1st Edition

Sons and Fathers
Challenges to paternal authority

ISBN 9780415838405
Published October 27, 2013 by Routledge
216 Pages 28 B/W Illustrations

USD $60.95

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Book Description

Father-son relationships can be notoriously difficult. Often fractious, sometimes hostile, and occasionally destructive, the issue of authority is negotiated by fathers and sons in a range of styles. In this fascinating new book, John Crosby describes the filial relationships of 20 historical figures to illustrate the different ways they related to their fathers, and what this can tell us about love, authority and the wider family context.

Sons and Fathers is an approach to understanding this son-father conflict based on early life experience rather than upon psycho-historian or psycho-biographical material and theorizing. Each vignette is designed to be read as a biographical account, but is bookended by a section reflecting on how each man’s relationship to his father can be understood in the context of key developmental theories, in particular those of Eric Erikson and Murray Bowen’s family system theory. The book also includes an extended introduction to both theorists for those unfamiliar with their work, as well as a discussion of the role of corporal punishment as a method of disciplining children.

From Michael Jackson to Bing Crosby, Joseph Stalin to John F Kennedy, this is a uniquely accessible but insightful book that will appeal to both general readers as well as students of Developmental Psychology across the lifespan, Family Studies, Marriage and Family therapy, and related subjects. It will also appeal to professionals working in the area, including social workers, counsellors and therapists.

Table of Contents

Preface. Part I Background and Foreground: The Self In The System. 1 Erik Erikson and His Theory of Human Development. 2 Murray Bowen and His Theory of Family Systems. Part II Father Absent. 3 Winston Churchill and Lord Randolph Churchill. 4 The Roosevelt Boys and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 5 Alexander the Great and King Philip. 6 Robert E. Lee and Light Horse Harry Lee. 7 The Adams Boys and John Adams. Part III Father Present. 8 Charles Darwin and Robert Darwin. 9 Franz Kafka and Hermann Kafka. 10 Benjamin Franklin and Josiah Franklin. 11 Sigmund Freud and Jakob Freud. Part IV Father Present Yet Distant. 12 Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Lincoln. 13 Ulysses S. Grant and Jesse Grant. Part V Father Present -- Yet Distant With Abuse. 14 Pat Conroy and Colonel Dan Conroy. 15 The Crosby Boys and Harry (Bing) Crosby. 16 Adolf Hitler and Aloise Hitler. 17 Joseph Stalin and Vissarion Dzhugashvili. Part VI Father Present -- With Commercial and/or Political Intent. 18 Amadeus Mozart and Leopold Mozart. 19 Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Beethoven. 20 John F. Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy. Part VII Father Present with Abuse and Commercial Intent. 21 Michael Jackson and Joseph Jackson. Part VIII Three Present Fathers. 22 William Tecumseh Sherman and Charles R. Sherman (deceased) and The Honorable Thomas Ewing. Conclusions. Availability: Father Present, Distant, and Absent. Violence and Abuse: Physical and Mental/Emotional. Authority and Good Enough Fathering. Bibliography. Index.

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John Fulling Crosby received his PhD in family development, including certification in marriage and family therapy, from Syracuse University in 1970. He was an assistant professor at Indiana University from 1970-76 and Professor of Family Studies at the University of Kentucky from 1976-1992. He also served as Chair of the Department of Family Studies at the University of Kentucky, 1976-1984. He is married with three grown sons, Rick, Andrew, and Scott.


"This book helps us to view fathers in cultural context and reveals each famous son as a unique individual and as a product of personal and broader history. Grounded in the lifespan theory of Erikson and the family systems theory of Bowen, it provides a psycho-historical approach to sons and fathers. From Mozart to Stalin, from Kafka to Lincoln, every chapter is a good read." - David W. Shwalb, Southern Utah University, USA

"The strength of this volume is the scholarly overview of key perspectives and the supporting research relevant to adolescent development. It integrates new prevention and treatment findings with developmental theory. The authors are to be commended for their even-handed review of controversies surrounding theoretical and intervention approaches while maintaining careful attention to the details and facts." - Marion Forgatch, Oregon Social Learning Center, USA