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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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


The present study explored the experience of relationship with father from the retrospective viewpoint of adult sons. Healing the father relationship has become an interest for many men and gender specific research in other fields of social enquiry has recently investigated the changing father role, yet in the social work and family therapy research literature, a lacuna was identified concerning the particulars of interpersonal relations with fathers. Twelve adult sons were asked to relate stories involving themselves and their fathers from progressive stages in their lives. Additional specific questioning sought the sons' perspectives on their relationships with father. Data was transcribed, qualitatively coded and grouped into 9 themes descriptive of father and son relations. Limitations of the study resulted from the small sample size, bias introduced by self selection and the problem of reliability of retrospective accounts, thus limiting the confidence with which findings can be generalized. Interviewing and analysis were guided by eclectic application of existing social science theory. Multiple levels of factors were found to characterize the relations between fathers and sons. Themes distinctly emerged which involved (i) personal dynamics of the relationship including rivalry, conflict and approval seeking, (ii) family concerns including the importance of mother, multigenerational patterns and developmental factors impacting on the relationship and, (iii) within the societal rubric, the experience of father as stranger, an image of him as hero and the role he engages in as provider. The primary clinical implications of the study are the confirmation of the importance of addressing the father relationship for adult men and the possibility of utilizing father as an opening into male emotionality. Future research will be required in order to confirm the salience of these themes by incorporating random designs, larger samples, multiple sources of evidence and cultural comparisons. This will also refine and focus an initial developmental model of father-son relations and longitudinal male psychological development which is proposed here.

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