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This event was incredibly moving and powerful as well as offering excellent insights for clinical work. Included below some feedback from participants about the aspects of the event that they found most valuable and engaging.
"The topic itself - fathers and fathering is not discussed often enough All presenters were excellent."
"The importance of focusing on the couple and couple's relationship Eugene and Aileen's presentations were meaningful ... profound"
"Great variety of speaker and approach - from Eugene’s personal presentation to Michael’s more theoretical approach. And the Cowans work is so very interesting and impressive. It made for a really good CPD event"
"Discussions on race within our practice as psychologists - The powerful impact of having someone from the field share their personal story - thank you, Eugene. Was enlightening."
A father’s involvement in a child’s upbringing has a considerable impact on their development. Father absence can hinder development from infancy through to adulthood and its psychological impact can be felt throughout the life course. However, in a world where women continue to be placed at the centre of childcare, understanding the experience of fatherhood is an overlooked area in psychotherapeutic theory, research, and practice.
In this recording, our speakers offer a range of perspectives on fathering and fatherhood. Carolyn and Phil Cowan shared their groundbreaking research into including fathers more actively in family services and conveyed the fundamental importance in the couple relationship to support the individuals. Aileen Alleyne and Eugene Ellis focus on black experiences of fatherhood where intergenerational trauma prevails, drawing on personal, historical and contemporary social insights. Michael Diamond offered a psychoanalytic perspective.
Fathers’ positive involvement in the family contributes substantially to their children’s development. It makes sense, then, to strengthen families by providing interventions to enhance fathers’ positive involvement. Although fathers have pejoratively been described as absent or missing, until recently they have been almost completely ignored by academic researchers and family service providers. The first step in including more fathers in family services involves removing the barriers to participation that fathers face. The second step involves recognizing that fathers’ parenting occurs in a context shaped by the quality of relationship between the parents. Carolyn and Phil will describe an evidence-based couples group intervention for low-income, vulnerable families conducted in the U.S, the U.K., Canada, and Malta. In longitudinal studies with more than 2000 father-mother pairs, we have found that improving the relationship between the co-parents results in less violent problem solving, more effective relationships between each parent and their young children, and fewer behaviour problems, more successful peer relationships, and higher levels of academic achievement in the children. These findings are highly relevant to therapeutic theory, practice, and social policy.
Aileen will explore how the ’absent black father’ phenomenon pervades as a historical trauma that continues to be passed down through generations of black family life. The newest generation of black fathers from Gen Z are confronting old narratives and stereotypes, for example through social support groups, but intergenerational trauma persists despite such efforts. This highlights how complex and embedded ‘father absence’ is in black family life. What is being re-enacted in the creation and maintenance of families? What do we know about black motherhood and how it interacts with fatherhood? What is it about black masculinity that gets repeated rather than repaired across each generation of new fathers? Aileen will situate these important questions in their historical and contemporary context and offer ideas for working with clients.
In this reflective talk, Eugene will share his personal lived experience of growing up with an ‘absent black father’, as well as his inner work toward healing, the reparation of his relationship with his father, and his experience of becoming a father himself. Eugene’s Jamaican father was present physically but struggled to establish a strong emotional bond with Eugene as he grew up, causing a lasting impact on his sense of self. Eugene will consider the notion of the ‘absent black father’ and the wider cultural impact of intergenerational trauma on his experience. As Eugene became a father himself, he felt determined to break this pattern, which brought its own set of new challenges. Through sharing his experience, Eugene seeks to challenge misperceptions of ‘absent black fatherhood’ and deepen insight into the many components that contribute to black parental challenges and strengths.
Michael Diamond discusses both the symbolic and the actual, flesh-and-blood father. The so-called “paternal function,” more accurately termed the “symbolic function,” signifies that a triadic matrix always exists psychically yet is not intrinsically gendered. Moreover, an ever present “father in the mother’s unconscious mind,” indicates that triangular relations can operate within the mother/child dyad enabling the ‘third’ to open up symbolic space – across heteronormative, gay or non-binary, and single parenting circumstances. As an embodied other, the actual father or surrogate (regardless of gender), operating as both a protective and attracting object as well as a separating agent as the “second other” to the mother, is called upon to recognize the child’s otherness. Challenges to fathering arise from inescapable dependencies, desires, rivalries, and absences or neglect; consequently, recovering the “missing” paternal function in analytic space is often required as a brief clinical vignette will illustrate.