In the name of the father


A lot has been written regarding the relationship between mother and baby and the importance of the father’s role has been somehow neglected. The primary relationship of the baby and the mother plays a major role in the establishment of all future relationships the baby would have. However, the father’s role should not be underestimated.

The term “Name of the Father” was introduced in psychoanalysis by Lacan at the beginning of 1950 and it concerns the forbidden role of the father towards the incestuous desires of the child, establishing through this process the laws and morals. The father would become identified symbolically and unconsciously as a representation of law. Something similar Freud had already said much earlier in his theory of the Oedipus Complex.

Few years later Lacan would add that the absence of the “name of the father” would result in psychosis. The primary relationship of mother-baby is narcissistic. In the mind of the infant, mother and baby are one, there is nothing else in between. In this omnipotent, on the one hand, and suffocating relationship, on the other hand, the father’s presence would “rescue” the situation. In simple word: it is the father and what he represents that would “pull” the child out of the narcissistic relationship with the mother, a step necessary for his mental development and maturity.

The father’s presence in the family environment is needed. And when I say needed I don’t mean only as a physical presence but as mental and emotional one also. Unfortunately, we often witness families where the father is emotionally absent and this has impact on the child. Also, if the father’s word is repeatedly renounced by the mother then the child is doomed to remain submitted to the mother’s omnipotence.

Even though in psychoanalysis the reasons that may lead to psychosis differ, Lacan postulated an interesting thesis. On the other hand, there is consensus in the different psychoanalytic schools of thought regarding the father’s role in the creation of the child’s sexual identity. In the healthy completion of the Oedipal phase, the boy would identify with the father and the masculine position and the girl would identify with the mother and the feminine position.

Winnicott (1960) said that the father’s role is to protect the mother-child relationship providing the mother the necessary help to respond to the difficulties and frustrations of motherhood. The father’s presence offers a safe environment for both mother and baby. Like Freud once said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” (Freud, 1930)