Life Style

Father-child relationship: “We went from a strict father to an invested father”

The cross : How has the role of the father evolved?

John Le Camus: Early childhood specialists began to take an interest in its place in child development in the 1950s and 1960s. At the time, the reference was the paterfamilias antique. The role of the father was considered “delayed” compared to that of the mother, which had an immediate function from birth, or even before. It was not supposed to intervene in the development of the child before the age of 3 years, even 7 years. Its action was indirect and mediated by the mother. Finally, he was supposed to be the guarantor of authority. He embodied the law, while the mother brought love and tenderness.

At that time, did a father have to be distant with a daughter?

JL C: There was no clear prescription. But given the stereotypes of the time, which represented boys as brave and robust and girls as delicate and cozy, one can imagine that fathers felt less close to the feminine universe. The taboo of the difference between the sexes and the theories of Freud, which the general public was beginning to hear about, could also contribute to maintaining a certain distance between father and daughter.

This traditional conception of fatherhood did not resist the 1968 revolution…

JL C: No, the 1970s completely overturned mentalities and representations, as well as the conceptions and practices of early childhood specialists. It is now considered that the presence of the father with the child must be immediate. His role is direct like that of the mother and is not limited to authority, which means that he can be tender and loving. Gradually, we went from the severe father, in Lacan’s words, to the present father invested in the care of the baby.

In the 1980s, they were called papa poules…

J.LC: Yes, it was a derogatory term used by those who criticized these developments. It is true that at the time there were some excesses. Some practices went beyond what specialists recommended, such as water birth with the father in the bathtub. Personally, I reject this designation. I prefer to talk about fathers involved early in the care of the baby.

Today, we are talking about “new fathers”. Your latest book is called The Father and the New Fatherhood (1). What changed ?

JL C: New fathers are those who have understood and implemented co-parenting. Those who with their child, girl or boy, manage to harmoniously reconcile tenderness, emotional closeness and respect for the rule. We gradually moved away from dual parenthood, where the difference between the two parents was defined by their gender, to engage in co-parenting, where mother and father are recognized as able to meet the basic needs of the child.


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