The meaning of the absence of the father in the development of infants
The research explores the meaning and concomitant effects of the absence of the father in the development of very young children by observing three cases of single parent families where the fathers were continuously and permanently absent. A comparison group was also used. The exploration rests upon a minimum of pre-suppositions; we are not pre-supposing at the outset that a single mother household inevitably leads to pathology. Since the research investigates meaning the focus of attention is on the internal worlds of baby and mother. The research utilises the psychoanalytic theories of fatherhood of Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Wisdom, Ogden and Gaddini. Interpretation of behaviour observed draws upon psychoanalytic theories of inference and meaning, especially the models of the mind used in the clinical work of Klein, Bion and Meltzer. The method used in the research was a modification of the Tavistock Method of Infant Observationa s initiated by E Bick, the centralp sychoanalyticc onceptsu sed being those of transferencea nd countertransference. The responseosf the differentm emberso f the families to the presenceo f a male observer was a focal point of the research and illuminated the meaning of the father's absence and the father's role in early development.