As it is true of a child’s ideal mother, an ideal father begins to develop at a very early age—as young as 1 or 2 years of age. Part I of this report will review the changes in the societal view of father and how these changes affect the manner father-child dyad as well as the subsequent child percept of father.
Over the past fifty years or so fatherly influence upon his children has changed significantly in the United States. An increasing number of American children, experience little or no contact with their biologic father or, for that matter, any father-like role model. The impact of a father upon his daughter and/or son has been under enormous scrutiny due, in large part; to ideological/philosophical differences among sociologists/family studies of the early and middle twentieth century that has it that fathers are a minor functional role in the modern nuclear family. In their view, the most important relationship of a child is the mother-child dyadic relationship or maternal dyad. The paternal dyadic relationship is viewed as minor and supportive of the child’s mother.
Following the end of World War II with the return of male service members to the United States in 1946-1947, more and more men who became fathers learned his relationship with his children became more and more limited. Prior to World War II, families work together on the family farm or work was located close to their residence making the father more available than in the later part of the twentieth century and beyond. A number of family theorists argue it is the quality rather than the quantity of a father’s time spent with his children that is more important. This notion is debatable by others concerning its validity.
As with mother, children express definite ideals of what a father should be. Fathers, unfortunately, have been found to fall short more than mothers. There are those who believe there are three reasons for this. Since the 1970’s, the role of father has been under attack resulting in a lack of consciousness as to what the role of father should be. Second, so many fathers have conceded their roles to the mother. Third, so many fathers tend to expect more of their children’s mother and their children than both are capable of. Fathers subsequently became disappointed or disgusted with his child’s mother and the child. The child or children came to recognize this in their father or fathers resulting father-child conflict where amelioration is desired.
Part II will critique what children ideally desire in their father amid social family dissonance.