividlyand painfully. The bruises, he said, took a long time to heal. When they were divorced, henegotiated for his mother with his father, very clearly taking sides with her and against him.He was well aware that his father perceived him taking sides in this way. He had begun tolook down on his father, in much the same way a jealous suitor might, as early as age 12,when he tried to challenge his father's ignorance about the physical world. We have apicture of a son surpassing his father intellectually, although in this case, Bruce remained lesspowerful physically for many more years. He clearly explains the interpersonal dynamics inhis family:B. Its been like that from the start. Its kinda funny but, I mean,right from square one, its almost as if my mother tookpossession of me at a very early age and nurtured me in herown manner. And when my brother was born four years later,he followed in my father's footsteps. There's very little doubtin my mind that this was almost an unspoken agreement: thatmy mother got to mold me in her image and my father got tomold my brother in his image. My brother is very like myfather, practically illiterate, much more athletic, in my opinionquite a violent spouse. And I have many more of thecharacteristics that are predominant in my mother'spersonality...Most clearly expressing rivalry with father for mother's attention was Marty. Whenhis father had an aneurism and then a stroke which caused him to spend 2 years in hospital,Marty responded by becoming "the man of the house", getting two part time jobs andcontributing to household expenses. He felt happy that "she needed me". The loss of hisfather was not difficult for him because he "hadn't been around much anyways". Upon hisfather's return home, partially paralysed, Marty experienced a loss of his mother's attentionbecause she now devoted herself to nursing the father. Marty says he "built up a growingresentment and bitterness toward my father". This grew until a scene was precipitated whichsaw a frustrated Marty at age 14, angrily and self destructively pounding his own headagainst the outside of the house, crying out dramatically "why wasn't it me that got sick,instead of him?".52The rivalry between fathers and sons is importantly but not solely focused on mother.Sons who are moving out from the family and trying to establish themselves in careers alsotypically position themselves in relation to fathers' accomplishments. Several men such asBruce and Gord were still struggling to feel successful about themselves. Others includingDave and Kyle had already surpassed their fathers' achievements and spoke with somecondescension about the fathers' feelings and understanding of their work. This dynamic ofsurpassing one's father is discussed in more detail in chapter VI, in the theme of hero.Psychoanalysts have identified what they term the "Laius complex" (Ross, 1982) inreferring to problem of the son needing to succeed his father. They note that by obstructingthe son's path, the father forces the son to metaphorically become his executioner in orderto reach beyond him (Osherson, 1988). In a sense, the son also liberates the father from theresponsibilities of the role by surpassing his personal power. In achieving this mastery theson moves onto the same level as his father and can begin to have a relationship with thefather more as a friend (Yablonsky, 1990). Bruce's father joined in a physical fight betweenhis sons two years ago, when he was 76 and Bruce 41 years old. He still seems to beattempting to provoke Bruce, his eldest son to overcome him so that he could then rest,assured that Bruce will succeed in the areas he thinks important, particularly career. Brucestruggles with current relationships, both intimately and with males in positions of authorityover him, largely because of his incompleteness in this relationship. We can see that Bruce,despite his intellectual superiority, has never been able to figuratively slay his father, and thusrid himself of some doubt about self.At issue for the father is the nature of his relationship with his son, not of course, hisphysical execution. Rather it is the role, with its power and responsibility which must fadeand a certain amount of "letting go" is necessary in order for him to allow the necessary shiftbetween he and his son. It is a shift which must occur repeatedly although the first son willbe most difficult. This was the son who first displaced father as mother's most intimatepartner, who carries the greatest ego transfer for fathers - and who suffered most at the handsof inexperienced parents. That men are often thought to be intensely concerned withestablishing power and hierarchy in their relationships (Basow, 1986; Gilligan, 1982), is notunrelated to this positioning between fathers and sons.53The last time Gord saw his father he intended to confront him about the past, to slayhim in a sense, but his father was still too strong. He avoided him, inhibiting the growth ofGord's self image and blocking his path toward success. He still considers himself a "failedwriter", rather than a good community worker. Gord has always seen his father as the "topof the heap" in comparison to other men, a difficult and demanding man to compete with.When sons still seek approval from fathers, as so many do, the competition or rivalry withhim is destined to failure, because it is he who controls the measure of success.In Dave's story when he was slapped by his father at the age of 5, he remembers hisdisappointment at his success in getting his father to lose control: in a sense he has defeatedhis father prematurely and mother became the powerful force for him to reckon with in thatfamily.The rivalry that we see in these examples comes primarily from much later stages thanwhat we would expect to be oedipally driven in the formation of core gender identity. Itappears to be more related to social development than to that of the psyche, to a stage whereboys are trying to separate or individuate from their fathers and begin to find their own way(Yablonsky, 1990). These men are not confused that they are male, rather their confusionis around what that means in relation to the important people in their lives. Tyson (1986)differentiates between what core gender identity and gender role identity. The first is settledwhen it becomes clear to the boy that he is indeed male and would have occurred prior tomost of the stories which were accessed in these research interviews. Gender role identityis that more flexible and problematic structure from which males decide how to be male andare of course far more influenced by social influences and by unresolved, sublimated Oedipaltensions.Conflictual tensions pulling sons in opposite directions between parents is a themewhich was very common and will be discussed in more detail in the results section on FamilyDynamics. Many more examples of rivalry between father and son will be found in thatsection as well as in the next theme discussion of violence.542) Conflict and Violence: father as foe If, as many writers, and the evidence cited above, suggests, a modern lack of strongfathering in sons' lives results in a situation where Oedipal (and Laius) resolutions are seldomcompleted satisfactorily so that men strive to find appropriate expressions of theirmasculinity, we would expect to see continued evidence of such struggle being enactedbetween fathers and sons in later life. The difference however is that father is no longer theomnipotent figure he appears to a five year old and maturing sons may begin to challengehis authority outright, if not his control over access to mother. Violence may well occurwhen rivalry becomes intense. Of course, we would expect the overt causes of suchoutbreaks to be sublimated into other issues such as discipline and control.Sociobiological explanations for male violence similarly emphasize competition foraccess to safety and to reproductive possibilities. Aggression is seen to have been highlyadaptive for males for most of human history (Trivers, 1974). The threat of violence helpsto keep hierarchy established in many animal groups, with the most physically powerfulcontrolling access to the means of sexual reproduction. Where incest taboos are not stronglyinstilled, violence also presents a last line of defence against mother-son sex. In carnivorousanimal societies, there is also the necessity to be aggressive in order to hunt successfully andmuch play fighting, learning and testing occurs in preparation for animals' independentsurvival.One of the primary expectations of the father role which is repeated across greatcultural and historical diversity is of that as father as protector. Even in many animal andbird species, the father's fierceness protects vulnerable mother and infants around the timeof parturition. If there are vestiges of this kind of behaviour existing in human males, asmany biologically oriented students of social sciences believe (Wilson, 1975; Trivers, 1974),it seems likely to be manifested at least in part in violent behaviour between males infamilies.Human fathers and sons do indeed seem to reproduce much conflict and violence intheir relationships. Virtually every respondent made comments describing some physicalconflict or an awareness of its possibility as a means of resolving conflict with their fathers.55Men reported either incidents of fights, or more commonly, their reluctance to confront fatherfor fear of the physical results. Marty found his father frightening even after he becamepartially paralysed:"He was an intimidating man. He was 5 foot 8, this guy was farm raised,probably about 170 pounds. A rock. Even after he's had the stroke andrecovered from the stroke, the left side was still good. I would never win inan arm wrestle with him."He would never physically confront him either and has only been able to express hisfrustration - and his love - after his father's death.Even in cases such as those of Marvin and Paul where the idea of challenging fatherwas never a part of the relationship, such descriptions of father's physical presence werefrequently presented. Marvin's father was a large imposing ex-policeman with whom henever tangled. Paul's father was not big but he was apparently a cunning and fearless fighterand we hear much about his battles as a young man which involved guns, knives, bottles andstones. In one story his father had to straighten out an "Arnold Schwarzenegger type" whowas being a bully. In another he had to carry a "pistol" to protect himself from a firedemployee in Jamaica. Paul learned from his father, and his grandfather (who "never lost afight"!) that a man is only physically violent with other men, but never with women."This was another thing I also learned from my dad something I didn't likewhen I was a kid, was you never hit a woman. Because a woman is a weakerperson and only a bully hits a woman. Never strike a woman. I used to fightwith my sister and try to take a round out of her, but he says, never hit awoman. I knew if I did I'd get a licking. His dad also taught him that, if yousee a man hitting a woman he'd go and bang, knock him down, that was it."The messages he got from these stories of his father outlined appropriate codes or rules formale physical violence, suggesting of course, that in certain situations, it was absolutelyrequired for a man to be violent.Unlike his father, Paul, who seemed a very gentle man, has not apparently faced manyviolent situations in his lifetime. He quickly answered negatively to a query as to whetherhe had ever gone through a period of teenage rebellion against his father. Paul still strugglesat feeling his father's respect and relies on his wife to put his father "in his place", to whichhe attributed an improvement in their relationship. Interestingly, in Paul's family, with 1056children, it was mother who "gave the kids a licking" and father who pleaded on their partfor leniency. The dynamic of the social organization around discipline is addressed in thenext chapter on family themes.Research into men who batter has found that their father is frequently an importantfactor for men who exhibit this behaviour (Dutton, 1987; Gelles, 1985). Identification witha father figure has been found to be a significant barrier to violent behaviour (Brownfield,1987). Current treatment approaches are divided between traditional reinforcements of themessage of Paul's father to get it under control because "real men don't hit women" andthose which seek to somehow break the link between masculinity and violence (Russell &Adam, 1992).Several men indicated that, as boys, they had wanted more physical interaction withtheir father. Kyle and Fred both had very peaceful fathers who never lost their temper. Kyleremembered being frustrated with his father when he was 10 because he wouldn't box withhim like he'd seen on TV. His father was a little older than most (38 when Kyle was born)and Kyle complained that he would never "engage" with his sons physically. Research hasshown that boys prefer physical styles of play (Ross & Taylor, 1989).Probably every son is either conscious of the point in time when he becomes morephysically powerful than his father, or is curious about when that time will come and whatit will mean to the dynamic between them. One of the things it may mean to a father whobelieves at some level that his role is to protect his family, is that, he is no longer best suitedto perform that task. On a biological level, his power is waning. Certainly the more sociallydefined role of provider has superseded that of protector and the economic power this yieldsfor most fathers renders the physical level less relevant. The question of why elders surviveas they do in society, remaining powerful long after their physical and productive ability hasbeen surpassed was raised as a difficulty for strictly biologically oriented theorists (Ross,1982).To the son however, physically surpassing father may mean that he is ready to go outto face the world alone. Oedipus became king after defeating his father. An example of thisdynamic is expressed by Kevin, who had a very tumultuous relationship with his father. He57tells of the "battle royal" in which he challenged and defeated his father at age 14, seeing thisnow as one of those "manhood test type of things" that fathers and sons do."We used to fight. We fought like cats and dogs. I'd skip school and he'dhave the day off and he'd come and hunt me down. I remember he tried tokill me with a pool cue once. Thank God, he missed and I was fast. I gotcaught in a pool hall. That was a favourite place to hang out. He grabbeda cue off the rack and tried to decapitate me with it. I got out of there by theskin of my teeth...We had one battle royal there when it came to heavy fisticuffs, NewYear's morning one time. And I ended up laying a pretty mean licking on himand I remember how bad I felt after that. I felt really bad. I left and had togo down and make amends. He was at work and I walked to his work andsaw him and he was in pretty bad shape. I felt really bad. Looking back, Ican see now it was a manhood test type of thing that fathers and sons do fromtime to time, I guess.I was out being a bad actor and came home. Stayed out all night,drinking. Came home. He'd been out the night before, I think he'd beendrinking. I think he was severely hung over, or half cut still. And I guess atthat age I was feeling no pain and I was walking in the door at 8 o' clock inthe morning. He was telling me that I shouldn't hang around with some of myfriends because they were bad and they drank and did drugs. I told him to getstuffed because I didn't think it was right for him to pick my friends - that wasthe main issue. I told him he shouldn't be picking my friends and was reallybelligerent about it. So he decided I needed some discipline and that was hisway to do it, to beat it into me.But I showed him that he couldn't  He came at me with his fists up,so I said, "ok, let's do it". I ended up getting the best of him... I had neverstruck back before, because I was too scared."He was actually the only one of these 12 subjects who physically confronted his dadand won. He left home soon after, at the age of 15, although he doesn't link the events inhis mind and is not sure what influence this battle had on his relationship with his father.Kevin's mother died by suicide at age 10 and much of his rage at his father and his newstepmother - which led directly to his leaving home - is surely emotion projected from thatpainful event. The image of the father's execution is strong in this story and the remorsewhich Kevin feels about inflicting such pain on his father is striking. It may be that someof that regret follows in the knowledge that he was now truly on his own. The father'sdevotion to Kevin's stepmother at the expense of their relationship leads Kevin to lose allrespect "as a man" for his father and suggests a kind of death of masculinity for the father58in the eyes of his son.The question of violence is often tied to the difficult issue for sons of paternalauthority. Whether physical means were used to exert parental control appeared to befrequently linked to whether physical means were ever used by sons to challenge father'sauthority. Dan, Dave and Rick all related stories of being physically punished by theirfathers and being left in shock and fear at his loss of physical control. In all of these casesthis was unusual behaviour for the father and it stayed long afterwards in the sons' memory.Rick acknowledges that "If I'd had any balls back in those days, I would probably havewalked right up to him and said...". He couldn't quite verbalize what it was he might say,were he actually to take those steps. He had actually announced to his father that he wasleaving town to move to another region on the morning of our interview, in a rather covertway announcing that he was going to begin to take control of his life away from his parents.He went on to say that he still feels defensive with his father, "just like I was 10 or 11 yearsold".In this case, we can see clearly the potential for growth in facing conflict. Simplyavoiding intense and fearful situations leaves sons like Rick frozen in their emotional growth.The therapeutic value and wisdom of facing fear has long been recognized. It may be thatstrongly interactive relationships with fathers generally can help children to developcompetence in dealing with fear, pain and challenge. Fathers' style of interaction withchildren has been found to be more physically active than mothers generally, even with younginfants (Radin, 1986; Seigal, 1987; Ross & Taylor, 1989).It has been suggested that the role of fathers is to transform aggression in their sons(Samuels, 1988). The intense focus which society is currently bringing to the question ofintimate violence may be related to a general lack of strong father figures in families. Thisis not to suggest that violence is condoned when fathers are present, but rather to recognizethat our capacity to control external sources of threats is always limited by theunpredictability of human behaviour and that greater father influence may help us to expandour own internal capacity to deal with potentially frightening or unwanted situations. It maywell be that Rick, through failing to confront his father carries that unresolved fear with himand thus becomes more likely to be violent himself, as a way to try and prove himself and59overcome his internalized sense of failure. That fathers are most often the source of physicalthreats in families of course means that men must also learn to appreciate more fully the costof violence in intimate relationships (Gelles & Straus, 1988) and to take responsibility forevery behaviour they perform.Beyond its overt destructiveness, the problem with violence is in the "psychic traces"or emotional trauma it can etch painfully in memory, often impacting on the victim long afterthe event. Bruce experienced a physically powerful and violent father who had been anamateur boxer. He also fought with his brother frequently as a teenager and even as recentlyas a visit home at Christmas two years ago. When he was 19, Bruce tried to intercedephysically between his father and mother, around a time that his father was beating hismother regularly. As we have seen, he ended up being pushed down some stairs, andremembers the bruises taking a very long time to heal. The memory apparently still had notmended. He had failed to vanquish his father and provide safety for his mother. Bruce alsofelt shame at his failure to keep up with his father on the ski trails when he was 19 years old.Failing to meet the internalized expectation that he should be able to best his father came atgreat expense to his sense of self, as well as the lingering anger and fear which permeateshis life still.The threat of violence was also present for Gord, who experienced his father as an"intellectual bully", but never challenged him physically. He describes his experience of hisfather's aggressive, confrontative style and the violent manner he and his brother have bothdeveloped in response:"The first and only time that I've ever confronted him before this dinner table,it almost got into a physical fight, which is one of the reasons that I believeI go that far (to violence). Because with my father its like that. If you argueand you refuse to give ground, which I've only found this out once, if yourefuse to give ground, its like "you're not too big for me to take a round outof you" type of thing, you're not too big for me to give you a good walloping".It goes that far and I know that in my own arguing I've had to dealwith that whole aspect of myself. If I argue with somebody the first thing thatgoes through my head is "am I willing to take this to physical violence?"Because if I'm willing to take this to physical violence then I'm going to say60anything I feel like. But if I'm not willing to take this to physical violencethen I better temper what I say, which is a ridiculous way to look at things butI know that .. my older brother is just like that. He'll only argue to such apoint and even if he's right, he still has that attitude."Feminist analyses of male violence have recently focused on the part masculinesocialization plays as a contributing factor (Kuypers, 1991; Miedzian, 1991). For examplemale ego or the need to be in control might be used to "explain" father's belligerentbehaviour in the story above. It is not clear to this author how much such explanationsexplain, however, because many important questions remain: - why is there a perceived needto be in control in some situations but not others? Is it not a universal desire to feel incontrol (as opposed to helpless)? What differentiates male egos in terms of when theychallenge and when they accede? Is covert or passively aggressive accession preferable toconfrontation?There is certainly greater likelihood that males will experience violence in theirlifetimes and some of that is well explained with traditional masculine socialization theory.Gord for example related an incident which involved both his father acting out his role asprotector to his family and Gord joining out of role expectations about male "toughness" thatwe could not imagine occurring in a gender reversed manner. He asked Gord to go out withhim to help find and defend his older brother who had some "biker" types angry with himover a drug deal:"And some guys came by with tatoos all over them and they had chains intheir hands and me and this friend of mine were sitting outside cause it wassummer, and said "where's Freele" and I said "I'm Freele" and they saidRobert Freele and I said I didn't know and they said tell him when we see himwe're gonna kill the guy. They were fucking mean looking man, they lookedmean. And so I went and I told my dad and my dad, for about four hoursnothing happened and then my dad he comes to me in my room and says putyour boots on, we're gonna go look for Robert. You know work boots, likefighting boots... "Violence, then, was a concern in many of the relationships between fathers and sons.It was learned as a way of resolving conflicts and used to enforce or challenge the status quo.Developmentally, violent challenges to father's supremacy may be rare in modern families,61but there is something almost primordial about the phenomenon. It may be that the modemsocial problem of violence in families is related to tendencies which are "wired" into men'smake-up but not adequately acknowledged or understood. Certainly, violence as a conflictresolution tactic must be controlled between humans. Gaining an ability to overcome one'sfear and assert one's position with authority, however, marks a powerful stage of growth forany self within a family system. As a teenager, Brent was proud of being able to tell hisfather to "fuck off' because it meant he had taken a risk and moved towards independence.Soon afterwards his father was happy to help him to move out on his own. An ability to seeconflict in terms of its potential for growth could help us to re-frame much of what appearsdysfunctional between fathers and sons. One of the strengths of analytic theory is in itsprediction that conflict (but not violence!) is inevitable, that internally the psyche will alwayswrestle with conflicting forces (the "animal" and the social), and that that conflict will oftenbecome projected onto intimate relationships (May, 1986).623) Approval: father as judge The two primary sources of theoretical perspectives discussed thus far propose twodifferent kinds of explanations for one of the most important themes which emerged fromthese interviews; that of father as judge and sons seeking their approval and blessing. Thebiosocial explanation would see this behaviour in terms of its adaptive advantages -essentially the less powerful must do what it takes to be safe in the presence of the morepowerful figures. The psychoanalytic perspective would focus on the narcissistic fatherattempting to deal with his own mortality and on the son's developing ego personality. Bothnotions find support in many examples in these interviews, but we will also begin to takeadvantage of a view which is influenced by the social learning and socialization theories thatwill be examined in more detail in chapter VI. Approval seeking characterized the entiretenor of many of the relationships between fathers and sons. Its manifestations can rangefrom the apparently superficial but constant soliciting of praise to asking for profoundjudgements about character or worth and frequently it appears to operate on several levelssimultaneously.Wanting to be liked, loved or approved of by others is probably a fundamental humanemotion with socially adaptive benefits: if individuals are rejected by the group or bypowerful members within it, they may be excluded from the group at risk to their verysurvival. In many animal species, it is young males in particular who are driven away fromthe social grouping as they mature, just as in other times it was expected that young menwould go off to find their fortunes. Approval to them means security within the socialgrouping. It is not surprising to see a dynamic powerfully manifested in the frequentlydifficult relationships between fathers and sons which serves to check and test out how thepowerful members are feeling about others.The pervasiveness and difficulty of this theme is illustrated by the fact that virtuallyall subjects reported not only some deed they had performed in order to gain the approval oftheir father but their concern too, about a time when he had disapproved of them. It appearsto be more of a major component in those relationships which could be described as unhappyor conflictual and it seems likely that feeling frustrated at gaining father's approval is related63to this unhappiness for many men. Comments from Gord illustrate how compelling and howfrustrating this drive to satisfy father can become."Because I wanted so much for my dad to acknowledge me, I joinedeverything. I got malnutrition when I was a kid, when I was about 11 again,around that age, because I was joining everything. I joined his drama group,which was after school. I joined his puppet making group, which was afterschool. I joined his writing group, I took his English class in grade 8, I dideverything in order to please... I was in soccer and basketball, volleyball,badminton, swimming, gymnastics, everything in order to get his attention andI was an accomplished kid. Man if I could be that person as an adult I'd bea millionaire for christsake. I was involved in everything. Never skipped aclass, not one class all through high school, didn't skip one class. BecauseI, I don't know, I think I was trying to get his attention. And he didn'tacknowledge it ever.The quotation also points out how identity formation plays an important part in thisdynamic. The father's positive involvement - his blessing - can help to steer the son in hisfaltering task of forming a healthy self identity, just as its absence may leave the sonwandering through unknown territory. The approval in this sense then is a kind of guidemapfor the son's development. Approval from mother might be welcomed, but would not instructin the same way.When sons do get praise from their fathers, it is a very powerful experience for them,staying deeply embedded in memory. Marty describes an incident in which he finally gotsome of the recognition he had always wanted from his father, a sign he took to mean thathe was progressing and had talent. Marty's story also highlights another commonphenomenon involved in feeling approved by fathers: even when they are willing to expressit, they are notoriously poor at expressing praise."One time when I was 19, I was singing this Neil Diamond song where hesings "I am I said" in a really deep throaty way and my dad was listening tome and I would always try and get that moment of the voice like NeilDiamond does it. My father would just sing it right over top of me and say"aw, you're horseshit", which I'd heard many times before. And one time Iheard in that one word, horseshit, - and he had about five different meaningsto it depending on the tone and inflection and the differences were soincredibly subtle, ok - that time, I caught, pride. And wow. Just what it didto me. Phew, right up inside."64The narcissistic interest of the father in Marty's case is striking Performing musichad been a major source of enjoyment for him for many years and Marty says he could haveplayed professionally himself. We also learn that as a baby this father would sit by the criband endlessly put things into his son's left hand, taking them from his right in an attempt tomake his boy left handed like himself. The father himself just failed to make it in the majorleagues as a left handed baseball pitcher and undoubtably had dreams of his son "making it".Some of the other dynamics that are played out in the issue of approval are discussednext.i) Unfinished businessApproval seeking and giving is a two way dynamic in which both parties participateand fathers' unfinished business can be an important component. Sons typically try to prove,usually with evidence of accomplishments, their worth to fathers, but fathers tend to bedemanding, difficult, stingy with their praise and yet have powerful expectations ofperformance by their sons motivated partly by their own narcissism.Most men listed something during the interviews which they had done in their life atwhich they had excelled. It seemed that even by engaging in the process of talking aboutfathers, men felt compelled to list their achievements as if some association between fatherand achievements had been strongly established in their psyche: father is the man who judges.Respondents frequently took the opportunity to disclose personal accomplishments and tocomment on their father's response, as if to show how unjust his judgement was.Rick, for example, told how despite his having the fastest freestyle time in theprovince at the age of 9, his father insisted that he join a family holiday thus missing out ona chance to participate in the swimming championships. He also described the one time in10 years of playing hockey that his father attended a game as "the best day of my life...".He scored the winning goal. His father took a photograph which the family still possesses,although his limited praise failed to satisfy Rick. Many men were similarly dissatisfied withtheir fathers' expression of positive emotion towards them.65The father's own sense of himself and his life is thus an important component of hisexpectations of his son(s) which then becomes internalized in the son's own self image.Fathers often hope their sons will carry on their work and dreams and thus reward activitieswhich are congruent with them. This projection onto the son is a means of living out one'sown fantasies. Through this mechanism, the father thus controls to a considerable extent howthe son sees himself and experiences his identity.The kinds of endeavours that fathers choose to approve provides evidence of this.One of the sources of discontent in the relationships was that the pursuits fathers followfrequently held little interest for their sons. Stereotypically male activities were more likelyto gain father's approval and less traditional pursuits, such as Marty going off to theatreschool in his dancing tights, more likely to receive criticism. As Bruce said:"I got a strong feeling that I was approved for learning woodcraft skills. Hehad a woodworking shop in the basement and he'd made some of my favouritetoys. The toys I was most fond of were a wooden grain elevator and awooden train, that he made in the basement. Even as really young child, sixor seven, I remember going down in the basement and trying to build awooden boat that would float in the bathtub, things like that. I remember thiswas something that I enjoyed and that I enjoyed getting his approval. I didhave his guidance doing this kind of obvious ..."If a father wants his sons to complete the work or he begins in life, he will have strongexpectations of his sons. Approval may also become a difficult issue when the father hasinsecurities which lead him to be threatened by his son making different choices in his life.Expectation of sons can also become a way that fathers use to come to terms withtheir own mortality. When sons carry on the family traditions, fathers are assured that theirplace in history will not be lost and that their life held meaning. Rapid change which wewitness in modern society has made this type of family continuity more difficult, a subjectwhich is addressed in chapter 7.ii) Making parents happyChildren often come to believe, perhaps rightly, that their success is the mostimportant thing in their parents' lives. This can create powerful pressures on children who66feel responsible for making their parents happy. Getting approval becomes the way tomeasure their success. Bruce was a very accomplished student in high school, graduatingwith the third highest marks in the province after leading his high school in every year. Hesees this accomplishment amidst a deteriorating home environment as an attempt to keepsomething good in the family and thus to give it a reason to stay together. By earning theapproval of his parents in this way, Bruce felt he was making his parents happy, believingthat it might be enough to save their marriage. Interestingly, when he moved from home atthe age of 19, his marks in university dropped to the point where he began to actually failout of classes. The parents did divorce soon after he left, suggesting that indeed he wassomehow influencing the relationship in this way. This is an extreme case of a notuncommon dynamic. Although, they search intensely for parental approval, the pressure tosucceed in order to make parents happy complicates life for any child. Parental ambivalenceand conflict challenges the ability of the child to predict what will make them happy andincreases any sense of insecurity they may suffer.iii) Measuring manhoodGenerally, the judgement which sons want from their fathers is about something moreprofound than accomplishments; often it also conveys the sense that the sons have becomeacceptable males. Gilmour (1990), a social anthropologist, suggests that manhood in our, andmany other cultures, is an achievement which must be gained, that it is insufficient to be bornmale, a man must also, through his efforts, become a man. The recognition that sons seekfrom their fathers may in fact be a search for acknowledgement of their progress in this task,in effect they are asking him to be the witness to their growth. Brent described a rareexample of successfully pleasing his father and suggested how important this approval wasto him."The only time that dad has ever complimented me, in my lifetime that I canrecall, was when I was 19. And he had asked me to level four concretecorners of a house because what they were going to do was they were goingto bring in the surveyors. And the surveyors had to have an absolutely levelplatform in order to make the final survey marks so that they knew exactlywhere the foundation should be, so that it was within the code etc. etc. forbuilding this house. And I worked something like 12 hours on that, getting67each corner absolutely level. And that's the only time he's come up to me andsaid 'Brent, that's a really good job. I really appreciate it'. It was like'Wow. I've worked all my life to get a compliment from him - and I haven'thad one since, at least directly to me, that said 'you're worth something."In this case it is the function of fathers' judgements which identify for the sons a sense ofself worth. Active father presence has been found to contribute to self confidence in theirchildren, both male and female (Radin, 1986).The simplest factor may be simply avoidance of the danger of disapproval, in shortfear, which drives approval seeking behaviour. Certainly, in these earlier stories comesevidence that the anger and ferocity of disapproving fathers stays in memory for long periodsof time. Approximately half of those stories related incidents involving father's temperseeming to be out of control. Figuring out how to avoid such experiences - how to be safe -is one of the more important preoccupations for many young boys. Some, like Rick, nevermanage and stay frightened "like an 11 year old", well into adult life.Beyond gaining praise for their efforts or getting safe enough to avoid his wrath, sonsalso wanted in their father's recognition some confirmation of their worth. If there is, in fact,no real way to measure success at "manhood" or "self", it seems that the only genuineachievement is in moving beyond needing such approval from others. Perhaps bywithholding such praise, some fathers' may be trying to inspire sons towards independence.They may be rather obliquely trying to pass on the message that we are never satisfied byattempting to please another. Certainly many sons reported that their fathers appeared to beuninterested in their efforts to please.iv) Rebellion as a strategyThe tactic which many sons fall back on - to reject or rebel against trying to pleasefather - may be a first stage towards separation of self and should always be considered inlight of this possibility; but when behaviour is reactively enacted, such rebellion seldom dealsadequately with the problem. Rather, sons run the risk of staying stuck even as an adultwithin the dynamic of rebel. Brent said that at 14 he decided he could never measure up andso he quit trying. However several weeks before our interview, an interaction with his father68was marked by the father expressing his disapproval of Brent's new beard. The question ofbeing approved of has never been satisfactorily resolved and is a recurrent theme in theirrelationship.Rick also gave up in frustration trying to please his father:"School? I was always great, honour roll in grade 8, by grade 9 started tofall off. My sports enthusiasm fell off. I wanted to play hockey, but I wantedto play for my dad. He didn't want anything to do with it, so why would Iwant to play?... Yeah, the thing is at that age, I only wish I had known, whydo it for your father? Why not do it for yourself? If I could have gone backand started over, I would have. I would have for me, not for you. I tried toplease him all my life and never seem to have gotten any recognition for it.So you get to a point where, why try any more?"The problem with not trying is that this leaves the sons in a position of having givenup - they carry an internalized sense of failure about themselves which we can see clearlyfrom the way Rick or Bruce or Marty or Gord all speak about their work life. It almostseems impossible for a son to avoid coming to terms with his father's expectations of him.Eventually he must accept and genuinely want his father to be happy with what he doesbecause his own satisfaction will be measured to a large extent by an inner voice which camefrom his father.v) Parents as partnersSome dynamics involved in the issue of getting approval from father are linked to thefunctional arrangements that follow from having two parents and the very differentrelationships children have with their fathers than their mothers (Lawton, 1991), which wasthe experience for all respondents. Each parent takes on specific roles in the family;stereotypically the father as provider, judge and disciplinarian, and mother as nurturer andcaretaker.Frequently, sons reported that it was more important for them to have their father'srespect than his love. Unlike so called mother-love which in the ideal is unconditional, thefather's regard is definitely contingent upon achievement by the son. Sons want fathers toacknowledge their worth but generally recognize that this must be earned, rather than begiven automatically. Fathers' stinginess with sons is often apparently motivated by their69belief that this is the way to provoke effort and achievement or to teach a lesson. Here isan example from Rick:"I mean he had his good times too, he'd bring us treats and things. But healways had this give and take away situation. I mean he could come homewith a treat for us, a chocolate bar or whatever, but if we didn't finish ourdinner, we didn't get it - he had his rule towards us getting it, we earned ourtreat."Rick told of bringing home his creations from high school shop class and invariably hismother would tell him they were beautiful while his father would gripe "something more todust". Again, this should be seen within a functionalist context in which mother providesundemanding love thus allowing father, in a sense, to be so brutally honest. We see inevidence from studies on effects of divorce that the nature of fathers' relationships with theirchildren often changes dramatically after marital separation and a change in the functionaldynamics of the family (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980; Kruk, 1991).There are contrasting dynamics for parents that follow structurally from sharing rolesin family. Marty, Gord and Rick all stated that praise came to them from father onlyindirectly, through mother who frequently was the mediator for the family. Often motherrewarded the sons, while it was father's duty to punish them. When fathers are expected tobe the disciplinarian of last resort, this role is performed more powerfully if there ispsychological distance between them and the children. In such a situation, mother would bemore likely to convey praise and positive regard, because the dynamics of the family systemrequired that sons remain fearful or at least distant and unsure of their fathers. This kind ofrole separation might be expected to be breaking down in families in recent years. However,as we'll see in the next chapter, the question of which parent any child feels safest withpowerfully impacts the kind of approval seeking behaviours they exhibit at home (Freeman,1991).vi) Approval and changeWhen the world changes as quickly as ours, frequently what worked previously nolonger serves subsequent generations. If sons master pursuits that are completely new, itleaves father as judge or approver in a difficult position. His knowledge and experience70frequently have no relevance and his opinion, however forceful, is often useless. Several sonshad academic accomplishments which were obviously worthy of reward, although at the sametime, they provided real evidence that the sons had surpassed the father. Like the son whophysically challenges and defeats his father, this creates tremendous pressure for the dynamicor stance within the relationship to shift, even though the father may continue to financiallysupport the sons and otherwise maintain superiority for many more years.Dan, Marty and Dave all expected their academic accomplishments to help earn theirfathers' respect. It also brought much more. Dan was one of the select few to be admittedto university in Sri Lanka. This did earn his father's respect, but he expressed how lonelyhe felt at university and is still on an academic path which has taken him into a world faraway from his family. It is as if there is a trade-off between receiving the family's pride andtheir intimate support. Similarly, Dave was accepted into a highly competitive programcalled Canada World Youth for which his father was proud, but it also meant that Davewould leave the farm and the possibility of carrying on his father's and grandfather's workthere. Marty's academic accolades came for being accepted into a renowned theatre programthat was also a step into a world far away from that of his father, "the man's man". It hasbeen difficult for each of these men to find inspiration in the lives of their fathers whichcarries them in their lives.Finally, an apparent complication exists for fathers in relation to this question ofapproval and praise seeking when we consider appropriate emotional distance, a commoncomplaint about fathers in families. If the father is too close to the sons, his praise is likelyto mean less because his "human" imperfections will be very apparent and if hisaccomplishments are not greater than those for his son, his judgement will carry no weight.On the other hand, if he is too distant, or his own accomplishments are too much advanced,sons may give up striving altogether. The resolution of this issue is central to father and sonrelationships and requires of fathers an acute sense of balance and timing. The standards bywhich a man guides his life and assesses himself come, to a considerable extent, from thetone set by his father's judgements.71SummaryThe movement which we can identify in these themes suggests a possibledevelopmental progression in relationships between fathers and sons which moves fromrivalry and mutual threat, through conflict and potential violence to the complex andimportant issue of approval which a father bestows upon his son. It has been suggested thatidealization of father in return is a part of this progression as well (Strozier & Cath, 1989).Yablonsky (1990) argues that the ideal endpoint is a mutuality of friendship between fathersand son. The next two chapters will assess that notion in greater detail.The biosocial and psychoanalytic literature addressed the kinds of factors influencingand predicting this rivalry and conflict in particular, but the issue of gaining approval is alsoilluminated by consideration of the social factors towards which we progressively move inthis analysis.The ideal progression for relationship development suggested in this model will beevolutionary, but unlike ecological theory, no static endpoint is envisaged. Few individualsever make it completely through to the other side of approval seeking behaviour, to a placewhere we are motivated solely by our own wisdom beyond any need to be liked, loved orapproved. For most of us, this remains a distant ideal.72Chapter VFAMILY THEMES: FATHER'S PLACE? In considering the factors directly related to family life that influence the relationshipsbetween fathers and sons, we consider two further sources of theory which help provide aconceptual framework for understanding our results. Both have been influenced bypsychoanalytic theory in that they consider internal or psychodynamic processes importantto human behaviour, growth and experience, but they have shifted the focus found with Freudon sexual and biological development towards greater consideration of external social andcultural factors. Family systems theory, like ecological theory with which it is oftenassociated, offers several important principles which help to organize our thinking around themulti-dimensional complexity of family dynamics. Developmental psychology is a sourceof insight into both early and longitudinal growth factors influencing relationships betweenfathers and sons. Attachment theory addresses an aspect of development which focuses onthe importance of early bonds and relationships found within the family system and life spandevelopmental theory frames individual growth through various stages within an overallpicture of human development.Of these approaches, only attachment theory contains a body of literature whichspecifically identifies the father and the impact of his position within the family, althoughmost of this is focused on bonding with infants and small children rather than on alongitudinal perspective of fathers and sons in particular. Some life span theory hasaddressed the gendered questions of specifically male adult development (Levinson, 1978).Feminism has contributed important re-workings of attachment and developmental theory andto a general way of thinking about families which incorporates the consequences of gender.This family level of discussion bridges the personal and the social levels of focus withthemes that address (i) mother as a pivotal figure affecting this dyad, (ii) family andindividual challenges and passages that mark the growth of the son into manhood in the lightof his relationship with father and (iii) the multigenerational aspects of this connection, whichis after all primarily a question of passing from one inception to its successor.73Introduction: Attachment We first consider attachment as a prelude to the pictures we received in theseinterviews. Respondents generally had very few early memories with which to illuminate thepre-Oedipal stages of family relationships. Understanding some of the current thinking aboutattachment patterns will help us to identify more accurately what dynamics are being playedout between parents and children.The insistence on circularity and reciprocity which we find in systems thinking ishelpful in considering attachment and bonding dynamics within families. It reminds us thatnot only do adults become internalized objects in the psyche of infants - having children canalso broaden and stabilize the psyche of parents: bonds are attached at two ends. Withfathers, for a variety of reasons as we'll see in the next chapter, they often come unstuck, ifthey are ever set at all. To a large extent fathering, like mothering, appears to be learnedfrom reciprocal interactions between infant and child, in which both parties change and learnand grow (Osofsky & Culp, 1989).Nancy Chodorow (1978) has applied Freudian object relations theory to feministinvestigations into parenting. In particular she has used the understanding that social relationsor objects (persons in the infant's world) interact with and influence drive resolution indevelopment of the individual's ego structures and process. The social factor that she focuseson is the fact that parenting is asymmetrically organized, that women in fact do themothering. The weight of this is especially significant when amplified by Freudian insistenceon the absolute importance of early childhood experiences in adult character formation. ThusChodorow's simple but profound observation is that boys and girls have different experiencesas infants because they are all parented by mothers. The difference in their interpersonalenvironments due to this reality leads to masculine and feminine personalities developing inparticular ways because they have different experiences of mother. It is posited that, in theseearly impressions one has of a parent, lies one's tendencies as a parent. A mother willexperience her daughter, especially in very early infancy, as herself, but her son as not her,as an opposite in fact. Because of this, girls and mothers develop a sense of being alike fromthese relationships while boys experience leads them to feel different and separate from theirprimary attachment figure.74As we have seen, subsequent intrapsychic resolutions complete this pattern whereinboys must break their identification with mother the primary parent and thus with being aparent, whilst girls remain more deeply connected with mother and with being a parent. Thisprocess of separating from mother, first from her physical body and then from her emotionalbody, and moving towards father emotionally is according to some, a lifelong challenge (Bly,1990). Fathers' job with regard to sons is to assist the process as a "stimulus forindividuation" (Muir, 1989, p.4'7) and initiator into group relations. Fathers are howeverexperienced initially as separate and distant, a representative of the world and ofindependence and activity.Gilligan (1982) and others, of course, argue that the experience of needing to separatepsychologically has shaped the male psyche and influenced the dominant "male" theories ofpsychological development with their concepts which imply "appropriate" emotional distance:separation and attachment, individuation, independence and differentiation. We also see afocus in family therapy literature on terms such as fusion, enmeshment, boundaries andoverinvolvement, all of which may spring from a way of seeing the world through thisparticularly male lens. Gilligan's argument is that because girls don't have the experienceof needing to break bonds and separate from mother in order to form a gender identity, theyhave a different psychological development and so see the world differently: they are morelikely to focus on relationship and connections. They become responsible for maintainingrelationships and attending to, in Parsons' (1956) terminology, expressive functions.Chodorow's rather simple solution to this problem of male psychic development isthat men should parent more actively so that boys will experience closeness with a same sexparent and thus not develop the need to be or feel separate. Much psychologicaldevelopmental work has recently shown that early attachment work which emphasized themother infant bond significantly missed the potential and importance of the father bond(Lamb, 1975; Yogman, 1982; Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989). This latter work has led to theconcept of the "emergent father", a man highly interested in and involved in the emotionalnurturance and responsibility of his children. The men in this sample were all fatheredhowever in an era before the idea of such nurturant fathers became popular, although theyhave grown up in an era of rapidly shifting ideas about gender roles. We must listen to their75stories conscious that their fathers were strongly expected to be providers and the mothersnurturers in these families.Attachment to a particular parent is not a simple and singular mechanism which isfixed over time and in all situations, as originally proposed by Lorenz (1965). Muchdevelopmental literature suggests that boys tend to move from early bonding with mothertoward more mature identification with father, a process which involves a certain amount ofconflict in order to break and re-adjust bonds (Bowlby, 1970). We have seen in thepreceding chapter some evidence that fathers and sons experience conflict and rivalry as theystruggle with positioning themselves in relation to each other. The part that mother plays isalso expected to be important to this resolution and the first theme examines evidence aboutthe interaction of influences from this "other" parent.761.^ Mother: "The Pivotal Parent" As suggested above, despite current acknowledgement that fathers are importantattachment objects too (Gurwitt, 1989), these sons were born into an era when the role ofmothers and fathers was as distinct as anytime in North American history (Demos, 1982) andthe role of the mother was felt to be the crucial one in terms of intimacy with the child.Even most of this recent research addresses the father role as important but adjunctal tomother. The biological reality of course is that mother is needed as an intermediary betweena father and his children. It is not surprising therefore to find that mothers play importantroles influencing the relationships between fathers and sons."Mother's contribution may so powerfully affect the child's appreciation ofcomparatively sparse data from interactions with father himself as to constitutethe greater portion of what makes up the child's experience of fathering"(Lansky, 1989, p.29).Many theorists use a family systems model in order to frame their thinking aboutfamilies. Several important principles from this model will be used to guide our discussion.The first is an acknowledgement of the great complexity of family life and stresses theinterconnection of the emotional lives of family members by conceiving of the family as anemotional system. It allows for consideration of various levels of understandingsimultaneously and predicts that when change or movement occurs within the family, itsripple effect influences all the individuals within that system (Kerr & Bowen, 1988). Thisis a useful way to understand the relative influence of both parents in a family. Motheringand fathering combine to construct parenting so that strength in one aspect or absence inanother will effect the whole. The size and intensity of nuclear or extended family systemsalso influences this experience. In this level of analysis, we consider the part played bymother within the sons' family context and how this impacts upon a man's experience offather.The second relevant principle of Bowenian family systems theory emphasizes triangles asa way of understanding many family dynamics, frequently focusing tension in the familysystem (Kerr & Bowen, 1988). It is the father mother son triangle which is considered here.77Triangles in families are conceptualized as a means of managing anxiety between membersof a dyad: when an uncomfortable level of anxiety is reached, a third member, evenpotentially a pet, is triangled into the system (Freeman, 1991) as an outlet for discharge ofthis anxious energy.The key question in this analysis is the source of the anxiety and how the variousmembers deal with it. A mass of evidence points to a variety of potential sources of thisemotional buildup which will be discussed in turn including: communication patterns infamilies, conflict between parents and questions of loyalty, fear and resentment of powerfulfamily members, sexual tensions including incestuous and homophobic dynamics and thequestion of unresolved family business resulting in inhibition of affection between fathers andsons.i) CommunicationDifferences between genders in verbal styles and abilities have been the subject ofmuch research and popular attention (Tannen, 1990; Thorne, Kramarae & Henley, 1983;Maccoby, & Jacklin, 1974). Males are frequently said to dominate in certain formalsituations and females to verbalize more in intimate situations (Basow, 1986). Males havebeen found to be inexpressive emotionally (Balswick, 1988) and to disclose about themselvesin different ways than females (Jourard, 1971). The inclusion of problematic communicationas a phenomenon connected with functional arrangements between parents might seem tosuggest that there is intentionality in the myriad difficulties in communication between sonsand fathers. However, functional in this sense does not imply efficient, rational or evenconsciously made decisions, but rather that it frequently becomes the job for one particularparent to communicate certain things to the children.Certainly, there were many examples of difficulties in communication reported by thesons in this study in regard to their fathers. Virtually every son reported the fact that theycouldn't talk about something important with their father and that there were large areas ofthe relationship unexamined and unexplored. As Rick said "we never talk, we've nevertalked about anything".Mothers, on the other hand, frequently played the role of mediator or facilitator of78communication between fathers and sons. Often she was the confidante, counsellor or theinterpreter of father and his moods and intentions. Several subjects said that father neverpraised them directly, that only through mother did they become aware of how father feltabout them or their achievements. One man was stunned to learn from his mother that of the3 boys in the family, he had always been his father's favourite.Stereotypical gender behaviours mentioned above surely play a part in this pattern offathers and sons communicating through mothers rather than directly to each other. Thedifficulty for males to find appropriate emotional expression is an important aspect of thispattern. Bruce spoke of "a very great gap" preventing the communication of any emotion.Conversely, communication is made difficult by emotionality (Tannen, 1990). Talking canmean different things to different members. When Rick said that he and his father never talkabout anything, what he means is that they don't talk about anything important - like feelings,religion or life. For women and perhaps children, communication fosters connection andhelps them feel safe. Tannen says that men tend to communicate information rather thanfeelings, instructing or learning rather than sharing.For those with whom these patterns remain fixed, they will almost certainly lead todifficulty or at least distance in the relationship. The management of anxiety in triangles, assuggested by theory above, is an important aspect to this pattern; many stories of the men assmall boys were memories of frightening incidents involving father's wrath and mother wasthe parent who made them feel safe. As older boys and young men, communicating throughmother can similarly help avoid potential conflict. It also inhibits, however, the developmentof verbal abilities which would enable males to resolve tension and conflict amongstthemselves. When a son feels that he cannot communicate about aspects of himself with hisfather for fear of disapproval, gaps and potential rifts develop. Reliance on mothers to makethis communication means of course that any message is filtered by whatever interests orperspective she brings to the situation. A good father may be represented as unreliable ora father's shortcomings glossed over by mothers according to their inclination (Lansky, 1989).One assumption in our culture is that we expect our intimacy to be expressed verbally.This is a relatively recent development influenced by social science theories based on thevalue of verbalizing experience. Fathers, perhaps more than mothers, often concern79themselves with attempting to preserve family traditions at the same time as being unavailablefor discussion and can thus appear intransigent. This quote from Dave reminds us thatimportant things were also communicated in other times, in other ways:"I know that the process of going through an interview like this, my fatherwould find it very difficult, to do. He was born in a generation in which youdid not talk, you did not communicate in this way. So I suppose that's astatement about where his offspring have come, learned differently from him.The flip side would be where there had probably been an interview withsomeone from his generation in which they talk about things which I willnever know, or be able to do, things that he's experienced, skills that he'sdeveloped that I will never have. It really does go both ways."ii) Parental conflictOne of the strongest themes to emerge from these interviews is that of the experienceof competition between parents for the loyalty and allegiance of their sons. The men werekeenly aware of conflict between their parents and often experienced it as a personal dilemmaforcing them to take sides with one and pass judgement on the other. Frequently they bitterlycondemned their parents' relationships. Sometimes they felt responsible for balancing oneparent's strength against the other, or somehow keeping both parents happy. They believedthat allegiance or loyalty to one parent was likely to bring cost to their relationship with theother parent. They felt used as pawns in their parents' power struggles. They were verysensitive to these conflicts between parents, made astute reflections on the nature of thoserelationships and felt they had to manoeuvre for position within that entangled situation.Two of the sons experienced the trauma of divorcing parents while the men wereteenagers. Gord felt in fact that his parents "divorced" after five years of marriage but stayedtogether, to his disgust, for another 20 years. He tells this alarming tale of being placed inthe middle of his parents' conflict:"I was 13... My dad would kinda reach out and talk to me every once inawhile but the only time he really did, he took me on this logging road, andit was pitch black up there and we took the old Toyota truck and went formiles and miles and miles and we sat and we got to Duck Lake and we'resitting there. And he made me nervous, all the time, so we'd sit there for noreason at all, I wrote about this and can't figure it out. He pulled up hissleeve and had two slashes on his wrist and he'd tried to commit suicide and80he showed me them. And I looked at them and he said, ' that' s your mother,that's what your mother did'. That's all he said."Clearly, the sons felt torn trying to provide balance between their parents. This isinteresting in light of the much repeated claim about males that they have little interest ornatural focus in managing the complexity of relationships as suggested by Gilligan (1982)above, but also in popular psychology (eg. Goldberg, 1991 and Farrell, 1986). It is not clearwhether lack of relational ability increased the perception of distress between parents andexasperated their ability to deal satisfactorily with such strife, but as boys these subjects weresufficiently astute and interested to perceive problems and tension between parents. Researchhas shown that generally boys are traumatized more than girls by divorce and family break-up(Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980; Nett, 1988). Boys are also reported generally to receive far more"socialization" efforts than girls, particularly in schools (Basow, 1986; Goldberg, 1975),although they still perform more poorly on most indices of social adjustment and achievement(Poole, 1977). It would be an interesting adjunct to this study to interview sisters for theirperceptions on family dynamics to determine whether they were as affected by tribulation inthe family. Certainly, the retrospective nature of these reports must be remembered as asignificant limitation because of the problem of how much current issues distort memories.iii) Power and fearAn important principle of family systems therapy is that change can only happen withthe participation of powerful members (Freeman, 1991). In these results, fathers and motherswere identified about equally as the most powerful member of the family system. The parentidentified as most powerful was usually the one with whom the sons felt least safe. Thiscreated a curious dynamic whereby the parent with whom the sympathies and allegiances lay,was also perceived as the weaker member. Dave repeatedly expressed his dismay with hismother as a bully, for example, yet was also repeatedly disappointed in his father's refusalto stand up to her.Several men expressed the fact that as adults they had reassessed the power dynamicsin their families and decided that the "weaker" one was not so weak after all, that in fact theycame to appreciate that an arrangement had been made for which both parents were81responsible. Brent for example said he'd always sided with his mother, but recently wasbeginning to change this view. This raises the possibility that power as perceived in familyor intimate relationships is not necessarily about who has the ability to enforce their decisionsbut rather from a child's perspective, is an inverse function of closeness or intimacy. If aparent is felt to be close and safe, their decisions are not viewed as arbitrary "power trips",but rather as understandable and reasonable. Popular conceptions of fathers as the powerfulfigures in families are frequently limited to the financial and other external aspects of familylife (Lasch, 1978). In this sample, men were at least as likely to identify mothers as powerfulfigures in the family.As an example, Bruce was keenly aware of and involved in verbal and physicaldisputes between his parents. He sided with his mother against a violent father but, like her,was "bitterly disappointed" when the marriage finally ended, despite the fact that his motherslept on the sofa for the last seven years of the marriage. He attempted to keep his parentstogether with high academic achievements, believing that by doing well he was giving hisparents a positive reason to stay together. That both his grades fell, and his parents separatedsoon after he left home, suggests that indeed he had been important to the dynamic betweenthem. In terms of the triangle, as he matured, his decreased ability and willingness to divertand absorb anxiety between his parents left them with too great a tension to continuetogether. The intensity which he did absorb is still carried as "unfinished business" in hislife.iv) Sexual tensionsSexual tension in some families was a serious source of difficulty. Both Gord andBruce who struggle in their adult lives with intimate relationships also expressed that theirmothers had in a sense claimed them intimately, while their fathers showed more interestedin their brothers. Gord says:"And she pushed me, she used to sit on my bed, which I believe is one of theinfluencing factors of my life that makes me so fucked up today, is because shesat down and she'd say "Gord, one day you're gonna be a great man". Andshe was just using me, because Robert was dad's favourite and so she pickedme and she used me against him."82Later on Gord rebuffed sexual advances made by his mother, cut contact with her offcompletely and he admits to a misogynous streak related to his "hatred" of her. Brucesimilarly spoke of the way his mother related to him"Right from square one, its almost as if my mother took possession of me ata very early age and nurtured me in her own manner. And when my brotherwas born four years later, he followed in my father's footsteps. There's verylittle doubt in my mind that this was almost an unspoken agreement: that mymother got to mold me in her image and my father got to mold my brother inhis image."Finding emotional distance from his mother was a problem for Bruce as well. Shewould intrude on him in the kitchen when, as a teenager, he spoke to girls on the telephone,preventing his connecting with other females.Male fear of homosexual attraction has been suggested as a source of anxietyinhibiting relations between men in general and fathers and sons in particular (Blum, 1985).One subject, Peter, related that his father had told him that he never hugged his sons for fearof making them homosexual. Frank also expressed fear of homosexuality as a factor in hisreluctance to get close to men. Interestingly both of these men, the 2 eldest in the sampleand most rigidly raised in terms of stereotypes, claim to have had good relationships withtheir fathers. Perhaps their conscious awareness of this potential factor neutralized it. Theone respondent who was openly gay, Dave, described his father jokingly as a "gentle andsensitive man, an ideal homosexual", although he would never suggest this to is father. Hissexual preference had never inhibited the closeness which he and his father shared but heperceived that his mother repeatedly stepped between her husband and her son in a varietyof ways.The number of stories and comments which described parental struggles becamegreatest at around puberty. Incest taboos establishing appropriate physical contact betweenfamily members requires establishment of very firm psychic boundaries. This is harder todo in traumatized or single parent families where the child cannot hate one parent while heloves the other (Winnicott, 1944) or where there is much "unfinished business" with theparents. By seeing families as emotional systems, family systems theory of triangulation andanxiety management helps us avoid blaming and see beyond to historic causes of pathogenic83behaviour.v) Development and conflictThe developmental theory examined earlier would predict that a certain amount ofconflict is likely even in normal situations as attachment shifts from mothers towards fathers.When boys mature, it becomes harder for them to remain attached to mothers, howeverdifficult the relationship with father, because society begins to shame "mommy's boys", andbecause interest in other females begins. If the relationship with father is unsafe, the son maydevelop an exaggerated sensitivity to conflict. Tension in the parental relationships was acommon and difficult source of strain for sons in positioning with father.One of the harshest criticisms sons had of their fathers was in relation to how theyexisted in their marriages. As we've seen Dave was "extremely disappointed" in his father'sunwillingness to stand up to his mother. Gord saw his father as failing to go for his dreamsand disparaged his father's choice for a second wife, who was "exactly like my mother".Marty doesn't believe his father had a chance to survive in his marriage. Kevin "lost respect"for his father "as a man" in relation to his second marriage. Even Frank believed that maybehis father drank because of his mother. Dave and Rick also both condemned the quality oftheir parents' marriages.Dave saw his father sympathetically and could not understand why he didn't leave therelationship. He described a long history of his mother's verbal attacks on both father andthe children and remembers being disappointed that his father wouldn't fight back. In thisstory we get a clear impression as to how the children were triangled into the dispute betweenparents:"This is the same summer, yeah. There was this whole horror summer, it wasjust awful. My mother tried to run my father over with a car, in the driveway.I can't believe it.I remember sneaking out of the bedroom window, and sneaking into thetruck and driving to my neighbours, Bert and Louise, who were good friendsof my parents but also understood the dynamics of my parents relationship.They were sort of the, other than my mother's brother and his wife, they werethe only ones who knew what the impact of the relationship was having on uskids. And so I ran down there, they welcomed me into the house. I told themthat mom and dad were fighting. They said ok, just go to bed.84Well, not 20 minutes later, everything had settled down, my mother andfather screech into the yard. My mother comes into the house, insists that shehas to see me, that I'm going home with them. And I said no, I'm not. AndI remember the verbal match getting so intense that I struck my mother, I hither and knocked her to the ground. I was a big kid at 13 and I was able todo that. Urn, at that point I walked out of the house and went to the car, andsat in the car. I was so angry at her. We got back into the car, my fatherwas driving and my mother was in the front seat and I was in the back. AndI remember at that point her shrieking that "you kids, you goddam kids, younever understand what I've gone through, you don't believe (me). I'm alwaysthe bad one".And so she bullied my father, they would sit in the car in the yard andshe would bully my father until he would finally say yes, that he had had thisaffair. She kept at him and at him, saying, "tell them, did you fuck this woman..." blah blah blah, this whole dynamic, just very angry. There was no pointto this screaming match in the car. And I remember my father saying yes,he'd done it. And I still did not believe my father, that he'd done it. And still,to this day I still have questions about it. I was so disappointed that he gavein to her."This story highlights a number of family factors involved for fathers and sons. Thecontrast between Dave making a stand against his mother and striking her "to the ground",and his disappointment with his father's unwillingness to make the same stand, is powerful.He has defined his boundaries and stated how he wants to relate to the power structure in thefamily. It is an important developmental moment in Dave's life. Interestingly however,confrontation with a parent does not necessarily damage that relationship. It is when the fearis too great for confrontation or catharsis that relationships wither. By confronting his motherDave sets down his groundrules for interaction, but opens up the possibility ofcommunication. It is a sign of how strong Dave felt that he was able to make this stand,although rather than considering that perhaps his father was trying to maintain connection,he judged him for a lack of fortitude.vi) Jealous of father's attentionsSons' criticisms often conveyed a sense of loss when they came to believe that the father'spartner was more important to him than they were. This for many was the beginning of whathas been labelled "father hunger", a desire for closer contact and friendship with fathers thathas been hypothesized to be widespread societally (Kay, 1989). One of the saddest comments85came from Bruce who said his father has always got his name mixed up with his brother's,as if he were just not attending to him. The message that a son simply is not as importantto him as his spouse and perhaps his work, friends, or other pursuits, is a particularly painfulone for sons to hear. Kevin was bitter about the intrusion of his father's second wife intotheir family from the time she appeared as the housekeeper, soon after his mother's suicide.This bitterness continues even today, several years after his father's death. Hisdisappointment at his father's loyalty to her, rather than to him, tainted their relationship rightup to the end."About 4 years ago, I was going out with a girl, a lady. My dadphoned and said ... My stepmother's parents and her brothers live in WhiteRock and they were driving out from Ontario to WR to visit and he had 6weeks holiday. Great I said. We'll see you when you get here and we'llphone you. Here's my phone number, give me a call when you get here. Andhe did, he phoned me and said why don't you come over and see us.It was in the evening. My girlfriend and I decided - she said she'dreally like to meet my dad and I said ok. She's a real character. But we gotover and it was really really enjoyable to see him. I hadn't seen him in aboutthree years and he was really happy to see me and he was really nice to mygirlfriend, laughing and joking with her. It was a lot of fun. And we talkedfor awhile about what he was doing and what I was doing.Finally I approached him and I said "how about you and I spend a daytogether, just you and me. You're out here for a month. Why don't we takea day aside and we'll spend it together. He thought that was a really greatidea, but my stepmother didn't. She thought it was really awful. So shebrought out a piece of paper, an itinerary and it had every day marked on itand what that activity would be for the day. By that time I had two halfsisters. And they still live at home so the kids have to be taken care of. So,she didn't think that that could fit in anywhere in a month. And I thought thatwas kind of silly. So my girlfriend was sitting there and she reaches over andgrabs the piece of paper and a pencil and looked at it and all the dates andshe said here's a day and she wrote my name in: "my dad and Kevin gettogether for the day". And my stepmother she was really upset but my dadthought it was quite humorous. And so I said well what about it? And hesaid OK.And it was a week away or that type of thing and I said well we'llphone you to confirm and we'll see which vehicle we want to take orwhatever. So that day rolled around and I phoned him the day before. Hemade an excuse to get out of it. I was really angry, really really angry. AndI just told him what I thought. "You know what your problem.. da da da dahwife of yours, she runs your life and you can't even think for yourself You86come 3000 miles and you can't spend one day with your only son. You'rehere for six weeks and you can't do that so I said to hell with you" and I hungup the phone. And I never spoke to him for 3 more years. Never talked tohim for 3 more years.Actually, I never talked to him. I tried to talk to him 3 years later onthe phone and the same thing - we got into an argument in the first 60seconds and I said the hell with it. And I never saw him until he was in thehospital. He'd had a massive heart attack and I never did get a chance tomake amends or say goodbye or those types of things."A systems framework reminds us when viewing family dynamics that each memberhas his or her own understanding about alliances and loyalties within the family system.Although we should be careful not to use the perspective of any one individual as anindication of truth about family balance, we can see how difficult they often find feelingcomfortable with that balance themselves. Similarly, our developmental framework helps usto see struggle at certain stages as being a part of growth and not necessarily something tobe avoided or "fixed". These sons often related painful and difficult memories of their familyenvironments. Their healing process involves reframing these events into moments of insightand growth, by seeing how they "function" in some way for the individual.vii) TurfMemorable experiences of father at home were rare. Reynolds (1978) argues that thisis common and follows from mothers' strong emotional presence in the home and fromfathers' tendency to be absent or distant in the family because their primary functions takeplace outside of the home. It is interesting to note that most of the strong memories thesesons had of their fathers came from interactions which occurred outside the family home.Some of the stories that involved fathers took place on camping trips, going to town in thefamily truck, on a bicycle ride, up a logging road, boating, skiing, at his workplace. Thatfathers went off daily to work and, as we've seen, mothers often tend to interpret betweenthe children and their father can prevent children from experiencing father strongly.Dave spoke of the difficulty he still has finding times when he can relate one to onewith his father without his mother around. When he calls on the phone, she is always thereand dad slips into the background. When he returns home to visit, it is only out in the fields87on the tractor that he spends time alone with his father. Memories of those kinds ofinteractions are strong. Dave thinks that his mother plays an active role in preventing hisfather and him spending time together, believing that this threatens her.The tendency for partners in a marital relationship to have "turf' or specific areas ofinterest and primacy is not inherently problematic for the family. It may be the mostfunctional kind of arrangement in many cases. There is some evidence that when men tryto share equally in child care for example, greater opportunity for conflict arises (Pleck,1987). Survey data in the U.S. has found that 60 to 80% of women report that they do notwant greater involvement in the home by their husbands (Lamb & Oppenheim, 1989). It isimportant to remember however that the environment in which we interact influences thenature of those interactions. Kyle describes one memorable holiday he had with his fatherwhen he was 12."The family had always gone camping together in the summertime. We wouldgo to a lake and set up for a week or we'd do a little tour. I guess my oldestbrother had moved out of the house and my second oldest brother was oldenough that he really didn't want to go. And my mom had never liked campinganyways, so one summer my dad took me and my younger brother camping.And we had a week alone with him. We just went up to a campground onGeorgian Bay and hung out. The weather was terrible. It wasn't aparticularly spectacular or wonderful vacation or anything but I remember itquite clearly. I remember swimming with him and my brother, and doingthings in a closer manner than ever in all the time I was growing up."Taking boys on fishing trips or to sporting events or simply for a drive in the car seems toprovide an opportunity for sons to enjoy more fully their fathers attention and to see himmore clearly. Such moments can become important highlights in adult memories.viii) DisciplineAnother case where functional agreements between mothers and fathers influence thequality of relationship between fathers and sons is in the area of discipline. It seemed to betrue in virtually every case that a particular parent had the designated role as disciplinarian.As suggested previously, the role often involves invoking with it, additionally tostraightforward discipline and punishment, some residual fear or trepidation which then88influences the relationship as a whole. Half of the men reported that usually it was theirmothers who doled out physical punishment. Paul noted the fact that his mother "gave thelickings" and his father usually pleaded for leniency on behalf of the kids. Kyle alsodescribed his father as the peacemaker in the family. Dave's father physically punished himon only one occasion, when he was about 6.Marty and Rick however, both experienced the more stereotypical situation that whenthe children got out of control, father was called in to hand out the punishment. Martydescribed his experience at home like this."Oh, yeah, he still had his influence on me, especially when it came tothe areas of discipline. My mother would, discipline me as much as she feltwas proper according to her upbringing but when she got into a situation thatshe felt any discipline that she could do wouldn't work, she'd put it onto mydad. And force him to get serious.And my father never liked playing the tough guy. He always liked tobe perceived as fun Ted. But when my mom demanded it of him, gosh Iremember the "wait until your father gets home" routine and that would striketerror into me. He'd go "hey buster, get in here". And he'd make me spill myguts about what I'd done and I'd tell him. And he'd come out with "get intoyour room, pull your pants down, and get onto your bed". I'd go screaminginto my bedroom. This is the worst part - I would never do this to a kid.What he'd do is that he had this piece of conveyor belt - we didn't get it thatoften, but when we did he wouldn't pull any punches. What he'd do is, I'd bein my room, lying on my bed and that sucker would make me wait. It seemedlike an eternity. Probably only about 5 minutes but ... And that was the worstpart, I'd be just sobbing. He'd come in and whack me about 4 or 6 times andhe'd take his time and talk to me in between slaps. That was not a pleasantexperience."In Bruce, Dan and Kevin's case, it was also more likely to be father who disciplinedthe children. Dan remembers vividly the sting of a slap his father gave him and condemnshimself for using physical punishment with his own son. Bruce and Kevin developed veryphysically confrontive relationships and both had physical fights with their fathers, asdescribed earlier in the section on violence.When a parent is the designated disciplinarian, it puts them in a difficult position interms of other areas of their relationship with their children. Fathers' physical strength, oftendistant emotional style and sometimes frightening anger all combine to make them effectivebut easily excessive disciplinarians. Certainly, society has recently been setting new89standards or expectations of parents in terms of their physical punishment of children,creating a situation in which men must learn different ways from that of their own fathers.The relationship with mother is an important factor influencing sons' relationshipswith fathers. Mothers have considerable power to direct the nature of that connection. Ittakes some apparent sacrifice on their part to step back and encourage closeness to developbetween father and son. Such an act requires that they believe genuinely in the benefits toson and father and have sufficient sense of self to love in that way.902.^Father's father: multiple generationsIt has been suggested that "impediments to fatherhood are of multigenerationalorigins" (Gurwitt, 1989). Certainly many new fathers report wanting to improve on the kindof fathering they received (Sagi, 1982). Fear of becoming more like his father as a parenthas inhibited at least one subject from having children, despite claiming to want them badly.The lessons and perspective that sons gain from witnessing or understanding the fatheringtheir fathers received helps them to understand, tolerate and learn from that example. Thefather of the subject just mentioned for example, had left his home at 13 and saw his fatheragain only on his deathbed. This man could see that his own experiences, painful as theywere, were an improvement on his father's experiences.The men in this sample were basically in the same age range as their fathers had beenwhen they were born (See Table I). It may partly be this fact which stirred their interest inexamining their own fathers in a research interview. Only five men had children themselvesalthough the continuity between generations was at least alluded to in most interviews.The extent to which sons considered and explained their father's behaviour in termsof his own experience as a son suggests a stage in the relationship has been reached wheresons can find some emotional distance from their experience of him. In several interviews,the issues a father faced and the kind of family supports he had available were made veryclear by sons obviously well aware of their father's story. Rick spoke of the difficulties hisfather faced in experiencing his own parent's divorce and loss of father from the age of 10.Frank spoke in detail of the move which his father made from a home on the prairies outwest and how he established the original family business, long before Frank was born. Daveleft his father's family farm for a different life, but he also knew and appreciated how thestrength and stability in his father's family had helped create a source of support for himself.For other men, a kind of vacuum existed about the experience of the father. The grandfather(and even the father!) was only a stranger to many men. Gord, Bruce and Marvin, forexample, refer only very briefly and impersonally to their father's lives before they becamefathers and the image we get is that these men had little or no close family around them as91parents themselves. It is a tenet of family systems theory that the normative emotional familystructure in North America is extended, despite our common beliefs that nuclear familiesdominate the social fabric (Freeman, 1991). The extended influence of multiple generationsis clear, although for many of us, a solid awareness of family patterns is nonexistent. Severalcharacteristic themes of multiple generational influences and typical family patterns betweenfathers and sons are discussed next.i) Cut-offRepeated patterns between generations function both positively to give support andconnection to individuals in need but also to bind individuals into overinvolved systems fullof neurosis breeding dynamics (Freeman, 1991). Only rarely were fathers' fathers involveddirectly in the relationships between sons and fathers. This seems to be due to a number offactors, but one of the most important was some degree of cutting off or breaking of familyconnections. Virtually every family had important male figures (sometimes the sonsthemselves, sometimes their fathers or the grandfathers) who had left and were cut off, atleast to some extent, from the family. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, history didindirectly influence the experience of the sons.Kyle's family, for example, moved about the country apparently due to his father'swork, but we also discover later in the interview that his father was so embittered by hisrelationship with his father that he has only now, as a man of 78, begun to be able to talkabout that experience. It seems likely that the moving was not unrelated to the difficulty ofthat relationship. Both of Marvin's parents, who had 10 children of their own and manyfoster children as well, were themselves orphans. Kevin's father didn't speak to his fatherfor thirty years and Kevin only met the grandfather once, on his deathbed. Even with all ofthe painful difficulties for Kevin and his dad, they did manage to stay in closer contact thanthat. Three of the 8 men with living fathers were currently cut off from regular contact withthem and two more expressed the wish for more frequent contact, so less than half of thesemen were happy with the current state of their relationship with father. Other examples ofthe breaking of close contact within families include Frank's father who left the family farmin the prairies during the depression, Gord's parents who both left family behind in Englandand Brent's father who was raised only by his mother and grandmother, with no mention of92the father. Dave left the family farm and home and Bruce, of course, left his family behindback east.It would appear that the challenges of maintaining close connection between threegenerations on the male side of families are very difficult indeed. It may well be that thisphenomenon is exaggerated in our country with its relatively short European history andchanging social conditions, but evidence also suggests that these problems are more intensefor males. It was most often men in these families - the fathers or grandfathers - whoexperienced being cut off from their own family. Stone (1989) also found that it was moreoften the women in the families she interviewed who nurtured and maintained familyconnections.ii) PatternsThe impact of the experience that a father has of his father on the relationship withhis son(s) is often strong. Interestingly, it is the fear of reproducing family patterns whichoften leads to leaving and cutting off from family structures. Kevin is well aware of bothhis difficult family precedents and yet of the potential power of early influences. He stillfinds himself unconsciously mimicking a gesture his father had developed long ago, afterlosing part of a finger. He is considering becoming a parent himself and is terrified that hewill turn out to be just like his father. Marty has a similar fear that abuse of drugs or alcoholwill mar his life, as he believes it did with his father and grandfather. He watched his fatherbegin to drink more heavily, just as his grandfather had."He went from that into alcoholism, or what I'd call alcoholism. Saturdaynight, more times than not he'd go and play darts and he'd come home.Sometimes I'd have to go and pick him up. It got to where most times I hadto pick him up. Just like he had to do with his dad...Isn't that interesting how history repeats itself My sister married aguy, just like my dad in terms of the irresponsibility... My mom's family, shehas 3 brothers, my sister has 3 boys and a girl. My sister is raising 4 kidsalone, like my grandmother did with my mom and her brothers, because mygrandfather went overseas and never came home during the second worldwar."iii) ConnectionSome men do find positive ways to express the generational links between fathers and93sons and continuity becomes a strong concern. This concern may appear as the living outof family traditions, acknowledging one's heritage or honouring family elders. Perhaps thisinterest develops in compensation for their rather minimal contributions to physicalreproduction and frequent experiences of being cut-off or emotionally absent from the familyas well. The ability to pass on learning and wisdom to his children helps to give meaningto a father's life (Jacobsen, 1950).One way that men ensure a sense of continuity was in the giving of meaningful giftsfrom fathers to sons. The gifts may be simple straightforward presents, or they may comein the form of lessons, or even with names. Frank, who was to join his father's garage asa mechanic still possesses, in immaculate condition, the expensive toy truck he received forhis seventh Christmas, 46 years ago. He has passed it now to his oldest son, who is also amechanic, and who has a 7 year old son of his own, so that this truck has become a linkthrough four generations. The first description Frank gave of his family was that it is"automotive".Bruce, despite his often fractured relationship with his father, also noted that he had,on the morning of the interview, used a very special type of saw which his father gave himfor Christmas when he was 10 years old; 3000 miles, a traumatic parental divorce, manyphysical fights and 33 years previously. The symbol of the saw as a gift from father to sonis potent: this particular father, at 78, still seemed to be encouraging his unwilling son tosever an intense emotional bond with his mother.The gift of names to children is a powerful act which helps give them a context inwhich they begin to gain an identity. It is not insignificant that as women began to strugglewith wanting independent identities, the issue of family names became an important feministissue. Perhaps in compensation for lack of a strong presence in families and in thereproductive process as a whole, naming is often very important to fathers. Paul told a storyabout the giving of a name which has influenced his family for four generations. He wasborn and raised to the age of 14 in colonial Jamaica, the first born in a family of 10. Hisfather, who was also born in Jamaica, was very devoted to his wife and children although hehad left home stormily at the age of 14. Much of the information Paul has about hisgrandfather sounds disparaging, especially in relation to his neglect of family responsibilities.94The grandfather was described as a well educated bum, living on an inheritance and spendingmost of his time in bars. Still, Paul tells this story about his father's naming."His father was a big man, he never lost a fight. And he was carousingaround - that was how he (Paul's father) got his name, one of his names.Because my grandfather and this other fella were both rich and they were intheir buggies, going through town and raising hell I guess and a policemangrabbed the horse and said stop. And the other fellow said 'get your hand offthat' . The policeman said no and so he pulls out a gun and shot thepoliceman in the hand. And then they went home.Well, everybody knew their reputation so they came to the house, thepolice, with rifles and bayonets, circled the house (laughs loudly). So theytook my grandfather and the other fellow and they took 'em to jail. Well asI said, they were well educated and they knew the law. And so what they didwas, their defence was 'he did it' and the other says 'he did it'. So theycouldn't prosecute them. And so they went to the judge.And at that same time my dad was being born. And the judge says'look, I'm going to fine you, [I forget how much money it is] and he says, 'ifits a boy, you gotta name him after me'. And it was a boy and that's how mydad got his name, from this judge. The judge's name was Judge Portland, somy dad's name is Portland. And that's my second name. And I gave it to myfirst boy, its his middle name too."Paul's father left home angrily at the age of 14 and remained cut off from his father. Despitethis, it is interesting that Paul told many such stories involving his father and even hisgrandfather from days long before he was born. These stories served to create and maintainconnections where none existed physically, as well as allowing Paul to live out vicariouslya way of life that is far from the quiet middle class existence he has experienced as an adult.The stories of the past expand his own sense of himself. Freeman (1991) suggests that thefamily story always has a function which must be discovered before change can occur in thefamily or individual system.An awareness of multiple generations of family history is a gift of solidity and identityto any child. Family stories help members to make sense of the past and guide actions in thefuture. The sons who were aware, for example, of how their father got along with his father,were able to see their own situation with more understanding and tolerance. Unfortunately,many men seem to go into the world with very little in the way of such family lore to95support them.963. Father and son: growing up together. Erikson (1950) and Levinson (1978) have both contributed important models ofindividual life cycle development. Erikson, like many social science theorists of humandevelopment, took an androcentric view which spoke of male experience as if it wereuniversal. This discussion will address his work as if it were solely focused on malepsychological development, which it more accurately describes. Levinson's work was derivedfrom substantial empirical work and, like the present study, has a deliberate male focus. Bothauthors address adult developmental challenges and describe sequential stages or eras ofparticular concern during a man's life. They interweave the individual issues in the familialand social context. The complexity of such projects is enormous. Researchers generally haveavoided models of adult development in favour of more manageable and testable questions(Vaillant & Milofsky, 1980).Carter and McGoldrick (1980) have attempted even greater complexity with theirBowenian based model of family development in trying, as this study does, to describe thedevelopment of family relationships over time. They caution against twin risks inherent indevelopmental models. If one tries too rigidly to fit individual cases to the model, thesingular cases can easily appear pathological when they do not closely fit the prescribedpattern. On the other hand, too much allowance for unique historical influences robs themodel of its integrity and deprives our view of a sense of strength and continuity with thepast. Erikson used cross cultural comparisons in deriving his model.The present project attempts to describe a particular family relationship over time, thatof fathers and sons. Themes emerged from interviews with adult sons retrospectivelydescribing pictures of progressive stages in their relationships with their fathers. Because ofthe complexity of the topic and limited resources, this work does not attempt to testhypotheses but rather to broadly describe themes of fathers and sons and identify influenceson the quality of these relationships. In this section, some of the kinds of challenges facedat different ages are described. It should be remembered that the data for this work wastaken at a singular point in time, that of adult sons over the age of 30. Not only areretroactive memories suspect in terms of accuracy, but what and how stories are remembered97can be seen as symptomatic of present day concerns. We will return to this point after a lookat characteristic themes from the various ages. (Detailed descriptions of the material onwhich this analysis is based may be found in Appendix E.)Two points stand out from the earliest memories men had involving their father. Thefirst is a picture of boys gaining a glimpse into the world of men, appreciating perhaps forthe first time something of the experiential quality of their fathers' existence. There is oftenan idyllic quality to these images. The subjects remember the illumination they saw withina context of childhood memory. The other types of stories from this period, by contrast,tended to be harsh memories of times of intense emotion, often fear, involving fathers whowere angry or out of control. The boys were frequently being punished and typicallyremember not only their fear but also often shock and bewilderment at the behaviour of theirfather. "Who was this guy?" is the way one subject phrased his reaction. Often motherswere present in these latter pictures too, as if the boys oriented themselves in relation to aposition of safety during the incident.The initial stories come from oedipal to mid latency stages in psychosexualdevelopment. Erikson accepted the basic Freudian account of identification through theoedipal complex but added an emphasis on the social components rather than the sexual(Miller, 1983). Stages are described as polarities and resolutions occur along a continuumbetween the extremes. His 3rd stage of development at 4 to 5 years of age is initiative versusguilt. Children learn to either take initiative and make things happen or they retreat intoguilt, bounded by an overactive conscience. In the 4th stage, industry versus inferiority, theboy masters a sense of competency about their learning or develops a sense of inadequacyabout himself.In these stories when boys gain insight into the world of their fathers, they do seemto be acquiring a rudimentary appreciation of both initiative and industry in their fathers,showing interest in what those men do in their lives outside of the realm of the family home.It is an interest which is internalized in their own activity. The 4th stage corresponds toFreud's latency period which is a calmer period of development for the boys. A ratherdetached curiosity about the working of the world is apparent. The more emotionally intense98memories came primarily from oedipal ages and can be seen as moments of realization aboutfather's power as well as fear of losing well established intimacy and safety with mother incoming to be identified with father.Our interest in both halves of the relationship means that we should consider thedevelopmental challenges which the father is experiencing at the same time (Freeman, 1992).Ages of fathers at birth in this sample averaged 30 years. By this time, most men are leavingwhat Erikson calls young adulthood which is a period of 10 years or so of separation fromthe family when men are consolidating their identity by mastering intimacy and solidarityversus isolation in the world outside of the family. This stage has been operationalized inresearch as 10 years of financial independence and living separately from the family of origin(Vaillant & Milofskky, 1980). As Carter and McGoldrick (1980) point out, it is in this stagethat changes for the status of women have meant that typically they now spend some timeestablishing an identity separate from their family and beginning to learn to trust othersintimately. Even in as small a sample as this, we also see how evolving social patterns offamily size and delayed ages at becoming parents extends this stage for many men wellbeyond what it was for their fathers. In such a context issues of trust and intimacy becomehighly important and the mastery of these issues are important factors influencing how fathersparent their sons in their early lives.Fathers beyond 30 move into what Erikson calls generativity, when interest inbuilding, establishing and guiding the next generation becomes important. It is in their rolesas providers that the young boys remember seeing their fathers and turn some interest to hislife of work.A refined model of Erikson's stages places as a dividing line between childhood andadulthood, the capacity for adult intimacy. This distinction has some empirical supportgained in a study examining a 40 year life span of close to 500 men. It showed that unlessmen mastered intimacy, by which operationally was meant a rather stringent minimum of 10years of living interdependently and intimately with another person, the stage of masteringgenerative productivity was limited or not achieved (Vaillant & Milofsky, 1980).It was while their fathers were moving into this stage of transition from"apprenticeship to master craftsman" (Vaillant & Milofsky, 1980, p.284) in terms of99generative potential that sons generally moved into puberty and adolescence. The potentialfor conflict is not surprising given the fact that fathers are becoming more rigid, committedand fixed in their lives while the sons quite suddenly have a host of new developments to beincorporated broadly into a fixing of identity. When fathers are trying to disciplinethemselves into new ways of being, the contrary acts of ego syntonic offspring present achallenge to tolerance. Teenagers of course try out many new identifies as one might a setof clothes in search for what "fits".The pubertal stories began to see fathers described more harshly by their sons, stungby his rigidity, fearful of his judgements and perhaps more openly jealous of his power andsexuality. The change from a relatively benign childhood to a more troubled pre adulthoodis captured vividly by Brent is this story of growth in his relationship with his father."There was one time at 12. We were walking down the street in front of ourhouse, and I was holding his hand. It felt really great, I felt reallycomfortable, and was having fun. And some kid looked across the street at meand called me a fag, or something like that. Or dad a fag, I wasn't reallysure who he was calling at. But suddenly I felt very uncomfortable and I letgo of his hand. Apparently - I found out from mom, dad never said a word -he was very hurt by this, by me letting go of his hand. And it was at thatpoint that our relationship really changed: from, uh, I could go and see himand sometimes get him to do things with me, to being totally alienated fromhim. And it was from that point too, the kind of relationship I had with him[became] one loaded with anger, on both our parts... this age 12 keepspopping up in my mind as when things really changed".The period that begins with puberty is a time Yablonsky (1990) refers to as separationand individuation between fathers and sons, when sons must learn to find their own wayseparate from their fathers. The conflict we see in many of the stories from this age periodand beyond function to create this division and distance for the sons.The next age period framed in the interviews was from about 14 to 19 or the time ofleaving home. Sons at this stage were even more closely watching their fathers to see howhe was progressing in his own challenges of intimacy and career mastery. The emotionaldistance they had begun to develop also fostered a general harshness in attitude towardsfathers, but they were also influenced largely by how they perceived fathers were living theirlives. If they were still perceived as heroes in some sense, the models they formed would100be more likely to serve usefully for their sons. The difficulties for fathers managing such atask are formidable given the milieu of intense sexuality, family developments, social changeand separation pressures. Many men, for example, criticized their father for the way heexisted in his relationship with their mother, or in one case, stepmother. Others expresseda desire to avoid the kind of "dead end" career they perceived their fathers to have. Stillothers vowed to be better fathers.Significantly, the fathers in this sample tended on the whole to facilitate their sonsmoving out from home, or at the least to not impede sons on this path. Mothers were morelikely to resist their sons moving towards independence, while fathers seemed to see thechange as an opportunity to move their relationship with their sons onto new ground, perhapslooking forward to the stage of maturity, mutuality and man to man friendships whichYablonsky (1990) describes. It was only as autonomous adults that men in the sample beganto have independent relationships with their fathers, generally after about 10 years ofindependence, as Erikson prescribes.Helping sons to move out of the family home is the most obvious application of atheme that has been repeated in different guises throughout this report which sees the father'srole as assisting sons to complete a process of separation on many levels from mother.Erikson believed that the prolonged and lengthening childhood which marks North Americansociety is its distinguishing feature. In Western culture, childhood is often said to have beeninvented as a concept only in the 18th century (Carter & McGoldrick, 1980). The rituals ofmanhood found in many cultures act to separate boys from mothers and younger childrenusually around puberty but in some cases as early as 7 years old (Gilmore, 1990). The lackof active involvement currently by men and fathers in the psychological development ofyounger boys has created a situation where some commentators would claim that many mennever really grow up emotionally (Bly, 1990; Keen, 1991). The struggles seen in the menin this sample in relation to their fathers would suggest that they don't stop trying.We would do well to remember that the stories people tell of their family experienceschange as they progress and grow and that at each stage, they have a function which isrelated to the current concept of self (Freeman, 1991). That these men told stories of conflictor jealousy or heroism or distance involving their fathers and mothers is in a sense only a101reflection of how they currently feel and a way of identifying what issues stand in the wayof their present growth. The story of the past becomes a metaphor of the present.102Chapter VISOCIETAL THEMES: FATHER'S ROLE Introduction In this chapter the social influences on father and son relationships in modem NorthAmerican culture are examined in light of theory which sees gender and roles as primarilysocial or cultural constructions. The particular drives, bonds and intrapsychic and familialdynamics examined to date are tempered with ecological consideration of powerfulenvironmental influences. In a sense this analysis is broader, describing societal rather thanpersonal or familial characteristics. In another sense, this analysis is more limited in thatfeatures of this particular society are examined, which may not apply in other cultures.Socialization theory proposes that humans internalize norms and rules of the culture inlearning to be social creatures. Social learning theory describes the psychologicalmechanisms by which this learning takes place. Feminism has contributed gender specificanalyses of these processes.Structural functionalists such as Parsons and Bales (1956) proposed that becoming afather involves internalizing a set of role prescriptions and requirements as to what a fathershould be. Societal and cultural norms form the basis of these prescriptions. The roles whichare played out in families, argued Parsons, follow to some extent from the functions requiredof a particular structure such as the family grouping. As family size has diminished over thepast thirty years, so too the roles and functions required of family members have beenchanging. Traditionally fathers took on what Parsons called "instrumental" roles as protector,provider, teacher and other functions which serve external needs of the family unit. Mothersof course, were said to attend to internal needs of the family and serve "expressive"maintenance functions. Role prescriptions should not be confused with the view that saystraits specific to male or female personality should define roles, a proposition more likely tobe made by conservative psychoanalytic or biological theorists.Such explanations of course no longer describe typical North American families andhave fallen from favour in current analyses, although the concept of roles generally and thespecific emphasis on father as provider still influences much thinking about fatherhood (Daly,1992). The men in this study were socialized in an era when Parsons' model more accurately103described family structures and dynamics. In some ways, it was probably the most rigidlygender role differentiated period in North American history (Demos, 1983).Social learning theory has attempted to show more specifically how socialprescriptions are internalized. Originating in the mechanistic models of early behaviourism,it owes its current popularity to Bandura (1969) who added recognition of the importance ofcognitive processes and inherent capacities, while arguing that social modelling is the majorform of learning socially defined behaviours. Modelling requires attention by the learner toimportant observable characteristics. The relative influence of models on individuals dependson how they are perceived and processed internally according to their power, status orattractiveness or to the salience of a particular behaviour such as aggression. Reinforcementor reward by others is the key motivation for repetition of any behaviour.This basic model is used to explain the acquisition of important behaviours like thesex typed behaviours relevant to our discussion. Father is thought to be the most importantmodel for boys in learning about masculinity, parenting, communicating, and otherappropriately "male" behaviours, although social learning theorists stress that the parent isonly one of many models the child learns from (Miller, 1983).Social learning theory has been popular with many feminists, social workers andothers concerned with social change because it apparently offers the relatively simple yetbroad possibility of directing change by manipulation of the social environment. It has beenconcerned experimentally with some key feminist issues such as acquisition of gender andaggressive behaviour. Although it has often been understood to compete with Freudian andcognitive explanations of behaviour, some attempts have been made to integrate these works.For example, the modelling Bandura describes can be seen to provide details for the Freudianconcept of identification with same sex parents (Miller, 1983). Miller calls for further workto provide the natural ecology involved in aggression, sex typing and dependency since mostsocial learning research work has been confined to laboratory settings."The theory's contribution would be much greater if investigators wouldexamine the models and reinforcement contingencies usually found in thetypical environments of each phase of development."[Miller, 1983. p.241]104This project elaborates some of those contingencies for sons in regards to their relationshipswith fathers in their acquisition and internalization of male models. The incorporation ofsocial learning principles into descriptions of behaviours and social environment is attemptedin this chapter.Gendered questions One important contribution of feminist writing has been the clear identification ofdifferences in socialization pressures upon boys and girls. It is widely acknowledged thatgenerally socialization can exaggerate minor differences and creates roles which rigidlyconfine the behavioural and experiential possibilities for both genders. The father has beensuspected of being an important contributor to the perpetuation of sex role stereotypes (Radin,1986; Jacklin, Dipietro & Maccoby, 1984), although some research has found that fathers andmothers equally contribute to sex typed play in their children (Roopnarine, 1986). Peretti andStatum (1984) found that sons strongly reflect their fathers authoritarian paternal attitudes andEmihovich, Gaier & Cronin (1984) that a strong positive relationship existed between father'sexpectations and son's sex-role beliefs. Jacklin, DiPietro and Maccoby (1984), twooriginators of important work on sex differences, looked at sex typing in parent childinteraction and found that father-son dyads aroused the highest interest arousal levels infamily permutations although not necessarily the most sex typed interactions. In fact thislatter study found that fathers were highly sex typed with offspring of both sexes, but thatmothers were stereotypical only with their daughters. This of course would mean that unliketheir sisters, boys receive conflicting messages about sex appropriate behaviours from theirparents, perhaps contributing to gender role confusion. Such confusion and a relative absenceof fathers from the personal experience of boys may exaggerate sex role differences andcreate problems for male development.Much of the work cited above on sex differences originated in women's frustrationwith an experience of constriction attributed to stereotypical socialization. This focus on"stereotypical" masculine and feminine traits has been criticized as misleading and unhelpful.Jungian influenced work and eastern psychology have worked from the hypothesis that botharchetypes exist in a different balance within each individual (Moore and Gillettte, 1990) as105yin and yang or anima and animus. Keen (1991) argues that the questions should be notthose phrased like "am I man enough?" or "do I mother too much?", but rather something like"when do I need to be assertive and when should I submit?". Engendering entire sets ofpersonality traits, he argues, only contributes to polarization between the sexes, but not tounderstanding or growth.Feminist post structural analysis has moved beyond sex roles in identifying anddescribing systemic male privilege in societal structures: not only have differences beencreated and exaggerated, they are said to promote the interests of males over those of females(Connell, 1987). Women have identified their experiences in areas in which they feeldisadvantaged by "patriarchal" power structures, including especially employment and accessto financial power and more recently in intimate relationships. Some more radical feministwriters continue to voice Engels' view that the family itself is a patriarchal structure whichis designed to perpetuate male privilege and subjugate women and children (Pollock &Sutton, 1985). Father, from this perspective, is an agent of oppression.Just as an emphasis on gendered traits may polarize discussion, blanket claims thatentire genders are "advantaged" in some overall sense, may not only polarize but alsocontribute to subtle reinforcement of traditional views which perpetuates notions of womenas helpless and needy and men as strong but uncaring. In the same way many women haveidentified areas of social life where they feel oppressed, men also need to articulate theirdistress. Such a correspondingly heuristic expression of the reality of male experience is onlybeginning to be articulated, although there is ample evidence that males' material advantageis of dubious value in our affluent culture: men suffer more alcoholism, suicide, chronicmental illness, death by accidents and death by violence (Goldberg, 1976) than women.Men's social support networks tend to grow smaller and their relationships are more likelyto be superficial. These and other lifestyle factors contribute to a growing difference in lifeexpectancy favouring women by almost a decade (Waldron & Johnston, 1976). This hasincreased from a difference of less than 2 years in 1920.A stereotypical fear of seeming "weak" still prevents many men from seeking help andadmitting to problems (Robertson & Fitzgerald, 1992) and a social climate which holds males106singularly responsible for the ills of the world similarly inhibits men from genuinelyexamining and expressing their lives.One area that the burgeoning and as yet introspective men's movement has identifiedas a source of male suffering is in the poverty of their relationships, particularly those withother men (Keen, 1991; Comeau, 1990). Learning how to relate with males is for most men,primarily a product of their own experience with father. The absence of father from activepersonal involvement in the family life of these men, and in those of North American postwar men, is perhaps the most important and problematic aspect of those relationships.1071.^ Absence: Father as StrangerCamus' L'Etranger has been translated into English both as The Outsider and TheStranger. Both meanings fit an image of fathers which emerged commonly from theinterviews and which has been identified widely in literature on fathers (Comeau, 1991;Kagel & Schilling, 1985; Ross, 1989). Fathers are frequently virtual or actual strangers totheir children. Physical absence of the father from the family scene is so prevalent thatchances are only about 50% that a child born in Canada today will live to the age of 16 withtheir father. At least one in 7 families with children in Canada are currently fatherless (SUN,Feb. 1992). Absent fathers have been so common that a research paradigm investigating theirinfluence (or lack) has resulted in many books and articles on the topic (Pedersen, 1976).We have seen how until recently both psychological theory and research ignored the fatheras a parent of young children. Youniss and Ketterlinus (1987) have shown that adolescentsof both sexes claim also to not know their fathers nearly as well as their mothers. Even whenfathers are physically present, they are often described as emotionally absent from familiesso that they appear to live outside the emotional bounds of the family (Comeau, 1991; Bly,1990). Only very recently has research begun to examine the relationships fathers have intheir families and their first observation is often of the relative poverty of these connections(Gordon, 1987; Kay, 1989).The men in this sample are unusual by today's standards in that all lived with theirfathers until their late teens or until they left home. These men were born before the largeincrease in the divorce rate began in Canada about 1970. Even so, very many men reportedfeeling that interaction with their fathers was very limited and their understanding of himemotionally was poor. About half mentioned father's absence as an influential factor in theirrelationship. Their distance from the family frequently led respondents to ask "who is thisguy?" and to fear his mysterious ways. Very often the first comment made in the interviewswas "my impression is that he wasn't around a lot", or "we didn't do much together".Comments which portrayed father as a distant stranger include many which note aprofound lack of communication: "I can't talk, I can't speak properly in front of him",108"there's a real barrier there", "we didn't talk about being gay, we talked about the weather,grades...", "we didn't have a real understanding of our father", "its distant, very distant(between us)", "there's a very great gap there".Effects Interest in the repercussions of absence has inspired much father absent research, aparadigm which usually assumes that traditional nuclear families are the healthiestenvironment in which to raise children. For example, concern for adolescents lacking malemodels has inspired research finding that father absence has led to decreased achievementorientation in high school boys (Hunt & Hunt, 1977), and increased antisocial behaviourssuch as aggression, delinquency and other criminal behaviours (eg. Brownfield, 1987; Hanson,Henggeler, Haefelee & Rodick, 1984). Distant, cold and rejecting fathers have beenassociated with depression proneness (Zenmore & Rinholm, 1989) and with a "lost" feelingamongst adult sons (Comeau, 1990). The most obvious result from father absence is a lackof an intimate older model for boys. This results in greater reliance on more distant and less"real" models found most often in modern media. The next theme discusses social imagesin more detail.Given recent, occasionally misguided attention which emphasizes fathers as abusers,some commentators are not unlikely to conclude that father absence, except for the financialconsequences, is not necessarily undesirable (Newseek, May, 1992). Loeb (1986) found thatfather absent boys develop more flexible images of adult men than boys raised by ineffectualfathers, who frequently develop negative images of adult men and avoid interacting with themas adults. However, research generally finds that father absence is not an advantage tochildren (Brownfield, 1987; Kagel & Schilling, 1985; Hunt & Hunt, 1975).The effect of a history of limited contact with their fathers upon respondents cannotreliably be demonstrated with retrospective accounts such as were obtained in this research.However, we note that many of those same men who report criticism of the amount or typeof contact they had, also struggle currently with career and intimate relationships and thateven as adults, men with frequent contact with their fathers seemed to be more generallycontent in their lives. Of course, this may entirely be a contemporary phemonenon as a wishfor inner guidance in the present, is somehow voiced as a lack of paternal guidance from the109past, but the proposition that father contact at all ages is important to sons' well being seemsequally supportable.Some causes The emotional distance and absence of fathers has been attributed to (i) stereotypicalmasculinity (Pleck, 1981), (ii) pressures of economic identification with the role as provider(Bly, 1990), (iii) functional and developmental results of family arrangements and as we haveseen previously, power struggles for influence over children. Evidence was found supportingall of these explanations as to why fathers seem to be strangers in their families.(i) Attributes of stereotypical masculinity are sometimes said to prevent the developmentof close relations. One such aspect that imperils relationship building is emotionalinexpressiveness (Balswick, 1988). Communication problems with father was a very frequentcomplaint. Many men reported that they had never talked, that "we have never spokenfrankly about feelings" or that they wished they had been able to say something they had not.Therapy sometimes involves simply speaking those very things. Fathers were often "thesilent partner" in the marriage, and the unknown figure in the family. Dan felt that hisdistance from his father was due to his not knowing "how to father properly" and experiencedtypical communication difficulties such as being afraid to tell his father about himself.Schwartz (1988) studied the adult sons' experience of emotionally absent versusemotionally present fathers and found that emotional presence was characterized by father'sability to be both nurturant and instrumental. However, fathers who were predominantlynurturant were perceived as not "manly" enough. We can reasonably suspect that some ofthese fathers' parental styles were guided by similar fears of appearing "feminine". Marty'sperception was that his father wasn't around very much and he remembers even as a youngboy not being able to tell if his father was happy or angry with him. He attributes much ofthis to his father's concern with being a "man's man", saying his father believed "you do notexpress feelings of affection between men". He believes his father "stuffed" all of hisfeelings inside until they eventually blew when he had an aneurism, so that Marty appreciatesthe cost of male inexpressiveness, although he had no male model for being otherwise.The role of the father in "masculine" violent and aggressive behaviour by sons has110been studied by Brownfield (1987). He found that physical presence or absence of father wasunrelated to aggression in adolescents but identification with a father figure was a significantbarrier to violent behaviour. Father absent research generally has shown that it is the qualityof the relationship that is important, rather than the particular style - masculine, feminine orotherwise - of the parenting (May, 1992). The presence of the father has however been foundto be more important to male development than the quality of the relationship (Kay, 1989).(ii) A tradition of primary responsibility for the economic needs of the family and excessidentification with the role of provider have been frequently described as the major reasonfor father's lack of involvement with their children (Keene, 1991). Research has found thatworking class fathers seem to spend more time with their children (Hwang, 1987), suggestingthat it may indeed be a question of excess when fathers attend more to providing thanrelating. Kevin's father worked shift work for 25 years and we frequently saw, in his story,some of the toll this took on his demeanour, his relationships and his ability to father hischildren. However, Kevin did not complain that his father was a stranger who was awaymuch of the time. He did in fact, make time to coach boys' athletics. Bruce, Kyle and Rickall complained that their white collar fathers would not take the time to play with them.Certainly many men mentioned their father's absence, often because "he worked toomuch". Brent remembers his father starting a new construction venture which meant that, asa teenager, he hardly ever saw his dad. Gord's father would leave the family for months ata time while he attended or taught courses in other cities. Rick's father would leave thehouse every night after dinner to go back to the office to work late into the night. Kyle'sfather travelled for his work and was frequently gone from the family for weeks at a time.Still, the complaint that father was unavailable because of work did not come throughthese interviews as strongly as might be expected and other issues seem also to be important.Several men complained that they didn't believe that necessity forced their fathers to workso much. For example, Kyle, Gord and Rick came as adults to doubt that their father'scommitment to work was the only reason for their absence, believing that also they liked theirprivacy and were escaping from mother or family involvement, something that Kyle at least111had begun to understand in himself.(iii) Gord felt that his father escaped from the family into his own private world becauseof his mother who was "the dragon" and he the timid angel, "hiding out from life"."Even when he was there, he wasn't there... he'd usually be down in hisworkshop, which was his shrine - that was my introduction to how to runaway from life - if he was at home that was where he was. And he wouldmake tiny miniatures. He was unbelievable with his hands, he could doanything... he was so concentrated, so completely away from what was goingon around him. That was where he was and you didn't go into his workshopwhen he was there: it was sacrosanct."Gord spent a great deal of effort trying to understand this distant character who would stayup late at night, staring at the test tube pattern on the TV, smoking cigarettes. He believesthat he was thinking about the missed opportunities in his life. Another time Gord alsoobserved his father, staring vacantly:"We'd be on the beach and my dad would be staring. We'd be runningaround picking up glass and everything and my dad would be staring at theedge of the sea and he'd just stand there like this, staring off into the horizonfor about 20 minutes. And I used to think, I'd wonder what he's looking atand I remember writing a poem about it when I got older, that he was, his eyewas on the horizon but his mind was further away than that. That's the imageof my dad, he was like that."It was the younger men in the sample, Gord, Rick and Marty who most intenselyexperienced their fathers as strangers. It may be that they have only just begun to turn theirfocus on him and realized how little they knew about him. The older men like Frank andPaul had many more years to relate to and understand their fathers as an adult, and to cometo terms with how he was and perhaps how much like him they had become. There is alsoa generational difference between these older men in terms of what they expect in the wayof relationship with their fathers.One of the factors which precluded emotional closeness with fathers was the extentto which sons were afraid of their fathers. The role many fathers play as disciplinarian isrelated to this fact but also the fact of not understanding his moods or his distance left sonsunsettled and wary of trying to approach him. It is perhaps not unintended that frequently112irritable fathers create considerable emotional distance around themselves. An example, againfrom Gord, shows how this fear of a cranky father can make relationship with him verydifficult."My brother - once we were cleaning out the car and he said "go wash themats". And my brother didn't hear him but was just like me, he was tooafraid to ask dad "what do you mean, what?" So he went downstairs and dadsays "what's he doing, go find out what he's doing". So I went down thereand there's D. with a scrub brush and soap all over the scrub brush and hehas about 15 packets of matches and he was washing the matches. And I said,"what are you doing?" He said "dad told me to wash the matches". I said"he told you to wash the matches?" And I didn't even question it, I went Phh?So, I went outside and Dad said "what's D. doing?" And I said "he'swashing the matches you told him to do". And dad looks on the ground andthere's the mats and he walks in and D. is in there washing the matches andhe goes up and he just WHAACK across the top of the head. "Think man! Isaid MATS". That was my dad. Fuck, my poor brother. He must have justbeen confused, it must have made no sense to him at all. He had about 15 ofthem and there was soap and he was scrubbing them with a brush."It has been argued that males are stereotypically poor at empathically understandingothers (Basow, 1986) and scenes such as this suggest that this indeed may play an importantpart in the extent to which fathers are strangers in their families. We have already discusseda number of other factors which contribute to this experience of father as aloof, distant, alienor altogether missing. The relationship with mother, traditional role expectations such asproviding and needing to appear "masculine" (which often merely means tough) are importantvariables. Evolving social expectations of family functioning towards emotional support(Freeman, 1991) may be critical as well. The very question asked in this work, aboutrelationship of son with father, could be construed as a stereotypically "feminine" concernemphasizing connection over independence.Father absent studies suffer the problem common to social science research ofconfounding variables (Lamb, 1986) but there is no doubt that physical absence or emotionaldistance is a widespread and deleterious feature of the experience by many sons of theirfathers. The social trend of fathers playing less of a role in family life is troubling andshould be resisted vigorously.1132.^ Image: Father as Hero? Images of fatherThe strength of influence of a father as a role model is related to how his characteris perceived by the son. As we have seen, power, ability to reward, attractiveness andsalience determines the clarity of a role model which in theory is mimicked when there isexpectation of some kind of reward (Miller, 1983). The social image a son presents of hisfather gives a strong indication of how powerful a model he provides and thus to what extentsons will mimic their fathers. Generally, sons in this sample were able to describe arelatively objective picture of their father which was often quite distinct from their experienceof him personally. The selection of images from respondents presented next is intended toportray this apparent disinterest, although in every case, significant judgements and personalreflections are nested into the observations which will also influence how receptive the sonis to modelling his father. Despite the origin of social learning theory in behaviourism,relatively unconscious, internal processes such as evaluation and appraisal are important tothis modelling mechanism (Bandura, 1969). Many men remarked on how alike their fathersthey find themselves becoming, only as adults coming to realize the power of intimatelywitnessing his behaviour.Rick:"He wasn't the top of his class but I always saw him as being the top of hisclass. He's a very well respected man in municipal engineering, he knowsquite a few of the top guys and he's treasurer of his fraternity. Gets lettersfrom all over the U.S. He's still involved now, and he graduated in 54."Kevin:"It was a typical small town with small industry. Dad worked in a placewhere they made plexiglass. It had one streetlight and two pubs. We had arocky relationship. He had a rocky relationship with pretty much everybody...he was not the most beloved character... the kids on the team loved him. Theyplayed their hearts out for him. He had a good rapport, but not so good asa parent. Or with other parents. They didn't like his style. He was prettyrough around the edges. His drinking and his language..."114Dave:"He believes in community, he believes in family. My dad is on the municipalcouncil. He's been involved in that for probably the last 20 years. He's wellthought of And I think people think of him as a good farmer. But hecertainly doesn't tell anybody that or come across that way. He's veryhomespun, what you see is what you get."Gord:"He's the kind of person that you'd say 'invite him to the party', cause he sitsdown at the piano and he goes nuts. And his friends are accomplished people,people from the symphony orchestra. When he has a party, he's got singersand dancers there and playwrights there and drama teachers...his parties arealways interesting..."We can see from the ironic statements about images of father how the degree to whicha son judges his father's social position harshly will be influenced somewhat by the ethos ofchanging times, as well perhaps as how he judges himself.Father as hero Success, accomplishments, friendships with peers and image in the community are allfactors which combine together to form a global view of father as a man. If he succeeds onall those counts, he may well serve as a hero to his son. It is a familiar question whetherfathers should be heroic models for their sons inspiring their actions in the world, as ifheroism is a necessary component of the successful father. Leaving aside for the momentthe issue of whether this is a realistic or even functional possibility or whether it is limitedto a particular developmental stage, we first examine the processes and evidence supportingsuch a dynamic.Whether sons perceived their fathers as a hero would be influenced by interpersonalor relationship factors as well as the more objective considerations already mentioned. It maybe that in order for a man to consider his father a hero, he has first to move away frominterpersonal considerations about father which focus on what the son needs or expects fromhim personally, to begin to see him as a man living his life and not just as the man who is"my" father. There are two opposing forces involved for fathers and sons here. If the manis closely and personally involved with his son in what might be called a nurturant oremergent role as a father, he may not be able to be at the same time the infallible or heroic115figure which many boys apparently expect. Preconceived notions about what a proper fathershould be contributes toward inhibiting this idealization of father. The important questionmay be what compels a man to want to see his father in this light, what need this serves. Itis probable that close ego identification with father endures so that if a man condemns hisfather, he also feels condemned, perhaps unconsciously, himself. A subsequent importantquestion becomes "what factors contribute to preventing such a perception - where do thesepreconceptions or standards of measure come from?" What are the problems with idolizingone's father?The importance to individuals of having and becoming heroes has been recognizedin family therapy recently (Freeman, 1991). The hero provides a model to strive towards inone's life and a way of seeing one's own struggles which gives them meaning. The first andmost important hero in children's life will normally be their parents. It is becoming moredifficult however for fathers to adequately serve as heroes to their sons than ever before.Here in North American culture, with our ambitious "American dream" expectationsand notions about the inevitable march of progress, it is not usually seen as enough for a sonto repeat what his father has done: he should also use the advantage of his father's work andthe advancements of modern times to get even further ahead. This however creates theproblem that if a son should surpass his father, he is likely to begin to feel ashamed of him,that he becomes an embarrassment or a weight of the past holding his son back. Bruce tolda story about exceeding his father's understanding of the world at the age of 12 and livingfrom then on with a sense of intellectual superiority which never quite made up for hisfather's superior physical abilities. His ability to defeat his father intellectually but notphysically left him feeling both embarrassed by his father's ignorance and also shamed byhis prowess."I remember when I was late pre-adolescent, maybe 12 or 13 - there was amuch increased level of tension or intolerance between my father and me. Iwas doing really well in school and I was really quite an avid reader, I reallyliked the sciences and I was always reading about technical and scientificsubjects. And we took - he bought his first car in 1961 because he needed itto do the travelling for the sales work that he was now engaged in - and thefirst holiday that we ever took was to P .E. I. We'd never had much of a116holiday in the summer before because we had never been able to get awayfrom the city. Here we were on the Eastern seaboard and it was the first timeI ever remember seeing the ocean. We were walking along the beach and thePrince Edward island shore is quite amazing. Its red sedimentary rock andthe soil is red...And we'd be walking along there and we'd be walking over the tides' cause you could walk at low tide but you couldn't walk at high tide and sothe tides were a really amazing thing to see, because I'd never seen thembefore. But I'd read enough about them that I said " Yeah well the tides arecaused by the influence of the moon and the sun pulling the water on thesurface of the earth around. The earth's water has a bulge that tracks themovement of the moon and it tracks the movement of the sun.This was completely unacceptable, my father was unwilling to hear thatI might know about how the tides were caused. He was convinced that whenyou got outside the earth's atmosphere, there was no gravity. He'dunderstood this I guess, from some of the coverage of the sputniks and thesatellites of the late fifties. There was no gravity outside the earth'satmosphere and so it was impossible, impossible that you could ever have themoon pulling the earth's oceans around, or the sun pulling the earth's oceansaround. Well I knew that this was not right, I knew that gravity was workingwhether you were inside or outside the earth's atmosphere, gravity was whatwas holding the solar system together, gravity was what held the galaxytogether. Gravity was the transmission medium by which the moon and thesun attracted the moon and made the tides.I remember being very upset that I couldn' t get this very elementaryidea through to my father. He wouldn't accept that I had read up and had anunderstanding of the tides. This was a sign of the kind of tension, rivalry andstubbornness between us. And its an indicator to me that already I was verydistant from him."Media and modem times In times of rapid social changes, such as we have seen in North America over the pastfifty years, the gains and lessons which fathers have taken from life, are likely to be lessrelevant and useful at instructing sons about their lives.Because of rapid technological development, many 12 year old boys are already far moreskilled with computers, video games and other electronic equipment than their fathers willever be. The life experience of fathers must seem ever more trivial to these boys and thedynamic of outclassed family hero becomes even more acute. Even for Dan from Sri Lanka,a similar experience with changing social standards limits the usefulness of his father'sexample. In his case it is the father's experience of having an arranged marriage which is117not helpful for Dan who chose his wife and, as a "modern" man, now looks down on thosewho continue the tradition of arranged marriages. He has however, never been sure that hechose his wife wisely and his marriage is very rocky.When personal heroes fail many boys turn to modern media. Music, film and sportsstars serve as inspiration for sons and the possibility of knowing them intimately throughextensive media coverage including advertising, makes their impact as role models verypowerful. These figures may well seem more accessible than it is to their own father. Againheroic images of one's own father will certainly fade in relation to these larger than lifecharacters. For a time Marty's dad was the star pitcher "up there on the mound", but heended up paralysed from a stroke and drank heavily before his death. Rick, a talented athlete,bemoaned his father's lack of support for his sports activities and expressed the wish to havea "father like Gretzky", to whom Wayne apparently credits his success. TV fathers don't helpby providing images of buffoons (Homer Simpson, Al Bundy), unrealistically perfect fathers(Cosby, Ben Cartwright) or spineless nice guys (Ward Cleaver).The recent Spielberg movie "Hook" is an interesting media case in point. Its majortheme concerns the poverty of the relationship between a grown up Peter Pan(ning), now amean business executive, and his resentful son. The boy begins to fall sway to the pirate,Hook who, unlike the father, is kind and attentive to him Peter regains his power to fly onlyafter his great struggle to find a single happy thought: this is achieved by remembering thebirth of his son. Naturally, he regains a heroic position with the son by mobilizing the lostboys and defeating the pirates. Although the movie powerfully pushes the importance ofinvolved fathering, it is also disturbing in its reliance for a vision of a mature and heroicfather on a man who refuses to grow up. Modern media contains a profound shortage ofmature, realistic father figures.Male development One of the central themes from Gilmore's descriptive account of manhood in variouscultures (1990) is that males become men by learning to turn away from pain and to conquerthe impulse to run from danger. The concept of hero is woven right into the core of thismasculine ideal. The component of the American dream which demands heroes who conquer118difficulty and inspire us in our lives, presents a special difficulty involving appropriatedistance for fathers. When they have fathers who do in fact succeed well in their lives, it canpresent an image which intimidates sons and actually inhibit them from striving because theyfear that they will never be able to match their fathers' accomplishments. On the other hand,if, as is the case with Bruce, the son does manage to surpass the father's achievements, fatherwill not be able to play the role of hero but instead becomes a liability. This is one of themost central difficulties to a father and son relationship. When a father believes it isnecessary that he teach his sons, in some way, this painful lesson about controlling pain andfear, it will create tension, resistance and conflict which, until the lesson is "learned", the soninterprets as proof of lack of heroic virtue in his father. The improving relationships oldermen seemed to have with their fathers may be related to their eventually accepting thislesson.The expectations we have that sons exceed their fathers and that fathers are heroes fortheir sons appear to be inherently incompatible and may only be reconciled by theirapplication at different developmental stages. Seeing father unfailingly as hero may beappropriate while sons are young and father appears an all powerful figure. It has beensuggested that de-idealization of father initiates adolescence for a boy and the "mental work"during that period is to re-establish father as a viable and meaningful figure (Atkins, 1989).For many of the men in this sample, this re-establishment "work" had not been completedeven into their thirties. Mutual respect has been found to be key to good relations betweenfathers and adult sons (Nydegger & Mittleness, 1991). This maturity may retain somethingof the hero's ability to inspire, but the adult task, according to Freeman (1991), is to "be yourown hero".It is an interesting commentary on our society and the state of relations within ourfamilies that unlike the dominant white culture, Innuit children have been found to identifytheir heroes as intimate family members, despite popular exposure to much mainstream media(Vancouver Sun, June 25/92). In mainstream culture, interpersonal dynamics and socialimages seem to prevent perceiving fathers - or other family members - in this light. Davehas attempted to maintain a pure and heroic vision of his father but it has been tempered by119a slight condescension and a lot of disappointment in his father's lack of strength to stand uptowards his mother. He still doesn't want to believe that his father had an affair 17 years agobecause this would tarnish the image Dave has of him Gord cheered when his father finallyhad an affair - this was a heroic act of standing up to his mother - at 17, it gave Gord licenseto begin to talk back to his mother himself. Marty, like Dave, has tried hard to find hisfather heroic and for example blames the failure to make it in professional sports on sabotagefrom his grandparents. However, in the face of his father's failure to perform socially valuedtasks - to be responsible and to provide for his family - this is an difficult endeavour. In asong which Marty wrote, the vital teaching from his father is prefaced with the line "son mylife's been wasted, so this you gotta hear ...".What purpose does it serve to have heroes in one's life, especially those from our ownfamily? Certainly, it can assist open communication and affection between both parties. Ifsons believe their fathers are heroes, they will be more likely to learn and model themselveson lessons from his real life situation. Mentoring by a respected elder has been identified asan important learning model for both the mentor and protege as a way of facilitating learningand growth and of easing mid-life transitions (Auster, 1984; Levinson, 1978). Finally, theactions of those we hold heroic can inspire us to surpass ourselves in our deeds. The attemptto see their fathers as heroes is an important part of the way sons try to see themselves in alight which gives meaning to their own lives.1203.^ Role: Father as providerHistorically, it has probably always been the case that the human father's primarycontribution to the reproductive process is that of providing food and shelter for mother andchild. Certainly, in North American post war families, the major division of labour in thefamily defined father as the breadwinner and mother the nurturer for the family. Theoverwhelming social expectation continues to be that men should become productivemembers of society, contributing by working for wages to support themselves, their familyand society. To a considerable extent, how well men manage at this task still determines thesocial recognition they receive and is thus likely to contribute far more to their self esteemthan how well they actually relate to their children. Our culture's primary message to malesabout their job as fathers has been that they must be responsible parents by which we usuallymean they should provide well for their children. The father's continued obligation toprovide, irrespective of whether he is actually involved with the children, has been describedas "social, moral and natural" (Wolins, 1983).This powerful identification of males with the role of provider influences therelationship between every father and son. The sons in this study invariably identified theirfathers in this role and judged his life in terms of this success or failure. Despite the repeatedcomplaint that "he worked too much", the images of fathers were often highly influenced byhow sons perceived his financial success. Frank, for example, was highly satisfied with hisrelationship with his father. He claimed "he was my hero" of the man who "always hadplenty of money" and ran a business employing 37 people. Frank's father was able to offerFrank a job and to give him money to buy a house after he was married. He taught Frankhow to make decisions which took into account the concerns of everybody involved, in effecthow to be a boss. Marty's case is at the other end of the extreme. He struggled to feelrespect and rapport with a father who was unemployed much of the time. It was his motherwho got Marty a summer job at the factory where she worked and to whom he gave hisearnings as a boy of 12, to help out while his father was hospitalized. That the men in oursociety are judged primarily for their financial success certainly influences how sons see their121fathers and thus the relationships they have together.The model which a father sets as a provider remains with their sons as a powerfulfactor influencing their own working lives. Several men mentioned how, as boys, they hadseen their fathers as having little or no choice in terms of orientation to career and money.As they matured and considered career decisions themselves as men, they often reassessedjudgements of their fathers' lives in terms of his commitment to these aspects of his life. Theolder men were more likely to be accepting and respectful of their fathers' example and thedecisions they made themselves were often based on lessons learned from his example.Younger men were more likely to be critical. Kevin, for example, who has not yet begun toraise a family, saw his father as having been trapped at a shift work job in a dead end townwhich he determined to escape. Kyle left his job with a prestigious corporation in order togain more control over his life. Dave determined at the age of 13 that he would escape fromlife on his father's farm.The modern pattern of father's daily absence from the home in order to labour forwages began with the rise of industrialism. It has been blamed for the deterioration ofintimacy between fathers and their families (Bly, 1990). We have seen how many sonsviewed their fathers as strangers, playing only peripheral parts in the daily emotional life ofthe family because of their involvement as providers. Prior to the industrial revolution andwidespread urbanization, the entire family unit was more likely to be involved in productionfor the support of the family (Demos, 1983). The example of Frank's family where everyoneis employed in the family business is a throwback to rural lifestyles. Paul's father tried, withlimited success, to create an economically communal family with his adult children.The tendency for fathers to be completely absent from family view for a fixed periodevery day was not as pronounced in the sample as might be expected. A surprising numberof boys helped out with their father's business as teenagers, or their father's workplace wasaccessible to them as children - at the garage, sawmill, grocery store, gas station, cafe,antique store or the farm. Being able to observe father at work was important to the sons.Traditional occupations that allows such flexibility appear to be disappearing in our moderneconomy. Some of the enigmatic quality many men perceive in relation to their fathersoriginates when as children they see him disappear daily from the family to a work life that122often remains a mystery.Historically, with the withdrawal of children and then of women from the paidworkforce, the family became completely dependent upon father as provider. In this sample,only Marty's mother provided more for the family financially than the father. Rick's motherworked for an income, particularly after the boys grew up, but Rick still resented that hisfather had kept her on an allowance believing this to be evidence of some meanness of hisfather. Bruce's mother was unable to function when the divorce with her husband demandeddecisions about fmancial matters and Bruce had to negotiate on her behalf. It is interestingto note that as the family's financial dependence on fathers grew in post industrial economies,this coincided with a trend for them to become emotional outsiders or strangers within thefamily itself, compounding their difficult position in relation to the family.One historical trend we can identify is the increasing narrowness of the role for fathersof the baby boom generation: society has left for fathers few substantial tasks to do, otherthan provide (Lasch, 1978). This is in part typical of the movement towards greaterspecialization and "experts" within society and some would say part of an attack on theintegrity of the human family (Mount, 1982), but it is especially significant in the context ofmuch diminished family size. This latter fact may also be partially implicated in themovement of women into the workforce, simply because there are less children around toparent.Pleck (1987) argued that there were four eras of North American fathering: in the 19thcentury it was that of father as moral guardian, then breadwinner in the early 20th century,sex role enforcer in the post war generation and now what has been termed the new nurturantor emergent father (Pleck, 1987; Lamb, 1986; Fein, 1978). Like that of father as protector,the first role of father as guardian and teacher of morality has largely vanished. Bothfunctions have been replaced by societal institutions (legal and educational) which leftfathers' responsibilities - and opportunities to interact meaningfully with their children - muchdiminished (Lasch, 1978). Rick told of his father trying to help him with high schoolmathematics, but giving up in frustration because he had no comprehension of the level whichhis son understood. Several generations earlier, he would have been responsible for Rick'sentire education. Similarly, Gord told a story about going out with his father in order to try123to protect him from some "biker types", in a scene concerning father as protector in a wayvery few men are involved in anymore.Because of the age of the sample, the impact of "emergent fathering" was not evidentwith fathers in this study although it has been noted how sons' evaluations of their fatherswere influenced by changing social expectations on gender appropriate behaviour. Thisauthor would argue that the evolution of both of these roles however, moral teacher andnurturer, are actually driven by changes to the economic order and the social structures bywhich we organize our production and reproduction, and that the provider role remainsparamount for most men in modern North American culture. Pleck's idea that fathers wereexpected by society to instil gender appropriate characteristics in their sons, only seems tomake sense in the context of his regular absence from the family which is probably theoverriding fact about fathers in the modern era. Bruce and Marty for example, bothcomplained about having to deal with stereotypical sex role expectations from their fathers,but both also complained that he was never around and they felt alienated from him.Absence on a daily basis from the family creates a situation whereby learning about sexappropriate behaviour from fathers was no longer possible by example so that more overt andprobably coercive forms of teaching became necessary. The slowly emerging nurturant fathercan be seen as a social response attempting to fill the vacuum and balance the workload asmore women moved back into the paid workforce over the past twenty years, althoughserious obstacles remain.The combination of perceived tough economic times and the move by women into theworkforce over the past decades created a situation where the ability of fathers to provide fortheir new families in the manner of their fathers is very difficult. Those with a self imagestill wedded to their financial success will suffer. The conflict for fathers having to balancebetween providing and nurturing becomes exaggerated. Those men who choose not toorganize their lives around career will be at some disadvantage not only economically but inmating as well: there is evidence that male mates are selected preferentially on the basis oftheir earning ability (Buss, 1988).Some of the families of these subjects experienced important work related eventsincluding primary income earner's loss of jobs, occupational changes and the moving of124families due to career considerations. Such events invariably stress the family dynamics. Itis significant that although men report that family is more important to them than career, theyspend no more time with their children than fathers did a generation ago (Cowan &Bronstein, 1988).The issue of perceived financial responsibility and identification of the father asprovider is one of the most pervasive aspects of the role. It can create powerful obstaclesfor those wishing to foster stronger father involvement in the emotional life of the family.Given, its long history and the continued rewards for this focus in our society however, it isa difficult area for change can occur. The large scale movement of women into the paidworkforce may eventually help to erode some of the extremes of this identification forfathers. Beyond that, we should remember in assessing our priorities that children are ourreal wealth.125Chapter VIICONCLUSIONA. SummaryThis study investigated the father and son relationship in attempting to identify anddescribe some of the important factors which impact upon these relationships.The importance of the father to family life in general and to developmental growthof children in particular was long overlooked by social science research. Over the past 15years that lack has been rectified to some extent by psychological attention to the part fathersplay during infant development and by sociological attention to fathers' participation inchildrearing and in domestic duties overall (Lamb, 1986b). Gender specific feministinvestigation has inspired both of these fields of study with concerns both for thepsychological health and development of children and especially for equitable arrangementsin the family workload. This concern with fathers has not yet been established in social workor family therapy and much of that literature, when it does address fathers at all, is limitedto a concern with the role fathers play in social pathology of various types (Grief & Bailey,1990).More recently, a burgeoning men's movement has widely identified fathers as aprimary concern for many men who are actively examining masculinity and their role as men(for example Bly, 1990; Keene, 1991). A longing for more intimate relationship withfrequently absent or distant fathers has become a familiar plaint at gatherings of men acrossNorth America. The emotional distance of fathers has been described as one of the mostcritical facts about fatherhood today (Comeau, 1991). Physical absence of fathers has beena concern of researchers searching for evidence of what impact it has for children to growup without fathers. Although absent father research as such has lost much of its impetus, theexperience of absent or remote fathering has grown profoundly for many individuals. Thishas occurred because as divorce rates rose, mothers have remained the primary parent andbecause economic pressures continue to compel most men to focus solely on the componentof the father role which proclaims that they should provide for families.126Through feminist theory, gender specific investigations have generally downplayed theimportance of inherent differences and attacked the presumption that indicate that sex shoulddetermine role while on the other hand, emphasizing the difference in socializationexperiences for males and females and usually advocated reduction of these social differences.The present study hoped to unravel what gender specific aspects of father and sonrelationships might best be considered "fixed" or relatively immutable, and what would besuitable as a focus for change. The transmission of masculinity is a primary function offather son relationships and this study looked for indications of how that occurs. It wassuspected that a general inadequacy of this process was linked to the father hunger that haswidely been voiced.The past decade or so has, as we have seen, witnessed a concerted research effortwhich also often spilled over into the popular media, proclaiming the "new father" and tellinghim how to be and do things differently than his father did. The truth is that men areprobably "fathering" less, despite this effort (Radin, 1986; Pleck, 1987). Why? Theexperience men have of their father will be one important factor in their decisions aboutwhether and how to "father". It may also be that the agenda to "father" more nurturantly hasnot come from the men themselves but rather as a response to women's demands for morehelp at home, as they move into the workforce. A third factor might be related to attemptsto change male psychology, based on prior social science work which was dominated bymales but did not necessarily nor deliberately describe male psychological experience. Thisstudy hoped to contribute to our understanding about male psychology and the dynamics ofmen as fathers and sons. It is believed that men will father well only because it conformsin some way to their experience and understanding of the world.This study was an exploratory attempt to describe father and son relationshipslongitudinally. It used qualitative interviews and analysis to obtain and evaluate narrativedata about fathers and sons. Twelve respondents to advertisements seeking adult men tospeak about their relationship with their fathers were interviewed for about 90 minutes each.Respondents were limited to men over the age of 30 and ranged up to 54, with a median of35. The interviews consisted of relatively open ended questions and the soliciting of familystories. Respondents were asked to relate an incident which stuck out in their memory from127successive time periods, beginning before about age 8, from then until 13, another from 14to 19 or leaving home and finally a story or incident involving themselves and their fatheras an adult, preferably recently, if the father was still alive. Further questions about imagesof father, family, self and awareness of his influence, were addressed to fill in the picture ofthe relationship and to gain some family context for the stories. Particularly for those menwho did not have a wealth of stories, these latter questions (Appendix C) provided much ofthe material provided.Important limitations of the study arise from the sampling method which was the useof self selected volunteers. It cannot be considered a broadly representative sample and maybe biased toward men who have significant personal concerns with their fathers. More firstborn sons than would be expected volunteered and about one third had been involved withcounselling previously. The rather small sample was limited by convenience and resources,although a wealth of data was obtained from the 12 interviews.B. Results: ThemesInterviews were transcribed verbatim and then a summary formulated for each subject(Appendix D). The father and son story material was organized and grouped into agesegments and some initial themes and typical concerns for each age bracket described(Appendix E). Data was then coded and compiled into groups of factors or importantcomponents and aspects of the relationships. These were derived from prior literature,discussion with informed sources and from the interviews themselves. The analysis returnedrepeatedly to the data in order to verify this method of accreting data into a series of 9themes. Themes were grouped, 3 into each of 3 categories or areas of concern; personal,family and social.The personal themes attempt to isolate factors which involve development of self foreither father or son that impact upon their relationship, including conflict, rivalry andapproval. The family themes discuss fathers and sons in relationship to the family context128in which they exist - the impact of mother, developmental passages and multigenerationalfactors are identified as particularly important in this respect. The third level of themesconcerns the influence of societal factors upon father and son relations and the tendency tofathers' absence, his image to the son and his commitment to the particular role of providerare particularly salient topics which emerged.1. Personal Themes Personal themes highlighted the difficulty and challenges in creating possibilities forgrowth and connection between fathers and sons interpersonally.i) Rivalry: father as competitorRivalry between father and son was experienced importantly in many relationships andis of course predicted by the Freudian account of formation of male gender identity (Freud,1905/1949). From a baby son's arrival until his departure from the home, sons displace, tosome extent, fathers from their central place in the mothers' affections. Those men who wereconscious that they felt rivalry with their fathers, were especially aware of it during theirsexual maturation. It manifested typically as feelings of closeness and safety with mother andtension, conflict or fear with father. He was often a threatening figure to these men. Asadults, men with a stronger sense of father as rival also tended to still have major problemsin gaining approval from their fathers. Similarly, they seemed to have problems as adults inestablishing careers and intimate relationships.The proposal that a son must figuratively slay his father has been described inpsychoanalytic literature as the "Laius complex" (Ross, 1982). As well as his son, Laiusexperienced their rivalry and so attempted to block Oedipus' path on his route to becomeking. This myth highlights the ambivalence which marks these relationships: maturing sonscan fulfil fathers' dreams of legacy, yet also remind him of his mortality and thus threatenhis domination. No father and son can hope to completely avoid issues of rivalry betweenthem.129ii) Conflict: father as foeConflict and violence was also a theme which became evident as men discussed theirfathers. The point at which a son becomes physically stronger than his father is often animportant moment in the relationship, although generally the power fathers have in terms ofemotional and financial forces continue well beyond this period of time. Challenging thedomination of father is a feature of these relationships which can help sons in developing asense of self. Several sons voiced regret that they had not yet attempted this challenge andfelt importantly "stuck" in relation to father, and by extension, in relations with other men.Even when physical violence was not at issue between fathers and sons, whether forconflict resolution or for minor discipline, most men described something of the physicalnature of their relationship. The father's role has been identified as transforming theaggression of their sons (Atkins, 1989) and clearly fathers can help children of both sex tocome to terms with their physical energy. It is important to remember that the conflict andoccasional violence that occurs between fathers and sons - sometimes quite wildly - can beprofitably seen to have a function in the process of separation and individuation for sons fromfathers. We cannot expect it to disappear unless we provide other means to facilitate thisprocess.iii) Approval: father as judgeThe gaining and giving of approval was also found to be a major theme of thepersonal relationships: sons engage in myriad behaviours which are designed to solicit theapproval of father and clearly, fathers judge, and are expected to judge, their sons. Veryfrequently, this approval seeking behaviour was frustrated by a lack of attention from fatheror an inability to determine what actions would succeed in gaining his approval. Despite itsapparent prevalence, it seems likely to be an activity which is inherently unrewarding.Again an examination of the functionality behind such behaviour may help us tounderstand this dynamic. For fathers, the ability to pass judgement is both a confirmationof their position and an opportunity to pass on their knowledge and wisdom. Often theywithhold praise in order to teach and direct their sons. The types of behaviours approved aredirectly influenced by how well they affirm the fathers' own choices and values. Their own130sense of satisfaction with life, attitudes to interpersonal relations and clarity of personalboundaries is therefore important.Sons seek approval in order to feel safe with a more powerful figure, to gainfeedback about their own growth and choices particularly in regard to "becoming a man", andto give back to fathers genuine regard. They are especially frustrated when apparentlyobstinate fathers seem to continually test rather than praise them and when the choices thefathers would praise seem to have no relevance to the sons' situations. By withholdingaltogether, fathers often seem to be indirectly attempting to convey the message that seekingthe approval of others never satisfies.2. Family themes Family themes examine influences which closely impact upon the ability of fathersand sons to maintain a strong or positive relationship within the context of their immediatesocial environment.i) Mother, the pivotal parentMother is overwhelmingly seen as the primary parent both in the social scienceliterature and in society: plainly, children are believed to need their mother. She also playsan important, often crucial role in the relations between fathers and sons. Frequently she isthe intermediary between fathers and children, interpreting him for them and otherwisefacilitating and controlling communication in the family. She often serves to triangle ordefuse anxiety which builds up between fathers and sons.Sons in this study experienced themselves being caught up in conflicts between theirmothers and fathers, often feeling trapped, manipulated, hopeless and eventually resentful inregard to questions of loyalty between parents. Conflict between sons and a parent wasinfluenced by the closeness or not of the other parent, in a functional kind of arrangementthat made hating one parent ok if love was still experienced with the other. Some sons werejealous that father seemed less interested in them than in their mother.Territorial issues between fathers and mothers such as division of "turf' haveimportant impact upon sons. Many sons only described memorable encounters with fatherswhich occur with distance from the family home. Within the home, father was clearly on131mom's turf and so the impact of his presence was often diminished. Mother was frequentlydescribed as the powerful figure in the family and father as the forgotten man. If fathers'role is to help sons break overly intense emotional bonds with mothers, his involvement inthe life of his sons must be established more powerfully than it was for many of these sons.ii) Father's father: multigenerational influenceSons often were able to reconcile the experience they had of their father byrecognizing the impact of his experience with his own parents. The sons who spoke in detailof their fathers' own family experiences seemed to have gained a sense of independencewhich suggested a healthy emotional distance from him. Not infrequently, men claimed tohave wanted to be a different kind of parent than their father was, yet as they aged, they sawhow they were becoming more and more like him.One typical multigenerational pattern was that of being cut off to some degree fromone's family of origin. This was true in at least one of the three generations for most men,either between father and grandfather or father and son. It seems to be very difficult formales to remain highly connected over several generations. The ways they do attempt toremain connected are interesting. Importance is given to names, to lessons learned fromfather, to gifts he has given them and they held onto, and to stories he told them whichilluminated something of who he was or where he came from. When such connectionbetween fathers and sons is maintained, it is a powerful support for men finding their waythrough adult life and it is the absence of such support which has frequently been linked tovarious social pathologies.iii) Father's son: growing upSome literature suggests the existence of developmental stages in father/sonrelationships. Yablonsky (1990) describes the initial period as being a time of ego unity orblending between fathers and sons, the second phase as one of adolescent separation and thefinal being a new mature level which balances connection and independence. The fathers'role has been found to shift with each phase as different challenges confront the relationships(Gordon, 1987).132It is important to identify the particular developmental task for both the father and sonat the different stages. In the earliest stories typically young sons were seeing their fathersbeginning career and family establishment, at ages similar to those of the adult sons duringthe interview. It is especially during this stage that calls for nurturant fathering is made. Atadolescence, sons begin to explore and need flexibility while their fathers are generally wellentrenched in tasks such as career and family consolidation (Erikson, 1950) which requirerigid commitment, so it is not surprising to see conflict frequently arise. Fathers may feela need to "step back" at this stage in order to manage tension and allow growth. Fathersoften assisted the sons to move out of the home, offering new and sometimes surprisingsupport for sons. As adults, mutual respect has been found to be the most important factorin successful father/son relations (Nydegger & Mitteness, 1991). Unfortunately, this stageis not always achieved by the time of the death of the father.3. Societal Themes Social learning theory and gender specific investigations note that the father sonrelationship is the crucial means of transmission of masculinity from one generation to thenext.i) Absence: father as strangerOne of the most commonly made observations about fathers is that they are oftenstrangers in their own families. The physical absence and emotional distance of fathers isa troubling phenomenon reaching epidemic proportions in society currently and has been aconcern of researchers at least since the second world war. Although they almost invariablylived with their fathers until leaving home, the sons in this study all made comments like "wedidn't do much together", or "we didn't talk about things", or "there was a great gap there".The reasons for such lack of father involvement are surely myriad, but severalimportant categories of causes can be identified. Stereotypical masculinity often seems toprevent communication of an emotional nature between men. Relationship itself may be a"feminine" topic to focus upon. Other role requirements are paramount for many fathers,particularly his highly developed sense of obligation to provide. Fear of fathers and struggles133for influence with mother also seem to prevent closeness between fathers and sons.This absence primarily means a lack of a strong gender appropriate role model andadult guidance for the sons. Research evidence has found that boys raised without fathersare likely to have lower cognitive development, greater anti-social behaviour and possiblymore sex role rigidity. Reliance upon mothers, the education system and the media for boysto learn about male models is surely insufficient investment in their future.ii) Images: Father as heroThe objective images a son describes of his father tells us much about how salient andpowerful a model he provides. Innuit children select intimate family members as heroes,unlike mainstream children who, rather disturbingly, tend to name figures known through themedia. That we expect a son to idealize his father as the hero is an image at the core of themasculine ideal. A number of obstacles towards sons perceiving fathers in this light can beidentified.If a father is too close or nurturant with his son, he may be perceived as too"unmanly" (Schwartz, 1988) and not heroic. In changing social times, his experience andwisdom is less likely to serve and he may well become an anachronistic embarrassment.Developmentally, the son may have to de-idealize father through adolescence as a part of theprocess of individuation (Atkins, 1989). The minimal amount of contact many sons havewith an absent or uninvolved father means that media figures are frequently better known andclearly more "perfect" heroes for the sons. The media offer few images of mature realisticmale models. Fear and shame of father can easily replace a heroic vision of him.As an adult, the son should perhaps focus more on "being his own hero" (Freeman,1991), but a successful relationship with father will need to include at least a healthy measureof respect for the elder figure.iii) Role: father as providerThe economic function father plays as provider for the family continues to be ourmost important social expectation of fatherhood. Even when he is not involved in any otherway, we expect fathers to "support" the family. Men are judged most importantly by society,134by the family and by himself, for his ability and success in this role: the good father mustfirst and foremost be a solid provider, the successful man earns a good living. Sons learntheir own approach to work from fathers' example and are often pleased to able to say that"he taught me how to work hard".This emphasis on economic provision makes his role far more narrow than even inthe recent past, inhibiting other functions such as teaching and protecting and impactingheavily upon the kind of involvement a father may have with his son. Despite the exclusivityof the function, it is increasingly difficult for fathers, in most places, to provide solely fortheir families. Recent calls for more "nurturant" fathering can be seen as an attemptsocietally to replace some of the lost mothering children receive as women participate morein the paid workforce. Real commitment to involved parenting by men will require strongsocial efforts to break this obsessive pattern of identification of the role of father with theobligations involved in the accumulation of material wealth.C. Implications Although some of the implications of this study are direct and obvious, they mustgenerally be considered as preliminary. This was an exploratory investigation which soughtto identify broad themes and to generate interest and questions about the topic of sons andespecially fathers. It did not attempt to answer specific questions.The primary implication is contained within the original research focus itself: fathersare an important relation. As a social institution, fatherhood is in need of attentionthroughout society, from individuals through to policy makers and including social workers,counsellors, therapists and researchers. The discussion of implications of this study whichfollows focuses on its clinical or therapeutic utility, its considerations for policy makers andits contribution toward further research questions.1. Clinical implications The emphasis in this work has been on the nature of the experience of the adult sons135who were interviewed and the results will primarily be of interest to those working clinicallywith families and family related problems. Social workers and family therapists will wantto encourage in their direct work with individuals and families, an appreciation of theimportance of father participation in family life. They can help to identify the variouspossible problems which arise in relations with father as described herein, and share aperspective that understands these issues as influenced by developmental factors of changeand growth. They can also help families to understand and find ways around some of themultitude of obstacles to father involvement which exist structurally.i) "Fatherly behaviour"The knowledge that fathers often see their role as helping sons struggle to individuateand separate from mothers and from emotional dependency and so become independentindividuals is important for those working clinically with families. Much paternal behaviourthat appears harsh, neglectful or dysfunctional may be gainfully reframed as attempts to helpparticularly their sons in this process. As a researcher listening dispassionately, it is easy tosee this apparent functionality. Of course, the therapist must also be able to help the clientto appreciate this view. At the same time, it may be that fathers could often be profitablyreminded of the importance of maintained connection and the fact that children do manageto establish themselves independently, regardless of paternal intervention. Despite what weoften believe we have learned from our parents, some evidence suggests that it is actually thequality of the relationship which is important (May, 1992). Every parent can profitably bereminded that children learn more from what we do and how we are than from what we sayor attempt to instill.ii) DevelopmentIt is important for those working with families to have a sense of the developmentalprogression of father-son relationships and the interaction of different challenges for theseindividuals within the family dyad as they mature. Developmental thinking has focused onthe missing father in relation to infant attachment and results here confirm theory whichpredicted the difficulties we see in terms of rivalry and conflict prior to meaningful bonding136occurring with sons. It would appear that such bonding frequently does not occur. Theadolescent years are ideally an excellent time for fathers and sons to develop connection,although developmental forces and lingering mothers' influence often inhibits this process.When sons stay stuck in conflict as rivals or subordinates with their fathers, this can continueto foster distance between them well into adult life. Maturing concerns with career, marriageand mortality and their establishment as equals can provide new impetus for sons to heal anddevelop better relations with fathers.It may be that there exists a "developmental window" during this time in which mencan optimally resolve "unfinished business" with father, related to both his approaching deathand sons' current needs. Eventually the power balance shifts towards the sons and agingfathers may experience some of the dependency they knew in their sons. If the connectionhas been maintained, sons can use this opportunity to share some of the nurturance they mayhave missed earlier in the relationship, albeit in a reversed direction.Identifying sons in relation to where they are currently in terms of connectedness,separation or renewal with father will also enlighten us as to a number of self issues for sons.We must remember that whatever the story, the person remembering it and not the actualfacts are the important issue. Even if he is deceased, father almost certainly plays animportant role internally for men between about 30 and 45. Having them focus on theirfather often reawakens a sense of internal measurement and satisfaction or not with self. Thismay be a useful technique for therapists assisting men to "open up" and explore theiremotional lives. The nature of expression of emotions connected to father will tell us muchabout how sons feel about themselves and their lives.iii) Conflict and connectionIt is important to repeat that conflict is often usefully perceived as functional betweenfathers and sons. Where it becomes habitual, certainly intervention may be required, but ingeneral, conflict at appropriate stages can often be welcomed as a sign of fruitful growth inthe relationship. Especially with sons entering adolescence and teenagehood, fathers can bereminded that sons will need to break away and to "defeat them" in some manner. Their trustthat this son will develop well will be stretched to the limit, as will their own strength and137certainty in self. The concepts of figuratively slaying father and a task of adolescence to de-idealize father are important notions contributing to an understanding of father-son conflict.At the same time, it is enlightening to appreciate the ways that fathers find to attemptto maintain a sense of connection between their fathers and their sons, often without beingconscious of this intention. The giving of gifts, names and family stories and theenforcement of family traditions can all help men to feel importantly connected to their sons.iv) Birth order and family sizeOne interesting aspect of this volunteer sample is the overrepresentation of first bornsons. It has been suggested that first born children have the most difficult time in relationto their parents. In support of this idea is the fact that of the five men who were not eldestsons, three mentioned that their oldest brothers had alcohol and drug or mental healthproblems. The possibility is that first born sons volunteered for the research because theyhad more pressing or difficult issues to resolve in relation to father. Possible reasons whyeldest sons have a tougher time are not difficult to find. The first born son and perhapsdaughter often receive the brunt of parental direction and then are expected to pass thesemessages on to younger members. The eldest son generally carries much of the load frompaternal expectations for carrying on the father's name and work. The parents, of course, areless experienced with their first born children and finally, if emotional overinvolvement is adifficulty for parent child relationships, it is likely to manifest most powerfully with the firstand perhaps the last born children.The trend in the Western world toward smaller families which has resulted indeclining population in some areas has interesting ramifications in relation to parentalrelationships. If the average family has two children or less, then most boys will be first bornsons. All of the difficulties noted for sons in relation to this position will be the norm ratherthan the exception. Society as a whole may begin to take on characteristics typical of firstborn children.1382. Policy Implications Policy consideration should be given to the issue of a historically narrowing role forfathers to play in family life. Our highly specialized society has taken many of the familyrelated tasks for fathers away from their domain and employed "expert" teachers, policemen,doctors, athletes and entertainers in their place. Fathers' absence from active involvementin their families has resulted in part from an over emphasis of their role as providers for thefamily. Sons, and probably daughters, tend to experience their fathers unidimensionally asa result and "father hunger" comes from a desire to have a more full and human experienceof father. It is possible that some socially pathological behaviours result from "distant"fathering.i) Domestic involvementThe impulse over the past decade towards a more highly involved father hasfrequently been inspired by feminist considerations for gender equity and equality ofopportunity in terms of career and access to financial security. It has not been a highlysuccessful movement and it is doubtful that overall men father more now than they didtwenty years ago. Some evidence shows that men who act as highly involved fathers haveat least unstable and perhaps more difficult experiences as parents (Radin, 1985, Kruk, 1991).The reluctance for men to become more involved with their children may also be related tothe fact that 60 to 80% of North American women claim to not want more involvement bytheir husbands at home. Just as male resistance to women entering the workforce stillimpedes their access in some areas of economic activity, female control over the domesticdomain remains strong. Real sharing of domestic power between fathers and mothers willcome with an appreciation of the children's need, from the realization that parenting is notjust an important obligation but also a profound gift, and from men beginning to be withchildren in their own way.ii) Vanishing fatherhoodThere should be concern that the trend towards a diminished role for fathers willcontinue towards a point where they will become inconsequential contributors to child139development. Certainly there has been frequent debate in recent years over the extent of maleresponsibility and rights around reproduction. Usually, the obligation to provide has beenseen to remain paramount and in Canada maintenance enforcement programs have beendeveloped to attempt to ensure that fathers, irrespective of their actual involvement with theirchildren, do in fact pay to support them.Several interesting legal challenges have attempted to define the rather hazy areawhich corresponds to fathers' rights in relation to their offspring. It has been charged thatlegislation clarifying men's rights and obligations in relation to "illegitimacy" extends thecontrol men have over reproduction beyond the bounds of marriage (Pollock & Stanton,1985). Such a position of course tends to compel both genders to remain fixed in theirrespective childraising and providing roles and deprives children from meaningful contactwith males, a consequence as we have seen, with potentially serious problems for boys andfor society.iii) Social support for fathersGiven the greater natural involvement by females in the reproductive process and along history of greater emphasis societally on the part mother plays, if we are to supportequality in gender role opportunities domestically as well as in terms of economicopportunities, as a society we might have to begin to give fathers greater possibility to bemeaningfully involved with their children. This greater opportunity would be needed tocompensate the strong tendencies we have seen in the opposite direction. For example, thepowerful identification of father with the role of provider should begin to be mediated withpolicies which permit greater flexibility in the workplace, particularly for fathers. Legislationand court dispositions must insist on at least equal rights and responsibility in all areas of thecare and support of children.Greater sensitivity and awareness is needed in our images of fathers. Those we seecurrently in the media, in the education system and in the expectations implicit in sociallegislation all perpetuate a vision of father which makes his emotional involvement with hisfamily more difficult. We could encourage men to reassess priorities in terms of feltobligation to provide for or participate in their families.140iv) Divorce and fathersOne relevant social trend which also impacts to some extent on the over involvedaspect of small nuclear family units and puts pressure on father and son relations, is the highdivorce rate. The intensity of relationships in single parent families - as well as the problemfor children of not having a parent to love while they hate another - creates very difficultsituations for parent child relations. Even though most sons in this study experienced intactfamily situations, they felt powerfully touched by marital strife. Families without fathersperhaps takes some of the pressures off for many sons in relation to paternal expectations,but the complete absence of intimate adult male models creates a situation which societyshould respond to in terms of generating socialization opportunities for boys, as well ofcourse in alleviating financial stressors for children generally.That custody dispositions still routinely assume "mother preference" as the "bestinterests of the child" is also problematic if society is to encourage maintenance of fatherrelations after divorce. Custody arrangements should always consider the long term effectof father absence as a serious problem for children.3. Research Implications The complexity of general family relations is indeed critical to appreciate and futureresearch would profitably begin with an eclectic framework that enables researchers toappreciate the interplay of the multitude of factors involved in families. Adequate isolationand manipulation of specific variables which positivistic enquiry requires is seldom possiblein family investigation.i) Theoretical modelDescribing fundamental family relationships requires a willingness to tolerate someunclarity because of the complexity of factors involved. An ecological perspective enablesconsideration of some of this diversity and provides a framework which nests groups offactors within progressively more comprehensive levels. This report separated personal fromfamily and societal levels of influences and factors which impact upon the father son dyad.This has contributed organizationally but there remains many problems of overlap and141omission which further research will need to solve.When we attempt to identify, for example, issues of personal growth and egoidentity for fathers and sons, it is surely misleading to exclude mother from suchconsideration. The fact that sons come literally out of mothers and only then can growtowards fathers, symbolizes the importance she plays. Similarly, the separation andindividuation which much of our theory assumes to be the normal pattern of emotionaldevelopment, may be accurate within our cultural zeitgeist but could be quite mistaken withinsocieties which have different notions about personhood and emotional growth. Gender,ethnic and societal factors run like a magnetic field through the emotional and relationalexperiences of individuals.ii) Adult sons' interest in fatherThe importance of the age specific male interest in father should be examined in moredetail to determine if this concern really is widespread or whether fathers become importantonly to a particular subset of sons at a certain time in their life and with specific issues inrelation to him. Describing the characteristics of those men with this concern would thenbecome an important research task. If particular adult developmental challenges emergewhich father hunger is an attempt to fulfil, then we would know that it is not the fatherexperience itself which is important but rather the contemporary events facing the adult sonsand our interventions would not address fatherhood per se but rather adult male psychology.Repeating studies such as these longitudinally to see how differently men spoke about theirexperiences of father some years later would also help to answer this question.iii) Developmental modelFurther research is required to develop and clarify the model of typical progressionof father and son relationships if it is to become an accurate and useful tool for clinicianstrying to understand male psychological challenges. Confirmation of themes and typicalprogression of stages is required from a larger randomly selected sample.Research which studied boys raised by highly involved fathers could provide importantinformation about psychic development in terms of separation and individuation. The142detection of psychological differences between boys raised entirely by fathers and those raisedentirely without fathers would inform theory which attributes strong importance to gender inparenting. Is Chodorow right with her prescription for altering the gender universe? Canconcern with individuation over connection be replaced that easily?Similarly, the question of how children raised completely by a single parent - absentfather research - remains an important paradigm informing us as to what is natural childdevelopment. Large scale mixed method research may be required in order to adequatelycompare boys' experiences with and without fathers and assess the relative importance offactors such as other family support, financial strain and mothers' resources. Similar studiesinvolving other cultural groups would help to isolate which of the themes obtained here arepeculiar to occidental culture and which have some universal application.Finally, the most compelling study of this type would include a multiple generationalview which interviewed different experiences of sons, fathers and grandfathers.iv) Gender questionsThe gender specific nature of father offspring relations should be examined todetermine whether daughters' experiences of father parallel those of their brothers. Theaspects of father experience common to both genders would help to isolate what from thesons' perspectives is about fathers per se and what is about themselves. The question ofparallel experiences for girls of their fathers or with their mothers would be relevantknowledge for family therapists and counsellors.v) AdolescenceThe evidence obtained in this study that adolescence is a particularly crucial time formale development and that father relations undergo important changes at this period suggeststhat some of the research attention that has gone towards the father's role in involvement withinfants could now be profitably spent examining in detail the impact which quality of fatherrelationship has on older children. The question is what becomes of the various levels ofattachment in child and father relations, as emotional bonds stretch and grow. Anexamination of what works well in families will help guide appropriate father participation143at this stage of family life, as well as provide direction for avoiding social pathology withvarying family experiences.D.^ Conclusion Father is a critical figure for men as they mature into adulthood. He can inspire,provide a model or teach lessons on which sons can base their life or seek to make change.The relationship between fathers and sons progresses and evolves through identifiable stagesand predictable issues arise and resolve according to a wide variety of influences includingpersonal development, family milieu and social environment. Understanding the quality ofthat relation can help us to identify and assess the emotional heath of men. Exploring thehistory of that relationship can help men re-write their story and begin to see themselves ina different light and so make change both more possible but also more propitious.A myriad of difficulties presents potential obstacles towards fathers' satisfactoryinvolvement in family life. Fathers often "look bad" because of the difficulties associatedwith their role and because they don't change as quickly as our societal expectations. 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Vancouver: Butterworths.Newsweek, May 4, 1992. Cover story: "Deadbeat Dads".151References (cont.) Nydegger, C.N. & Mittleness, L.S. (1991). "Fathers and their adult sons and daughters."Marriage and Family Review. 16 (3-4) p. 249-266.Osherson, S. (1988). Finding Our Fathers: How a Man's Life Is Shaped By His Relationship With His Father. New York: Fawcett Columbine.Osofsky, H.J., & Culp, R. E. (1989). "Risk factors in the transition to fatherhood", in Cath,Gurwitt & Gunsberg (Eds.) Fathers and Their Families. Hillsdale, N.J.: The AnalyticPress.Parsons, T.R. and Bales, R.F. (1956). Family, Socialisation and Interaction Process.London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Patton, M.Q. (1990). Qualitative Evaluation. Newbury Park: Sage.Pedersen, F.A. (1976). "Does research on children reared in father-absent families yieldinformation on father influences?", The Family Coordinator, Oct. 1976.Peile, C. (1988). 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Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 21 (4) p. 364-376.155APPENDIX A:RESEARCH ADVERTISEMENTUBC ETHICAL CONSENT156The University of British Columbia^B91-407Office of Research ServicesBEHAVIOURAL SCIENCES SCREENING COMMITTEE FOR RESEARCHAND OTHER STUDIES INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTSCERTIFICATE^of APPROVALINVESTIGATOR: Kruk, E.UBC DEPT:^Social WorkINSTITUTION:^Choice of subjectsTITLE:^The influence of father: adult sons lookbackNUMBER:^B91-407CO-INVEST:^Adam, B.APPROVED:^JAN 2 0 1992The protocol describing the above-named project has beenreviewed by the Committee and the experimental procedures werefound to be acceptable on ethical grounds for researchinvolving human subjects.Dr. R.D. SpratleyDirector, Research Servicesand Acting ChairmanTHIS CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL IS VALID FOR THREE YEARSFROM THE ABOVE APPROVAL DATE PROVIDED THERE IS NOCHANGE IN THE EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURES157FATHER and SON RESEARCHHOW DOES THE SON'S RELATIONSHIP WITH FATHERINFLUENCE HIS LIFE CHOICES?An investigation by a graduate student in Social Workinto the nature of father and adult son relationships,is seeking men to assist his research.The only requirement is that you are a man over the ageof thirty-five who is willing to describe the historyof your relationship with your father. Confidentialityis assured.Time demands on participants will not exceed aonce only commitment of approximately two hours, atyour convenience.A small gift will be offered in recompense.If you are interested please contact:Bodhi Adam at 737-7396.or at the UBC School of Social WorkIf not, please pass this on to someone who may be.Bodhi Adam, a post-graduatestudent in the School of SocialWork at University of B.C., islooking for men to interviewabout their relationships withtheir fathers.Adam is working on a master'sthesis on father and sonrelationships. If you're interested,call 737-7396.Vcco^Fe-ti.' jcta.158APPENDIX B:INTRODUCTORY LETTER 159THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIASchool of Social Work6201 Cecil Green Park RoadVancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z1Fathers and Their InfluenceJanuary, 1992Dear Participant,Thank you for your interest in this project. Thepurpose of the research is to further our understanding ofthe nature of fathers' influences on their sons' lives. Inparticular, information is sought relating to how thoseinfluences change over the course of a man's life.In order that you can consider ahead of time some ofthe issues covered in the interview here is a description ofthe basic questions to be asked. This does not mean thatyou need to prepare specific answers; rather that you have achance to reflect on the general themes, at your ownconvenience, prior to our meeting.What I will ask during the interview is that you tellus four stories which somehow signify or typify yourrelationship with your father. Each story or vignetteshould come from a different time in your life: one fromearly or pre-school days (up to age 7), one from 8 to 13,another from adolescence (14-19) and one which illustratesyour current relationship with your father. The length andamount of details in each of your stories is notpredetermined - they can be as short or long as it takes togive some indication of your relationship at the particulartime. Stories may directly describe an actual interactioninvolving you and your father, or merely some other event orprocess which you experienced as being influenced by yourfather. Choose events which have meaning for you.It is expected that the recounting of these storieswill occupy the majority of the interview. You will beasked to supply some general demographic information and tofill out several brief pen and paper questionaires, and afeedback form. The entire interview should take no morethan two hours of your time. You may, of course, refuse toparticpate or withdraw at any time.Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this work.I hope your participation will be enjoyable. If you haveany questions at all, please don't hesitate to call BodhiAdam, researcher (^) or Ed Kruk, research supervisor.160signedAPPENDIX C:INTERVIEW GUIDE: a. Family Storiesb. Open Questionsc. Demographic Fact Sheet161Focused InterviewA. Family Stories1. I want you to think about the time before you turned 8.a. Is there a particular incident which you rememberwell?b. What kinds of things did you and your father dotogether?c. How would you describe his presence around the home?d. What do you remember clearly about him?e. Overall, are memories from this time good ones? Why?2. Now I want you to think about the years between 8 and13.a. Is there an incident which you can describe fromthis time which is meaningful for you?b. What kinds of things did you and your father dotogether?c. How was going through puberty for you?d. How would you describe his presence around the home?e. Overall, are memories from this time good ones? Why?3. Now I want you to think about your teen years 14 to19a. Is there an incident which you can describe fromthis time which is meaningful for you?b. What kinds of things did you and your father dotogether?c. How would you describe his presence around the home?d. How was leaving home dor you?e. Overall, are memories from this time good ones? Why?4. Now I'd like you to reflect on the current relationshipbetween you and your father.a. Is there an incident which you can describe whichtypifies this relationship?b. What do you and your father do together?c. What do you learn from him, or receive from yourrelationship with him now?162Focused Interview (cont.)B. Open ended questionsThere are four categories of open ended questions eachwith about three or four items. They refer to your father,his influence, your family and yourself.1. How would you describe your father?a. Is he successful?b. Does he have close male friends?c. How do you think he feels about you?d. What would you say is important to him?2. How would you describe your family generally?a. What do you do together?b. Are you close to your siblings?c. Are you close to your mother?d. Who has power in the family?e. Would you go to your family for help? Who?3. How do you feel about your life?a. Can you identify a sense of direction?b. How do you feel about your work?c. Do you have close male friends?d. How do you feel about relationships in your life?e. What do you look forward to in your days ahead?(what sort of things do you dream about?f. What regrets do you have? What would you do over?4. What influence are you aware of from your father?a. On your vocational choices? (or sense of competence)b. On your personal values and beliefs?c. On your personality or personal characteristics(or your family style - something a stranger mayremark as connecting you to your father?)163FATHERS' INFLUENCE RESEARCHDemographic Data Sheet1. Name ^  2. Age3. Occupation ^  Income ^4. Last year of education ^5. Father's occupation  Income ^6. Father's last year of education ^7. Your father's age at the time of your birth8. Occupation of your father's father ^9. Last year of education for father's father10. Mother's occupation ^  Income11. City or town where you were raised ^12. City/town/country where father raised ^13. Size of your family ^ Number of boysNumber of girls14. Where in the birth order were you ^15. Age you left home ^ Were you living with bothparents at age 7 ^ 13 ^ 18 ^ 21 ^16. Marital status : married ^divorced ^For how long17. Do you have childrensingleseparatedHow manyGender ^ Age(s) ^Do they live with you164APPENDIX D: INTERVIEW SUMMARIES 1. Brent2. Bruce3. Dan4. Dave5. Frank6. Gord7. Kevin8. Kyle9. Marty10. Marvin11. Paul12. Rick165Brent's SummaryBrent's family has been settled in Victoria for several generations. He remembers asa kid, meeting his very proper great grandmother, in a bow tie, perched on a wing back chair.He remembers as a 3 year old watching his dad fix and explain plumbing pipes tohim. He also remembers his dad pushing him on his little plastic truck, in the house skiddingaround corners. One time he ploughed into the doorjamb with his head and he remembers hisfather, shocked and awkward, not knowing whether to pick up his crying kid. Mother cameand did. Brent explains his dad's lack of parenting skills with reference to his being an onlykid raised by women and at boarding schools.At 10 Brent remembers angrily trying to get a very reluctant dad to play soccer withhim and his brothers. Dad always claimed to be busy and would tell the kids to get lost.Brent says he was always doing emergency work for others, for money. At 12 Brentremembers walking down the street holding his dad's hand, feeling great, when a kid calledout "fag" across the road. He dropped the hand but later heard through his mother how hurthis father was by that act. The relationship seemed to change about that time fromcamaraderie to angry alienation.Dad also became very busy at that time with a development business. His renovationof their house dragged out for years and Brent couldn't bring friends over. One good memoryBrent has about his early teens is spending time at his grandmother's cottage. He would helphis dad install lights in the trees and build docks and enjoyed it a lot. Brent's developmentwas not normal and his dad noticed something was wrong but doctors didn't pick it up foryears. It was typical that dad didn't push his parenting concerns - that was mom's turf andhe gladly deferred.Brent didn't feel respected by his dad. The only compliment he remembers gettingwas at 19 when he did some surveying work for his dad particularly well. He is aware ofapproval seeking behaviour he engages in now that he sees as related to his dad's stinginesswith compliments. Third party praise from a business-man about Brent's work did impresshis father.Brent remembers telling his dad to fuck off when he was 19. This was as near to openrebellion that he came. His dad helped him find an apartment when he moved out later thatyear and was happy to be consulted on this. Brent cycled across Canada at 18.Brent realized as spoke that he acts oddly and flamboyantly around his father out ofnervousness of him. His dad does consult with him on certain business decisions now, butBrent, to his father's disappointment, is the only one who didn't go into construction; theyoungest brother works with dad. His father expressed disapproval of Brent's new beardrecently.Brent sees his father as unsuccessful but a nice man, with a good reputation but noclose friends. Brent says mom has the power in the family but seldom uses it. He feels hehas learned about working hard and wanting to create from his father, and believes that theirrelationship is beginning to improve.Brent see his direction in life as about self awareness, has recently embarked on a newcareer, and has several close male friends. His recent marriage age has just come apart.166Bruce's Summary Bruce is a 43 year old graduate engineering student. He returned to school afterstruggling with accreditation in B.C. He was born in Montreal, where his divorced parentsand brother live. He has been "out west" most of the past 20 years, but not continuously orin any particular place. He is not married.The memories Bruce has of his early childhood contact with his father almost all takeplace outside of the home - on ski trips or family holidays. His father was an avid sportsenthusiast and would take him skiing when he 6 years old. He would also take Bruce to seeboats being launched which his company had built and explain to him technical details aboutships and trains and bridges. Bruce's father worked as a technical draughtsman and later asa salesman for the same company. Bruce worked hard as a teenager and had little social life,feeling crowded by his mother, and shamed for this lack by his father. He was giftedacademically and achieved highly until he left home at 19. Soon after, he failed out ofuniversity.Bruce's mother and brother had strong impact on Bruce's relationship with his father:he says that almost from the beginning, he was his mother's "to mold". The younger brotherwas more like the father. His teenage relationship with his father grew increasingly stormyand conflictual, as did that between the parents. The mother slept on the couch for the last7 years of the marriage. Bruce describes trying to prevent his father from being physicallyabusive with his mother and being himself shoved down the stairs, remembering vividly howlong the bruises took to heal. He also remembers at 19 not being able to keep up with hisfather skiing and feeling shamed by this fact. His mother was "bitterly disappointed" whenhe left home. He negotiated the terms of the divorce on his mother's behalf when the parentsseparated about a year after Bruce had moved out.The father was a very physical man, who had been a boxer in his youth. Bruce felthis superior intellectually from about adolescence on and disparages his attitudes,aggressiveness and personal tastes. He claims to have different interests (more like hismother) and difficulty communicating with his father. The relationship with both the fatherand brother (who is just like dad) has remained highly conflictual over time. In his father'spresence Bruce still feels a seething kind of anger which occasionally erupts into violence.The last time Bruce saw his father was 2 years ago when he got into a physical fight withhis brother and his father, who was 76 at the time, joined in against him.Bruce reports feeling a lack of both personal and professional success in his life. Hewould like more intimate contact with a woman, although he has several good male friends.He is disturbed by a continuing conflictual pattern he finds himself in in work situations withbosses, and academically with professors. His current contact with a very healthy 78 yearold father is limited to formal telephone conversations.167Dan's Summary Dan is a 37 year old Sri Lankan graduate student. He has been in Canada since 1983,with his wife and 7 year old son. He is the oldest son in a family of 10 children. Apreviously born brother died at birth, a fact which Dan says influenced how his parents caredfor him. His father has a grocery store attached to their home and with an acre of land, ina town of about 50,000. The rest of the family is still in Sri Lanka.An early memory Dan has is of his father riding him on his bicycle and pointing outa group of doctors and stressing the importance of education, if one is to do well in life. Hesays his father didn't "cuddle" much with him because it wasn't expected of fathers in thosedays. Dan also says his father's father died when he was 9 and so perhaps he didn't knowhow to father properly. He remembers being slapped in punishment at about 7. From thetime he was 10, Dan helped out in his father's shop and by the time he was 15, wouldoperate it when his father was not there. He worked very hard throughout this time andattributes some later social difficulties to a lack of opportunity as an adolescent.In a family of 10, it is difficult to find indications of the particularities of Dan'srelationship. The children would help out the father in his vegetable garden and be in and outof the store. As eldest, Dan was aware of greater expectation of responsibility. He wasenvious of his brother's social graces.Dan left home at 19 to go university, an achievement in S.L. He tells of one timewhen he had no money to visit home because he had been reluctant to ask his father - asstrong expectations would have accompanied the money. He felt very sad and lonely at thistime and cried.He married at 29, a "love marriage". This was not unusual in his generation, but hisparents marriage was arranged. He had felt shy with girls and blames his parents, especiallymother, for not preparing him better to relate to the opposite sex.Dan joined the army for three years after finishing his studies. His departure from SriLanka was partly out of concern for political turmoil and possible danger to his life. He camehere telling his family he would be back after getting his Master's degree in 2 years. Thatwas 9 years ago. He is concerned that his father will die before he get back, something thatwould be a "great shock" for him. He feels guilty that his studies have taken so long but alsodoesn't think he wants to go back. This has not been expressed to his family.Dan describes his father as very honest, devoted to his family, hard working andsetting a good example. His father would describe Dan as stubborn and rebellious. Dan sayshe is business oriented, like his dad but would go to his mother for financial help.Dan sees his life as frustrated in accomplishing his goals - money, job, house -although his son is very important to him. School is a series of frustrations. He has no closefriends and attributes this to his wife, with whom there is marital difficulty. He looks forwardto the day when he can return home, that will be "the best day... the happiest time".168Dave's Summary Dave is a gay 30 year old editor from Saskatchewan who has been on the West Coastfor most of the past 12 years. He was born and raised on a farm on the Prairies. His fatherwas the youngest child and never moved, taking over the family farm, so that Dave's homesituation included his paternal grandparents when he was very young. His mother had beenpreviously married and he has an older step sister and brother. His father married at 29 andDave is his only biological child.His earliest memory of father involves being slapped by him on the way to town inthe truck when he 4 or 5. He'd deliberately ripped an iron-on transfer that came from atractor dealer some time before and which they were going to town to have put on a T shirt.This was the only time his father hit him and Dave remembers being disappointed at himselffor pushing too hard and in his father for losing control. Dave still has the T shirt. Dave'smother normally did the physical disciplining.Dave has some strong memories from his 13th summer, when his parents fought a lot.Dave and his sister hoped that they'd split up and would select ideal women in thecommunity for dad. Late one night Dave left to a neighbour's to avoid the fighting. Hisparents came to get him and in the scene that ensued he struck his mother to the ground. Sheberated the father about an alleged brief affair, all the way home, until he "confessed". Davefelt extremely disappointed in his father's giving in to his very powerful mother, and sadknowing that he would never get away from her and the farm.As a teenager, Dave did well and his father both encouraged and was proud of him.He won a place in an international program which began after high school. Going on thisprogram was Dave's leaving home. He said goodbye to his father but forgot something andreturned to the house to fmd him weeping alone at the dining room table. It was the onlypowerful emotional expression Dave has seen from his father and still means much to him.He saw it as being about grief over his only son leaving home and the family farm, but alsoabout his own trepidation at being alone now with the wife. Coming out at 18 felt safe interms of Dave's relationship with dad but was quite traumatic for mother.The mother continues to play a large part in the relationship between Dave and hisfather. Several years ago his father declined to visit him in the north, Dave thinks, becausehis mother wouldn't approve. Typically his time with his father alone is limited to visitshome and time spent in the fields. Communication is limited by generational differences aswell as mother's influence. Dave says his father loves him - almost too much at times.Dave is happy and excited about his work life although he wishes he had theconfidence 10 years ago to do what he does now. His long term relationship has been up anddown and is currently long distance but stable.169Frank's Summary Frank is a 54 year old mechanic and owner of a busy gas station and garage. Heworked with his three older brothers and his father at his father's garage from the time hewas 16 until he turned 44, when he set out on his own. His father gave the business to hisfour sons when he retired at age 70. The father's business went broke once 40 years ago,an event that seemed to have imprinted itself strongly on Frank, although it later became asuccessful concern again. The father died in 1975 at age 73. Frank's younger son (28) worksfor him and his elder son (32) has his own garage. Frank grew up and has spent his entirelife in the neighbourhood where he does business; his father came out to the coast from theprairies in the early 1930's and set up in business, originally with his brother. Frank marriedwhen he moved out of home at age 21 and has only had one intimate partner. He also hasa daughter who is 30.Frank is younger than his four siblings by a range of from 7 to 15 years and describeshis early days of hanging around his father's garage as always being the "boss's little kid".He describes his childhood as "really neat". He struggled in school and failed 3 gradesbefore quitting at 16 to start work with his father and brothers. As a young boy his fathergave him an expensive toy truck which is in "new condition" and which he has given to hissons. They also fished and boated together. His father referred to him specially as his little"leaning post". He worked for his dad as a teenager and went out with girls but had minimalsexual experience and no parental instruction. He left home when he got married. A yearlater his father gave him the money for a down payment on a house.The most emotionally vivid picture of Frank's relationship with his dad comes at hisfather's death. In referring to Frank's youngest family position he'd told him that he was gladthat Frank had come along because he would be able to lean on him when he was older.When asked if that had been the case, Frank responded that no, he felt that he had failed hisfather at his hour of need in a "terrible" death by cancer, by not being able to stay with himduring his pain in the hospital. He "just couldn't handle it" and didn't like to see his fatherlike that because "he was a hero to me". Some years later he "adopted" an older Germanman as a father figure and had a similiar opportunity to be there at his death. This time he"handled it". Frank also described the full church at the funeral, the feeling of pride for hisfather and also his own concern at "who would come to my funeral?". He also describesweeping afterwards, alone and appropriately, in his car.Frank describes himself as a successful man with all the money he wants. He facesa lessened involvement and eventual retirement from work, but will "hang around" the garageas long as he enjoys it, like his father did. He consciously models life decisions on hisfather's experience and shares similiar values (family, hard work) and 15 years later, stillmisses him, regrets not having known him longer and feels some envy for his older brotherswho did.170Gord's Summary Gord is a single 33 year old community worker involved in helping people who endup "on the street". He spent some time as a drug user and street person himself although hehas also competed most of the requirements for a university degree. He aspires to be awriter. He was born in England, moved to Alberta at the age of three and to VancouverIsland when he was 7. He is the second son of 3 boys and 2 girls. His parents separatedwhen he was 17. He remained in the family home with his mother and sister for about a yearand then moved to town with his father.Gord's early memories are sparse. He paints a picture of his father in Alberta and laterin Duncan as a respected high school teacher and community pillar and a diversely talentedman. He states that his father picked his older brother as favourite and that his mother chosehim in return. He remembers his father at his soccer games, apart from other fathers, but fullof advice and criticism after the game. He remembers a lot happening in the time betweenabout 10 and 14: father being busy and away, the family moving for a year, the parentsbecoming more conflictual, his older brother getting seriously into drugs. Gord was busyachieving in school and sports, attempting, he says, to gain a recognition from his fatherwhich never really came. He describes walking 17 miles home from school after his fatherforgot that he'd asked for a ride, and gone home without him. This happened a number oftimes. He says he was a manipulative child with his younger siblings and that his fatherdidn't really like him.Gord was aware for a long time prior to the divorce that his parent's relationship wasunhappy - he felt disappointed in his father for taking "crap" for so long from his mother.He believes that appearances motivated his father's decision to stay. At 14, his father showedhim some scars from a suicide attempt which he blamed on the mother. The divorce wastraumatic nonetheless. The family fell apart. Gord had to choose between dad, and finishinghigh school and all the involvements he had in the town. He was a championship levelswimmer. A year or so later, after a violent fight with his mother, he moved in with father.He describes putting on his fighting boots one night, with his father, to go looking to defendthe brother who was in trouble with drug dealers, and in and out of detention centers.Gord's last contact with his father was over a dinner prepared by the father's newspouse - who looks just like mom - 2 years ago. He'd planned to get a lot off his chest, butthe feelings became hostile. Gord is normally a good talker but his father intimidates him andmakes him tongue tied. He claims his father's loyalty is stronger to his new spouse and feelsangered by that. He says he would think his father was a great guy if he wasn't his father -but that there was no closeness possible with him as a son. He's not sure any more if hewants that closeness himself. He sees his father as having abandoned his dreams.Gord describes himself as a failure and his family as dysfunctional. He says he hasdecided to give up on his family.171Kevin's Summary Kevin is a 34 year old housepainter. He is single although he has a girlfriend. Hisfather died several years ago in Ottawa. Kevin moved out west (Alberta) several timesbeginning at age 16 and has been settled in the Vancouver area for about 10 years. Has ayounger sister and niece who is out here now.Kevin describes his early days with his father as rocky but also enjoyable. Thefamily moved around for several years until settling in Maryville. The father did shift work,drank a lot and coached boys' sports teams in lacrosse, hockey and baseball. Playing on theseteams was both frustrating and rewarding for Kevin, depending on how well they did. Kevinsays his father related better to the kids than to the parents.At 10, Kevin's mother died by suicide and the family changed drastically. He saysnothing was ever spoken by his father about his mom's death. Kevin's father hired ahousekeeper whom he married when Kevin was 13. This was after sitting down with him anda bottle of rye to discuss the proposed marriage and to get Kevin's blessing. He regrets givingit still - he says he hated the stepmother and had tremendous conflict with her. He saw hisfather as turning into a "spineless wimp" and the stepmom as dominating him and the family.He began to skip school and run away from home and the father's discipline turned violentas he drank heavily himself.At 14, Kevin fought back and "laid a licking" on his father one time he tried tophysically discipline him after being out all night drinking. This was a "manhood" challengefor Kevin, although he felt bad about hurting his dad. Prior to this his father had disciplinedhim often: with a belt for going out with a Catholic girl, with a pool cue for skipping school.Kevin was asked by his father to leave home after an incident involving his stepmotherslamming a door on his foot and he smashed the glass in the door. He was 15. He wenteventually to Alberta because it was booming but also because his father said it would be agood place to go. His only grandmother was there and he visited once. Kevin's father didn'tsee his father for 23 years - until Kevin was 10. He feels that his father would have been gladhe'd escaped that kind of life - doing shift work in a small town.Contact with his dad was minimal for the next 15 years. When he would return toMaryville, he would avoid the stepmother. Four years ago the stepmom and dad came toVancouver area to visit her inlaws. A day was arranged for Kevin to spend with his dad.When the time came it was cancelled, at the stepmother's instigation. Kevin angrilydenounced his father's letting her run his life. They spoke once more 3 years later, againbriefly and angrily. The next time Kevin heard of his father he'd had a heart attack fromwhich he never recovered. He saw him in the hospital.Kevin is working at breaking family patterns by doing anger workshops. He iswondering about having children himself, a prospect which is frightening to him. His sisteris in ACOA. He works for an older man with whom he gets along well, he hopes to inheritthe business. He loves his work. Kevin has many good men friends, some from his days inOntario.172Kyle's SummaryKyle is a forty year old journalist of 17 years, who works independently producingradio documentaries. He's been married 13 years and has 3 children including an adopted 21year old son. He's been in Vancouver several years, moving here from Alberta, which seemslike a family base although there have been frequent moves. He is the 3rd of 4 boys. Hisfather is now 78, his mother died 13 years ago and his grandfather was estranged from hisdad.Kyle's early memories of father involve him in his role as provider for the family andthe decisions to move the family in order to help the career. He's not certain still to whatextent father had a say in these moves, although dad painted himself as having no choice.Older brothers figure prominently in the memories. Father seldom played individually withor was a companion to his sons. Dad was peacemaker in the family, and disagreed withmother over her strictness with boys, although he was often away from the family.Kyle's next memory is of being physically punished by his father at age 8 or so, forpetty theft of which he was innocent in deed but not reputation. He remembers his father'sintense anger at his denials. Several years later he clearly remembers a camping trip withdad and younger brother that mother and older brothers didn't want to go on. They spent amemorable week together, hanging out, swimming During high school dad was awaytravelling for work frequently and didn't play a large role at home.When Kyle left home to go to university he argued with his parents, especially motherover where to go to school - he wanted to go out of town and so leave home. He got his wayand father smoothed things over with mother. When he was 21, Kyle got busted for drugsand spent 2 months in jail. His father visited regularly, never admonished him, got him a dayjob, and was generally very supportive.The recent picture of the relationship is of some hurt in Kyle at his father's reluctanceto visit. He doesn't understand this but chooses to believe that it is because visiting wouldbring his father pain, rather than that he is not interested in Kyle and his family. Father goesinstead with his companion on holidays in the Caribbean. Kyle wants to see his dad. Helikes who he is at 78, is basically proud of him, sees him as open and flexible, would "behappy to be like him". He learns from his father's life, although his achievements sound alittle hollow.Kyle believes his father is proud of him and his achievements. The older brothershave both struggled in their lives. Only the youngest has avoided troubles in his life. Thereis some family doubts about mother's death by stroke 12 years ago, especially fatherquestions what he could have done for her differently. She drank a lot before she died. Kylemisses her.Kyle's focus and self image is tied up with his professional life. He has made severaldecisions that his father didn't - to quit "the company" in order to be his own boss and nothave to move his family around. He does however travel a lot for his job. He loves his workand feels excited about its direction. He sees his personal and professional life as becomingmore linked.173Marty's Summary Marty was born and lived in small town Ontario until he went off to college at 21 andagain at 23. He left Ontario about 5 years ago, after his father died. He's now 33.He has been told that his left handed semi-pro baseball playing father spent hoursmaking him use his left hand as a baby in the crib. He remembers as a kid of 7 being wokenup to party with his parents and their friends, singing together all night: His father playedguitar and was the life of the party. Marty has a book of songs that his father taught him,and a 12 string guitar from his mother on his 16th birthday. He remembers at 7 being wokenby angry fights between his parents and crying himself back to sleep. His father was a "man'sman" and would play catch with him so hard it scared him. He was away a lot and drank alittle. He had a harsh abusive father himself. Both Marty and his dad, as young men, broughttheir fathers home from the pub, drunk, on Saturday nights. Marty's father worked at oddjobs, sales, and was unemployed.When Marty was 12 his father had an aneurism and was in hospital for 3 months.Soon after he returned home, he had stroke and was hospitalized again, for 2 years. Hismother had been on the verge of leaving him; now she was away a lot at the hospital. Martyworked before and after school and gave his mother money. He didn't miss his dad, whohadn't been around much before, but he resented losing contact with his mother because ofhis father's illness. As an adolescent he became rebellious. He felt his father didn't love him.He played sport but one night went on a date rather than to practice. His father made himquit the ball team. Marty learned from his dad that women are a distraction from what youwant to do. Even partially paralysed, his father was a physical disciplinary presence.At 18, when Marty's mother found a syringe he'd used for amphetamines in hisclothes, his father suggested they call the RCMP. At 19 however, he heard, in his father'svoice, some pride in the habitual derision of Marty's singing. This changed much for Marty.Praise only came from dad indirectly, through mother.Marty got accepted to a theatre school in Toronto and his mother organized a surprisegoing away party. The "most poignant moment" was seeing in his father's block printing onthe large card that everyone had signed "do it, prove it, I know you can, love dad". Theyembraced emotionally, a very rare moment.Marty failed out of school, returned home and worked in the factory where hismother worked. After a year, he went off to university and earned a degree. His father hadseveral heart attacks. When Marty asked his father if he'd loved his grandfather he said: "no,but I didn't hate him either. When he died I didn't cry". Marty took his father to hospital onthe Friday of his last weekend, then drove to Toronto to pick up his girlfriend at the airport.He missed his father's death by several hours, but saw him before he was moved to themorgue.Marty has written poetry and songs to his father, and claims he was a hero for him.He feels he was successful in not judging others and bringing them happiness. He sees hismother as never having accepted who his father was from the beginning.174Marvin's Summary Marvin was born in a small town in Quebec but his family moved back west whenhe was about 4. They moved into the 3rd oldest house in Surrey, a huge old ex hotel. He was5th surviving kid, of 9 altogether. His father had been a policeman in Ontario, had a secondhand store in Surrey, a gas station and store in Langley, was a prison guard in the valley anda professional foster parent in Mission. Both parents were orphans.As a young boy, Marvin remembers setting up a shoe shine stand outside his father'sstore. He also remembers massaging his father after he came home from work, asking hisfather for payment and being told that some things you just do because you care. He says thishad a big impact on him. Dad was a big man and it was a family rule that mother did thephysical disciplining. The family style was intense and argumentative.Marvin remembers around 8 or 10 when there was a bad car accident near their storeand how his father took over the scene and tried to save the life of a woman. He also spokeof the time when a customer, who forgot to put the brake on his car which then rolled intoa ravine, became so irate he entered the store threateningly. Marvin's father shot a gun at thefloor to scare him off. He used to spend time up with his dad, who worked nights in thestore, helping do chores and talking. He worked in the store for about $5/week.The store became too much for mom's health and was sold when Marvin was 15 andthe family moved up the valley. M. skipped school to visit friends at his former school. Hisoldest brother had become "the black sheep" by now. Marvin says his father was probablyan alcoholic by now, although he was a pleasant drunk who never got angry or violent.The family moved again at 17 but Marvin got his own place and stayed to finish highschool. He worked before and after school and was on his own financially. Three years laterhe returned home, not being able to afford university, and lived with the family until hisparents helped set him up in a carpet cleaning business at 26. His father, he says, was alwaysvery positive and supportive with his schemes to make work. He spoke to him "about manthings" and was not judged by him. He did feel his parents were controlling and mentionsphysically fighting with his younger brother, breaking things in the house.His father had a heart attack and got very difficult around the time Marvin left again.He may have been manic depressive. He lost weight and became quite unpredictable. He dieda year ago, with all 9 children and 11 grandchildren present in the hospital. His death waspainful but also a relief for Marvin. He thinks his father thought he was a good kid, but maynot have had an independent relationship with him. He describes him as "too generous".Marvin is currently back at school trying to upgrade his skill so he can work at whathe loves rather than at what just gets him by. It is a bit of a struggle for him. He has a 4 1/2year old son who was not mentioned in the interview, but he misses him and does visitweekly. He admits to having some trouble with relationships with people.175Paul's Summary Paul was born during the second world war, in colonial Jamaica. He was first bornson in a family of 6 boys and 4 girls. His parents live here now and he sees them regularly.He's been married 20 years, at the same job longer, and has 3 children himself. His entirefamily moved from Jamaica to Washington D.0 when Paul was 14, Australia when he was19 and Canada when he was 27. With the exception of working in remote camps in Australiain his 20's, he lived at home until he got married at 29.Paul's early memories are of tearing along in the back of his father's truck to playwith sibs on palm tree beaches. His father operated a dairy and a saw mill and worked a lotbut was never far away either. Paul remembers once stopping a busy dad's car by putting hishand over the exhaust. He also remembers his mom was always the one to "give the kids alicking" and his dad tried to intercede on their behalf. He was always trying to help people.He never hugged his sons for fear of them becoming gay.He spent little time alone with his dad and repeatedly says the kids largely broughtthemselves up. The family often lived next to the mill where dad worked. He was "rooked"by a rich cousin in business. Paul lived with this man from 12 to 14, so as to be prepared foreducation. He remembers a number of stories involving his dad about physical bravery:pulling a knife at 14 on some bullies, hitting a large bully at a party with a beer bottle (andlater becoming friends with him), leaping on a man who'd pulled a gun on him. Paulremembers his dad carrying a pistol for a while after firing a strong angry worker.Dad left Jamaica out of concern for the future of the family. The strong large grouphelped each other handle the new country. Paul didn't date in high school. He was caughtonce stealing wood for a tree house, but his father "let him learn from his mistake". Themove to Australia was out of dad's concern for the family. Paul worked there to support thefamily farm enterprise. Dad didn't like Australia, they stayed 7 years.Paul boarded at home until marriage. His only problem with his dad was beingtreated as a kid and not as a son who could think for himself. Sees dad as overprotective, inreaction to never having had a proper dad - left home and was on his own at 14. Tells greatstory of renegade, rich, university educated grandfather who partied too much. With friendshot policeman in hand. Got off due to cunning. Was "sentenced" by judge to call his sonafter him. Paul's middle name is the same, as is his son.Dad has rare marriage but no close friends. Paul sees them similiar in the sense ofliking to think and trouble shoot. A friend says he's spitting image - likes that notion.Learned from dad not to hit women, as did his dad learn. Argues a little over religion. Theirrelationship is good now thanks in part to Paul's wife putting dad in his place.Paul spends more time with his kids than did his dad - sports, lessons and culturalevents. Hopes his son will make it to university. Looks forward to travelling with his wife.176Rick's SummaryRick was born in Vancouver, the second son in a family of 3 boys. Due to dad'swork, they travelled around the province for several years and then settled in the eastern partof the lower mainland. Parents are alive, together and still quite involved. Father is a retiredmunicipal engineer. Mother taught school.Early stories are about being scared of father's punishment - for breaking somethingin a mall, the chandelier while playing football inside on a Sat morning. He ran to motherin the mall, wondering "who was this scary man". Says dad had a tough life (parents split at10) and could never show love. Rick remembers being driven to school by dad silently,resentfully, without affection. He was surprised to learn from his mother several years agothat he was his dad's favourite. Dad was the "ogre of the house", would never play with theboys, doing things with the kids was a chore. Rick was afraid to ask for anything.Rick played hockey but his dad wouldn't watch. Only once he came; that was "thebest day of my life" - he scored the winning goal. Dad took a picture but didn't praise him.Dad didn't allow Rick to swim in the BC summer games because the family was going onholiday to Alta, even though he had the fastest time in the province. He always tried to pleasedad but never got recognition and lost interest in sports by high school. He made things inshop classes for his father also. His father tried to help him with math but expected too muchand got frustrated. His grades went up and down and he experimented with drugs in highschool. He's never communicated all this to his father.By 14, Rick was no longer afraid of his father, but he "had an attitude". His fathercaught him masturbating once, but never said anything ("like a normal father would"). Rickhad a great time acting in high school plays, but again felt he never got the support or pushhe wanted from his father. He mentioned Gretzky's father, as an idealized example. Said, "ifI had the balls, I would have challenged him", but never did. Says he's still defensive, as ifhe's 11 or 12.Moved out twice at 19 and 20, the second time to live with a woman. Mother washostile to all his girlfriends and to his wife but dad was very nice. No reaction to movingfrom dad, mom was disappointed. Generally dad doesn't call enough, mother too much. Rickfeels that his father loves him but can't tell him that. He sees them as being similiar,especially physically. He is more impulsive and has more involvement in church than his dad.He wishes his dad had given him more direction and support. He sees both his dad andbrother as being too selfish in their relationships, saying they don't understand women'sequality.Rick is currently going through marital separation and feels his mother and (less so)father are meddling. When they met with parents about selling house, he couldn't stand upto them. This was painful in front of his wife. He lets his wife deal with the money. Rick hasbeen married less than 1 year and is planning to move to the Okanogan, believing he has toget away. He hopes his marriage will survive. He likes and is loyal to his job. He has somegood friends, one of whom lives in the Okanagon.177APPENDIX EFATHER AND SON STORIES: SUMMARIES a. Introductionb. Earliest memories: glimpses of the pastc. Ages 8 - 13: puberty and turmoild. Ages 14 - 19: preparing to leavee. Adult stories: men and fathers178Appendix E. FATHER AND SON STORIES Introduction Stories were defined to be narrations of incidents which occurred involving fathers andson. Stories are a literary form but they have received attention recently from familytherapists for their ability to convey powerful messages about the teller and about the familyinvolved. When passed between generations, they can become the vehicle for transmissionof messages about wisdom, learning, identity and history. They may also serve as examplesof possibility, helping family members to formulate life plans, and understand past events ina greater context. The very process of spending time talking about their father was verymuch like this for respondents: whether they had a wealth of elaborate detailed tales to tellor whether they had none, the interview created an environment in which the men reflectedand observed, complained and paid homage and, in a sense, connected with their fathers.Some subjects had very little recall of specific incidents in certain time periods in theirlife. Certainly the earliest memories were most hazy and the stories less frequent and lessdetailed. However, the age of subjects did not seem to greatly influence the extent of recall;some younger subjects had gaps in their recollections and several older respondents hadprecise accounts of early stories. A factor that influenced the clarity of the story was whetherit had frequently been re-told previously. Several stories were obviously family favouritesand had been related many times. Others appeared to have only just been recalled to memoryduring the interview. One subject hypothesized that his dearth of memories from a particulartime period was a result of suppression of unpleasant events. Another hypothesized that he"didn't remember anything from that time because nothing bad happened". Both could ofcourse be accurate. Several men had been in therapy and had obviously gained familiaritynot only with the details of significant events, but also with an analysis of the meaning ofthose events.One unforeseen result was the stories which were related involving the men's fathersbefore they were born. These were obviously anecdotes which had been told by their fathersto the sons. Paul told more detailed stories involving his father and even his grandfather asyoung men, than he told about himself. Frank told a story about how his mother "died"seven years before he was born. She was revived after his father saw her move on thehospital bed, long after the doctors had told him she was dead. It may be that these kindsof stories contain a different kind of influence than those which only involved the teller.They are more likely to remain constant, built into stability by their repetition and lessaffected by the changing perspectives of the tellers. They also belong to the families as awhole, although their meaning may vary amongst the individuals.Knowing such stories seems to suggest that these sons held a perspective on theirfather which saw him and his experience well beyond their direct experience of him, that isthey saw something of him outside of his role as their father. Such knowledge about fathermay be gained in relation to developmental challenges for men: it may indicate a particularstage in the relationship. Frequently references to a father's parental behaviour wereattributed to what was known about his own family experiences, especially with his own179father.a. Earliest memories: glimpses of the past The strongest theme from the collection of earliest stories is an emergent picture ofyoung boys gaining a glimpse into a different reality, a man's world. It is as if someexperiential quality of the father's life was suddenly revealed to them. Most often fathers aredescribed doing things which would be fairly typical for them, but the sons in those momentsmore clearly experienced the world their father inhabited. For example, Bruce's father wouldtake him down to see the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, in which his companywas involved. Frank would visit his father and elder brothers at work fixing cars at theirgarage. Paul described putting his hand over the exhaust of his father's truck to try toprevent him leaving for work. Gord and Marty both remembered their parents partying -dancing or singing with other adults.There is often an idyllic quality to the images from this time. Marty tells of hearingthat his father, a left handed baseball star, spent hours sitting by the crib when he was smallputting things into his left hand and taking them from his right. (Marty is primarily lefthanded today.) Brent remembers the Victorian formality of a visit to his father'sgrandmother's home when he was four; this was the house where his father was raised.Marvin spoke of setting up a table on which to sell his toys outside of his father's secondhand store, to play - and practice - at doing what his dad did for a living.These types of memories seem be retained due to moments of clear perception orinsight by the sons and are not apparently evoked by particular incidents. This would maketheir recall quite unpredictable. One common factor is that frequently these memories tookplace outside of the family home. In Dave's case, the interaction took place in his father'spick-up truck while for Bruce it came on a skiing trip involving only his father and himself.Dan remembered an incident while his father was riding him on his bicycle through theirvillage in Sri Lanka, when he pointed out a group of doctors and told Dan about theimportance of being well educated. Paul's father would take the small crowd of children thatwas their family to play on the beaches in Jamaica and would keep count of the childrenbetween waves. Rick remembers being dropped off at school by his father on his way towork. It seemed that images of father were seldom strongly pronounced within the dailydomestic sphere and that fathers and children may not generally interact strongly within thehome.Bruce's recollection is one of the more vivid pictures from his early days:"The youngest childhood memories are ski weekends. This would be in the midfifties and I could not have been older than six. We would go to the railroadstation in the north end of Montreal and a steam engine would pull the trainout of the tunnel and stop and pick up the passengers on the platform and wewould take about an hour long ride on that train up into the hills north ofMontreal... And I remember really enjoying being in the woods, becausethey're very silent in the wintertime. Its very different in eastern Canada. Thesnow is puff), and light and it absorbs all sound... experiencing the realpleasure of the silence, of being in the woods, just in the company of myfather, alone on the trail with him."180One of the earliest stories describes an incident which did occur inside the home andmother plays a role as well. It contains some unorthodox parental behaviour by Brent'sfather which suggests a little about his character. The reaction to what happens, on the otherhand, is stereotypically classic:"The thing I enjoyed most around about the time I was 4 was I used to havethis plastic truck that had wheels and it was a swivel thing like a tractortrailer. You sat on the body of it and were supposed to steer with your hands,but the wheel had broken off. He (my father' d) put a steel bar through thefront of it, so I could steer it with my feet. And he had a forked stick and hewas pushing me around the house. It was the type of house where you coulddrive down the wooden hallway and through the linoleum kitchen floor andback out onto the hallway again. I was doing 4 wheel skids around thecorners, while he was pushing. I particularly remember one time when I hitthe door jamb with my face, really hard, right down the old forehead. I feltlike I'd been split in two. Dad was pretty shook up. He couldn't decidewhether to hug me or to touch me or what. He was just frozen there, going"oh, sorry Brent". It was mom who came and gave me a hug and checked meout. Dad was sort of standing there with his hands up going, "what do I do".Then he stuck his hands in his pockets, being very awkward. It was like hejust didn't know what to do with himself..."Perhaps predictably, there is a major subset of these earliest stories which is centeredaround a particularly powerful incident and the emotions which were evoked are often stillquite clear. In fact, the emotions sometimes comes across more clearly than the details.Being disciplined was the most common of these situations. Several men pointed out that"it was mom who gave the lickings in our family" or who used the "strap", but three menmentioned vivid memories of being punished by their fathers: Dan was stung by a slap fromhis father which brought tears to his eyes; Rick remembers his father giving him the "beatingof a lifetime" for breaking the chandelier while playing football in the living room with hisbrother on a Saturday morning; and Dave described this event and what led up to it. It wasthe only time his father physically punished him:."The earliest remembrance I have of my dad and I being alone, there's a realsense of disappointment on my part. That I disappointed him... I was this littlegolden child who was going to carry on my father's name, and I was the onlygrandchild. I was named after my grandfather.Anyways, so the earliest memory I have of being alone and this senseof disappointment came from - I remember going to a Thrasherman' s Paradein Maple (rural Saskatchewan) and A and P Motors, which is the John DeereDealership in Maple, was giving out these emblems that you can iron onto aplain T shirt. I remember it was this piece of paper with this yellow iron-onon it, that was for me. And I remember my father encouraging me as this kid,181to go up and get it. And so I had this iron-on transfer.I remember taking it home and being very proud of it. It sat on thefridge for what must have been an eternity and I wanted this thing on myshirt. I used to always check this thing and make sure it was ok. And beinga kid at home, I wasn't yet at school. And it came to the point where we weregoing to get this thing put on a T shirt.And I don't remember what the circumstances were, what I had donewrong, but I had obviously misbehaved. I was in the truck, standing besidemy dad. There were no seat belts at that point, and I remember my fathersaying 'don't you dare rip that. I'll slap you if you do.' He'd never hit meto that point and did not hit me since, but I don't know if I did something orif he was having a bad day, or if there had been a conflict with mother, or ifthere was financial stress or what. But I remember standing beside him andripping this transfer. [deliberately?] Deliberately. To test him, I suppose, totest him. He stopped the truck and he slapped me. I just remember the lookof... the tears and the crying were not from being hurt - my father had not hitme that hard - it was the shock that ' holy cow, I really pushed that man overthe limit'... I just remember being so disappointed, in him, in myself And Idon't know why but that T shirt is still at home somewhere. We were takingthis damn transfer into town to get it put on in one of those shops."It was not only the trauma of paternal disapproval however that left strong emotionsimprinted on sons' memories. Marty remembers being awaken at night by the sound of hisparents quarrelling, and then silently crying himself back to sleep. Kevin ran into his parent'sroom during one of their fights only to get cuffed himself and "sent packing". Kyle at 5remembers his father coming home from work and in to see the boys in the living room toask them if they would like to go on a ferry ride. It was his way of announcing that he hadbeen transferred to Vancouver and the family would be moving again.b. Ages 8 to 13: puberty and turmoilSeveral of the stories from ages 8 or 9 seemed to be more thematically linked to theearly stories. A more natural way to divide the stories may have been a little later, at aroundage 10, towards the end of the Freudian latency period. For example, Rick described anincident involving his father getting into a rage over an item which as a 9 year old, he'dbroken while inside a mall store. The story was very similiar to Dave's about ripping thetransfer in the truck: confronted with his father's anger, Rick remembers thinking "who wasthis [raging] guy?". Similiarly, Kyle was punished by his father for thieving at age 8 whena 2 dollar bill was found under his bed. He says he was innocent of this charge, but hadbeen committing other thefts around the time, and so figured the punishment must have beensomehow related to that guilt. He remembers how angry his father became at his denials.Father as disciplinarian will be discussed in more detail in theme 5. Another example of astory that still seemed to be part of a latency period was Gord's recollection of visiting hisfather in residence at a university and wetting the bed, every night until he was 10. One finalstory which also seems to belong in a category of early memories is that of 10 year old182Bruce, who described sitting on the bench for the whole of his team's soccer game,contentedly looking in the grass and even excitedly finding a 4 leaf clover. His father,meanwhile, got very irate and quite belligerent with his coach for not letting his son play.Puberty is surely a time of intense transition and for many boys a source of richrecollections. In preparation for separation from family, the world begins to intrude onadolescent consciousness, and awareness grows that these idyllic encapsulated families of thefifties and sixties have to face pressures and strains from outside. Stories from the age of tenonwards seemed to take on characteristic teenage qualities - conflict, testing and passages -for example. Also the emotional content of the stories seemed to become much more intense.One respondent observed with interest that "man, a lot of things happened to me when I wasanywhere from the age of 10 to about 14". Another noted that tension increaseddramatically with his father at the age of 12 or 13. One classic example is illustrated byBrent in this story of loss of innocence."There was one time at 12. We were walking down the street in front of ourhouse, and I was holding his hand. It felt really great, I felt reallycomfortable, and was having fun. And some kid looked across the street at meand called me a fag, or something like that. Or dad a fag, I wasn't reallysure who he was calling at. But suddenly I felt very uncomfortable and I letgo of his hand. Apparently - I found out from mom, dad never said a word -he was very hurt by this, by me letting go of his hand. And it was at thatpoint that our relationship really changed: from, uh, I could go and see himand sometimes get him to do things with me, to being totally alienated fromhim. And it was from that point too, the kind of relationship I had with him[became] one loaded with anger, on both our parts... this age 12 keepspopping up in my mind as when things really changed".If the earliest stories contain an almost idyllic quality of unbiased insight into theworld of father, these stories were far more likely to contain strong judgement - praise orcriticism - of father in the insight about him that these encounters provided. They seemedto indicate a fixing of the qualities of the emotional relationship within the dyad: the extentof ease with which the sons related to their fathers strongly predicted the type of storieswhich would be told.Paul, Frank and Mel all told stories in which their fathers were heroic: Paul's fatherhad to carry a pistol for a while after he'd had to fire a large and angry man from his sawmillin Jamaica; Frank's father always had lots of money, something which helped to balance hisfeeling of being an outsider with his peers due to being a Catholic; Mel's father, a formerpolice officer, once pulled a gun on an angry customer who was threatening them in theconvenience store that their family operated. Another time Mel was impressed with how hisfather took over the scene after a bad car accident near the store. As boys, these three aswell as Dan and Dave, could all access their fathers at his place of work and get to know himthere, a factor that may be important in light of the observation made earlier that sonsappeared to experience their fathers more strongly outside the family. The question arises183then whether a link exists between these "heroic" views of father and this experience of himat work.More commonly stories showed fathers in a poor light, where he had hurt ordisappointed the sons in some profound way. Gord's father taught at the same high schoolthat Gord attended and several times forgot to give Gord a ride after school, so that he endedup walking the 17 miles home in the dark: Gord ruminated bitterly all this way over hisdisappointment and hurt that his father hadn't even remembered him. Dave described hisfather as giving in to a bullying mother over an alleged affair and was "bitterly disappointed"in him. Bruce told of disagreeing with his father on the beach in PEI over the cause oftides, knowing that he was right and seeing his father as a blustering and ignorant man. Hetells the story with eloquence:"Ok. I remember when I was late pre-adolescent, maybe 12 or 13 - there wasa much increased level of tension or intolerance between my father and me.I was doing really well in school and I was really quite an avid reader, Ireally liked the sciences and I was always reading about technical andscientific subjects. And we took - he bought his first car in 1961 because heneeded it to do the travelling for the sales work that he was now engaged in -and the first holiday that we ever took was to P .E. I. We'd never had muchof a holiday in the summer before because we had never been able to getaway from the city.Here we were on the Eastern seaboard and it was the first time I everremember seeing the ocean. We were walking along the beach and the PrinceEdward Island shore is quite amazing. Its quite bizarre. Its red, red red rock,red sedimentary rock and the soil is red - tropical soils are like that too,bright red. And you can see from the rocks on the shoreline that they arecarved by the ocean. You know, the waves come splashing in and carve therock and left all kinds of caves and notches and slices through this rock.And we'd be walking along there and we'd be walking over the tides'cause you could walk at low tide but you couldn't walk at high tide and sothe tides were a really amazing thing to see, because I'd never seen thembefore. But I'd read enough about them that I said, "Yeah well the tides arecaused by the influence of the moon and the sun pulling the water on thesurface of the earth around. The earth's water has a bulge that tracks themovement of the moon and it tracks the movement of the sun".This was completely unacceptable, my father was unwilling to hear thatI might know about how the tides were caused. He was convinced that whenyou got outside the earth's atmosphere, there was no gravity. He'dunderstood this I guess, from some of the coverage of the sputniks and thesatellites of the late fifties. There was no gravity outside the earth'satmosphere and so it was impossible, impossible that you could ever have themoon pulling the earth's oceans around, or the sun pulling the earth's oceansaround. Well I knew that this was not right, I knew that gravity was workingwhether you were inside or outside the earth's atmosphere, gravity was what184was holding the solar system together, gravity was what held the galaxytogether. Gravity was the transmission medium by which the moon and thesun attracted the moon and made the tides. I remember being very upset thatI couldn't get this very elementary idea through to my father. He wouldn'taccept that I had read up and had an understanding of the tides. This was asign of the kind of tension, rivalry and stubbornness between us. And its anindicator to me that already I was very distant from him."Rivalry is one aspect of the dynamic with father that seemed to appear for many ofthe boys as sexual maturation began. No stories contained any form of education for boysabout relating to the opposite sex, except for the injunction from Paul's father that a mandoesn't hit a female - even one's sister. One of the few criticisms Frank made about hisparenting was the lack of guidance of any sort about sexual matters. Similiarly, Brucebemoaned the fact that the only message he got about sex came from his mother suggestingthat it was a frightening and unpleasant activity.Parental conflict became an issue for several men in the stories from around the timeof puberty. The incident with Dave and the affair was part of a "summer of horror", whenhis parents fought continually and he couldn't wait until school began in the fall so he couldescape from the house. Rick, Gord, Bruce and Marty all remembered wondering around thistime why their parents didn't split up. Marty said his mother had just come back from a visitto the priest, in which she advised him that she couldn't stay with her husband, on the verynight he had a brain aneurism. She took care of him for another 14 years before he died.Again, activities that occurred outside of the family home were frequently described.Gord described a summer long family trip in a Volkswagen van. Brent's only reallyenjoyable memories involving father at this time involved time spent at his grandparent'slakeside cottage. Bruce, as we've seen, recalled a trip to P.E.I. Kyle remembers a campingtrip that only he, his father and his younger brother attended:"The family had always gone camping together in the summertime. We wouldgo to a lake and set up for a week or we'd do a little tour. I guess my oldestbrother had moved out of the house and my second oldest brother was oldenough that he really didn't want to go. And my mom had never liked campinganyways, so one summer my dad took me and my younger brother camping.And we had a week alone with him. We just went up to a campground onGeorgian Bay and hung out. The weather was terrible. It wasn't aparticularly spectacular or wonderful vacation or anything but I remember itquite clearly. I remember swimming with him and my brother, and doingthings in a closer manner than ever in all the time I was growing up."The theme of passages is always prominent in discussions of adolescence. Severalmen experienced crucial family changes at this time of their lives. Kevin's mother committedsuicide when he was 10 years old, forcing him to grow up very quickly. Marty's father, aswe've seen, had an aneurism and a stroke when he 12 and spent 2 years in a hospital. Bothmen continue to struggle with the impact of these events. Gord, Dave, Marty, Brent and185Kevin all described events which marked significant developmental transitions. Kevin's isan interesting picture of a reluctant transition accelerated prematurely by the untimely deathof his mother and his father's attempting to deal with that event:"That was a really bad time in my life because my mom had committed suicidewhen I was 10. And it was pretty hard on the whole family, or the 3 of usanyhow. But I remember, this was when my sister and I were introduced tomy step mother to be. At that point she was only the baby sitter. And uh, Iguess just before I turned 13, he sat me down. This particular incident Ialways remember he sat me down at the kitchen table - man to man so tospeak. Out came the bottle of rye, 2 little shot glasses. (I was 12 for sure,maybe 13.) He had asked my permission, what I thought about him re-marrying. I remember inside thinking no, I didn't want him to because hecouldn't replace my mom. But I said yes, to make him happy. And I thoughtthat was the right thing to do. So it happened. And God knows, I live toregret it today... I hated it. It was really the worse thing that ever happenedin our family."c. Ages 14-19: preparing to leave Leaving home is a very significant time of passage and the way sons leave seems tobe highly influenced by the nature of their connection with their father. It is a time whichcan be greatly facilitated by a positive relationship with father. If the puberty age storieswere characterized by emotional reactions to father on a personal level, by this stage theperception of the sons becomes more public or global. How they see their own fathers in theworld is a key now, as the sons begin to find their way. This perception is of course anotherlayer which is built upon how well the two have managed to establish emotional connectionsand if problems in that have continued to impact the relationship, this will in turn distort thevision and expectations a man has of his father.As we've seen, five men, Frank, Mel, Dave, Paul and Dan had fathers who were selfemployed in their own business or were easily accessible at their place of work by their sons- Dave's father is a farmer as was Paul's for a period. One suspects that for these men,leaving home was much less traumatic. Frank's leaving school was a pretty straightforwardstep on a fairly gentle path towards independence. Frank left home to get married at the ageof 21:"They wouldn't let me do any of the automotive stuff in the (school) shop. Itwas all English, and Social Studies and the whole ball of wax again. So, Icame home one day and I said listen - this was November 1 - and I told mydad "I don't want to do this, I'm going nowhere". And I'd gone to schoolevery day, I never cut classes. So he said, "ok, come on to work (at thegarage)". And I went to work... I was 16."Mel left home at 17 by staying behind to finish high school when his parents moved186about 30 miles away, although he moved back in with them six years later. Dan spent muchof his teen years working in his father's shop, but his leaving to go university was both aproud first for his family and a little lonely for Dan.The role of conflict in assisting the cutting of family ties is interesting: how overt thisbecomes seems to be largely a function of the control father still holds. Clearly this ageperiod is a time of challenging and testing. Father, for some men, became the first obstacleto overcome on their way out of the nest. He is one that several men never overcame.Bruce, who is 43 was, until recently, still fighting - physically - with his brother and eventheir father, who is now 78. He has never "defeated" this old man, and remembers as a 19year old being humiliated by the fact that he couldn't keep up to him skiing. That same yearhe tried to intervene in a physical fight between his parents and was knocked down the stairs.The bruises, he said significantly, took a long time to heal. Brent remembers withsatisfaction telling his father at 19 to "fuck off, dad". He moved out soon after, with hisfather's blessings and assistance. Only the two eldest respondents moved from the familyhome directly into their matrimonial homes: both of these men were born before the end ofthe second world war.At the opposite end of the spectrum of leaving home experiences was Kevin, who aswe've seen, had to grow up quickly after the premature death of his mother. His fathermarried his housekeeper three years later and Kevin "hated her (the stepmother) with apassion". Conflict between them led to his leaving home at the age of 15:"She was just giving me a hard time, and I pissed her off and she came at melike she was gonna kill me and I ran for my life, scared...I ran out the backdoor which was a wood door with a window in it. When I ran out, sheslammed the door on my ankle and had me pinned there. She wasn't a smallwoman, and I couldn't get free. I was so angry, all I could see on the otherside of the window was her face and I smashed it out, and ended up tearingup my arm pretty good. I had to go hospital and get a pile of stitches. WhenI came home, dad had just got off the night shift and he says "you better backyour bags". I figured that was a pretty fair deal and that was the end of that.So I left."Interestingly, Kevin had also told a story of defeating his father in a physical fight (seeViolence theme) when he was 14 while both were under the influence of alcohol. Onewonders how much this event contributed to his father asking him to leave less than 6 monthslater.Stories of this age, then, frequently involved the first experiences the sons had ofdrinking, sex, money, getting a license or buying the first car. Fathers' role was occasionallyto facilitate these achievements, but more often it seemed to impede them or challenge sons.How fathers chose to deal with these issues reveals something both about their ownexperiences and about their wisdom. Two fathers introduced their sons to alcoholdeliberately, attempting to teach them a lesson about it. None instructed their sons aboutsexuality. Rick's father walked into his room once while Rick was masturbating. His187reaction was to back out and close the door, never broaching the topic with Rick ("like anynormal father would"). Instead, for several days around the house, eye contact was avoided.How fathers responded in times of crisis was also significant to the relationship withthe sons. Paul was caught with some other boys, stealing wood from a construction site. Hisfather's lack of reaction was impressive: he told Paul he knew he'd made a mistake andwouldn't do it again and so discipline was not necessary. Kyle told a similiar story ofunderstanding from his father when he was arrested for drugs and spent three months in jail.The personal support and lack of recriminations from his father is still important to him - itwas an expression of trust - and the jail experience certainly straightened out his path: Kyleis now a successful radio producer.Kyle's leaving home to go to university was facilitated by his father who helped tosmooth things over with his mother: she'd had different plans. This was not uncommon inthe way sons left home. Bruce's mother was "bitterly disappointed" when he moved out.Gord's parents divorced when he was 17: he stayed with his mother for a year, until a bitterfight drove him from there to his father's house. Rick says his mother "meddled" in hisrelationship with the woman he left home to move in with. On the other hand, fathers, evenwhen they were problematic for the sons, tended to support them to move out, if they playeda part at all.Both Marty and Dave told of gaining acceptance into difficult and prestigiousprograms that required their leaving home. Their mothers facilitated these leavings and inboth cases, emotionally poignant farewells with the fathers were experienced. Many of thethemes involved in leaving home, particularly the emotional pushes and pulls that run throughthis experience, are pulled together by Dave into this story of him leaving home, father andthe family farm:"... I was accepted on an exchange program called Canada World Youth. Atthat time it was a year long exchange program. You spent half of your timein a community in Canada and 6 months in a developing country. And so Ispent 6 months here in Revelstoke and I spent 6 months in Sri Lanka. And itwas a difficult program to get into at that time. So there was a certain status.I think that my father was proud when I was accepted. It was a longapplication process. My senior year was spent applying for this, interviewsand going through the medical. It was a fairly strenuous application process.When I finally did get accepted, I remember getting the letter at schooland I went in and drove to Maple to the school and got the letter and drovehome. And the first person I showed it to was my mother and she was stillasleep and was quite groggy, although was excited and shared in myenthusiasm. My dad, he was excited and pleased that I had been selected, butat the same time he asked me if I was sure that that was what I wanted, if Iwas sure that that was what I wanted to do. He pointed out that just becauseI had been accepted didn't mean I had to take it. I could still withdraw fromthe program. But I was committed to the program and I very much wantedto do it.But again, through that whole process, now that I was accepted I had188to buy all this stuff. I had to get a backpack, and supplies and halazone tabletsand all this stuff to take overseas. Mom was there to provide the sort ofemotional support, the immediate support that I needed and dad did thebackground work that was needed and was dependable - you know go intotown and pick up the backpack. He was very much hands on.The program. My best friend Mark and I had applied for it togetherand the program was set up in such a way that there are 2 starting dates andI had been accepted for the first starting date and unfortunately my best friendMark, who we lived together practically from the time we were inkindergarten, wasn't accepted. And so that was part of the concern that mydad had I suppose, was one of us was going off and how was the other onegoing to handle the rejection.Mark came out the night before I left, I was going to drive to R. withmy mother who was in the middle of seeding at that point - June, 78. My dadcouldn't go with us to R. The plane left at 8 o'clock in the morning so wewere up early and the car was packed. Again my dad had done all thepractical stuff, he had gassed up the car, put oil in it, made sure we weregonna get there, you know, made the coffee, so that we could get an earlystart. And I remember Mark was coming to R. to wish me well and my motherwas gonna drive us. And he made sure we had everything, my passport, thispackage of envelopes with stamps on it so I could write in Canada, that kindof stuff.I remember us hugging goodbye and we drove off. And I saw my dadgo back into the house and we had forgotten something. We had got maybetwo miles from home and had to turn around and go back and get this. AndI remember my dad ... we came in the back way which is quite sheltered, soyou don't hear the car coming in, and I got out of the car and ran into thehouse so I could pick this stuff up in my room. And in order to get to mybedroom, I had to go through the dining room. And my father was sitting atthe dining room table. And he was weeping. It was the only time that I hadseen him express any kind of emotion. I didn't have to say anything. I justwent up to him and said "it'd be ok, I'll be ok dad".And its something that can still bring tears to my eyes, when I thinkabout it now. It was the only time that he'd allowed this strong facade tobreak down. I watched him at his father's funeral and at his mother's funeral.His older brother Bob was killed in a farming accident and there wasn't thatsame kind of emotion, he wasn't able to express himself in that way. But Ithink he was scared for me. I think he was scared for himself because for thefirst time he and my mother would be alone in the house. I think he wasmourning the loss - that his son would not come home to the farm as the sameperson. I think he knew that I was going and would not likely be back - in thesame way. He was mourning his own adulthood, his children were gone now,he no longer had a child at home.189d. Adult stories: men and fathers The amount of actual contact between people is a poor indicator of the quality of arelationship, but it can provide a crude measure of connection and suggest at least thepossibility for flexibility, openness or change. Of the 12 men interviewed, only three, Paul,Rick and Brent, told stories about recent contact with their fathers and seemed tocommunicate regularly (more often than monthly) with their parental families. Paul is themost loyal of his parents' 10 children and normally sees them every second week, althoughhis wife's busy life as a student has cut down on this visiting schedule.Resolving issues which create tension - letting go of needing approval for example -is the work for many men well into their adult lives. Brent still wrestles with themes ofapproval from his father: the last time he saw him several weeks prior to the interview, hisfather expressed a dislike for Brent's new beard. Rick had spoken to his father the samemorning announcing his impending separation and intention to move to the Interior. It is amove that he hopes will help him start over, and he seems clear that he needs to make abreak from his parents, who have remained intimately involved in his life. These three werethe only subjects with fathers currently living in this province and despite the apparentdifficulties in the relationships, these fathers were most available.Three more subjects, Dave, Kyle and Dan had fathers living from 1000 to 10,000miles away. These three all expressed the wish for more frequent contact with their fathers.All of them described some sadness or pain that they feel that their fathers are so far out oftheir lives. Dan, for example, who's father lives in Sri Lanka, stated that "it would be a verygreat shock" were his 78 year old father to die before he returned there again. Kyle feelssome pain that his 78 year old father spends much time holidaying with his second wife inthe Caribbean and seems reluctant to visit Kyle and his family here on the west coast. Daveexpressed the belief that as his parents reach retirement age, he could if he so chose,influence them to move out here to retire. He didn't say whether that was what he wouldlike to happen. He did communicate with them by telephone weekly for a time.Interestingly, each of these three seem to romanticize their relationships with theirfathers. Kyle says he would be "proud to be like my father", an active and alive 78 year oldman. For Dan, the day when he can return home will be "the best day, the happiest time".Dave expresses great fondness for his father yet continues to allow his mother to influencethe ways that he and his father find to connect with each other.Two more respondents, Gord and Bruce, described arguments which had occurred atthe time of the last contact with their fathers, both several years prior to the interview. Gordhad gone to have dinner with his father and his second wife, prepared to ask a lot ofquestions about unresolved family issues and it did not go well. He has not spoken to hisfather since that time, and thinks he may be in Germany now. Bruce had gone home toMontreal, and was late arriving at his brother's for Christmas. Both the brother and theirfather verbally and then physically attacked him, telling him they didn't want to see himagain. He has spoken only very formally to his father on the phone since.The impending death of their fathers seemed to introduce new perspectives into therelationship and sometimes provided an opportunity or incentive to make improvements.Sometimes, death leaves a legacy of regrets of failings or painfully unresolved issues. At thetime of being interviewed, four of the 12 men had experienced the death of their fathers,190often described as a vital moment in a man's life (Osherson, 1990). Frank's father died about15 years ago and he was able to discuss both some of the failings he felt around that eventand how he's made peace with it. He then describes his reflections on the scene at hisfather's funeral:"I loved that guy so much but when he was in the hospital dying, I went inand I saw him and he was just, in great pain and you could see the agony inhis eyes. And I said dad I can't stay here, I can't stand seeing you like this.And a couple days later, he was back home again. And then he stayedhome for another week and he died. He died in his sleep. I saw him the nightthat he died. I just couldn't handle it. I feel a lot of times that I let him down.I'm not a person who has a lot of outward emotion. I don't cry a lot... butanyway, I left him. When he was in the funeral parlour, I went over to seehim, he was lying in the casket. I said a few words to him and I was all alone.And my eyes got a little watered up, but I didn't cry. I went and got in mycar and I drove about a half a block. And then all of a sudden, I had to pullover, just, it came whooaa, just this huge flush of tears, I was just sobbing,and I thought what was happening here. And I couldn't hold it back. And Igot into some real deep crying, I don't know how long it lasted for 10 minutes,20 minutes, I don't know. When you're in that state, there's no time. And thenI got myself together again, but I've often thought that, I've felt that I let himdown there. So, then he died and that was the end of it."He was buried in St. A's church, and for a guy with a grade 3 education andhaving a gas station, the church was full. I couldn't believe it. When wewere carrying him out, I turned and looked, and the church was full. It wasfull of people. And that's an accomplishment. You know sometimes I thinkthat if I drop dead tomorrow, who'll turn up for my funeral? Anybody? HaveI touched anybody's life? ... It's not how much money you have in the bankthat counts, its did you contribute? ... And he did contribute, he did.The other three men have experienced the death of their fathers in the last 7 years.Marty's story was full of detail of the death and his part in it, but he was not sure what thedeath has meant in his life. Mel also seemed to be trying to make sense of his father's deathand how his life carries on without him, but he did have a good memory of his dad dyingwith all 9 children and other extended family present in the hospital room. Kevin's lastcontact with his father completed a tragic family history which Kevin has tried his best tocome to terms with recently. The last time he spoke with his father was in an argument onthe phone:"so I said the hell with you and hung up the phone. And I never spoke to himfor 3 more years. Actually, I never talked to him. I tried to talk to him 3years later on the phone and the same thing - we got into an argument in thefirst 60 seconds and I said the hell with it. And I never saw him until he was191in the hospital. He'd had a massive heart attack and I never did get thechance to make amends or say goodbye or those types of things."In some ways the most recent stories about the fathers were the saddest ones, formany, their hopes had run out. Five of the twelve men mentioned the effects of their father'salcohol use on their family relationships, several labelling their fathers alcoholics. Martyspoke of picking his father up at the pub on a Saturday night because he was too drunk tomake it home on his own. His father had done the very same with Marty's grandfather, 30years previously. Perhaps because he never did get to "make amends", Kevin remains fearfulabout becoming a father himself, out of a concern that he would turn out to be the same kindas his father. More discussion of such multigenerational themes is found in chapter V.192


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