The role of the father has received comment in many case reports. In a majority of these reports, the father was described as physically absent or psychologically peripheral (e.g., Haber 1991a; Stoller 1966) and hence unavailable to counteract or buffer the distortions in the mother-son relationship. In other reports, the father was described as severely disturbed and unpredictably aggressive and therefore difficult for the son to identify with (e.g., Fischhoff 1964).
If the father is truly remote or psychologically disturbed in his own right, part of the therapeutic task with the boy is to help him develop a more diverse perception of men and maleness and thus to assimilate and work through the negative impact of the father’s psychopathology and build on whatever strengths might exist in the father-son relationship or with other adult males. It is possible that when the therapist is a male, transference phenomena (e.g., idealization, identification) can be more readily used to facilitate a masculine identification.
Parental Encouragement of Cross-Gender Behavior
Stoller (1968) emphasized the effects of parental attitudes toward masculinity and femininity on the child’s development. He argued that the mothers of extremely feminine boys had had gender identity conflicts as children, which led them to devalue men and masculinity and that this devaluation is felt by the young boy, who somehow comes to believe that his mother will reject him if he is masculine but that he can preserve his relationship with her if he is feminine. Other reports have also implicated mothers’ (or grandmothers’) encouragement of femininity and devaluation of men in the development of GID in boys (e.g., Bleiberg et al. 1986; Loeb 1992; Loeb and Shane 1982; Lothstein 1988). Although the motivations that were judged to underlie this aspect of parental behavior appeared to vary considerably, it is of interest that the proximal variable of parental tolerance or encouragement of cross-gender behavior has been apparent in the intensive case reports offered by psychotherapists, which converges with the observations of those who hold other theoretical perspectives.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.