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Contrary to idealized images of parenthood, the months immediately following childbirth are characterized by enhanced rates of parental mental illness and filicide. In this paper we consider fathers and their role in the postnatal well-being of the parturient couple. The process of becoming a father is influenced by not only the man's internal and external experiences of 'father', but also the woman's, since the new infant's relationship with father is mediated by mother and her conjugal relationship with father. When a couple's prenatal relationship is based on a system of shared parental constructs involving a denigrated father and overvalued mother and a concomitant intolerance of the idea of a creative (Oedipal) couple, they will experience particular difficulties in adjusting to the new family configuration. In working with individuals or couples who have experienced post-partum psychological difficulties it is important to remember that not only maternal imagos but also paternal and conjugal ones need to be addressed.


Journal article


Br J Med Psychol

Publication Date



68 ( Pt 2)


157 - 168


Adult, Fathers, Female, Gender Identity, Humans, Internal-External Control, Male, Marriage, Oedipus Complex, Parent-Child Relations, Parenting, Psychoanalytic Therapy, Psychotic Disorders, Puerperal Disorders