The Internalization of the ‘‘Father’’ Object Among Young Men and Its Relation to Separation– Individuation Patterns, Anxiety and Depression


While the father’s influence on his offspring’s personalities and wellbeing has historically been neglected, literature on this topic has recently been
accumulating. The father’s influence is touches upon numerous practical and ethical implications for social work, psychotherapy, and psychodiagnosis. The present
study draws from Mahler’s (Mahler, Separation individuation. The selected papers of Margaret S. Mahler, 1963, 1967, 1974; Mahler et al., The psychological birth of
the human infant. Symbiosis and individuation, 1975) theory of the psychological birth of the child and offers a novel focus on the pivotal internal representation of
the father. According to this theory, hindered developmental processes lead to depression and anxiety. 130 students took part in the current study, in which the
internal father object was examined with regard to separation–individuation processes, and the levels of anxiety and depression were recorded. The study’s results
show a significant negative relation between the quality of the paternal object and levels of anxiety and depression. A theoretical model was constructed to illustrate
the similarities and discrepancies in the development of depression and anxiety in light of the father object as mediated by the separation–individuation processes that
were examined.


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