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My Father Before Me

How Fathers and Sons Influence Each Other Throughout Their Lives


  • Author: Michael J. Diamond

  • Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd.

  • ISBN: 978-0393060607

  • 1st Edition

  • Publication date: February 17, 2007

  • Pages: 239

  • Copyright Year: 2007


William Wordsworth wrote, “The Child is father of the Man.” Wordsworth may only have meant to point out that our childhoods influence our adult lives, but in My Father Before Me, this aphorism is addressed from a fascinating angle, exploring how children—and sons in particular—influence their fathers.

The author investigates the reciprocity of the father-son relationship based on his own experiences as a son, a father, and a clinician. His conclusions not only offer insight into the ways in which fathers and sons influence each other, but also provide an entirely new way of looking at fatherhood and masculinity. Becoming a father changes the way in which a man develops; in turn, the father influences the son throughout both of their lives. In chapters that analyze each stage of the life cycle for both father and son, the power of this relationship is demonstrated in shaping the man and the boy, as well as the man the boy will become.

This vital, creative, and original book brings together decades of research and analysis of fathers, sons, and families—both the author’s own seminal work and that of others—in a book that fathers, sons, and anyone who wants to better understand them will enjoy and learn from.



“This wonderful book focuses our attention on the reciprocal masculine current between fathers and sons with compassion and clarity. Michael Diamond helps us all to tease out the recurrent melodies, harmonies and themes in the father-son dialogue.” James M. Herzog, M.D. Psychoanalyst / Author
“I was touched to the core by Michael Diamond's wise and passionate story of the ways fathers help grow their sons as well as grow up with them. The explanation of the way fathers can help their sons become both independent and connected is a groundbreaking vision of a liberated masculinity.” Donna Bassin, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst / Author
“Diamond’s writing is interesting, accessible, a seemingly seamless synthesis of complex analytic theory. In sum, Diamond’s tone is humble, tender, kind and profound. This book is a good guide for the lay public and for clinicians with the focus on what is good for men to do (versus the more typical, what men do that is bad).” Dianne Elise, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst / Author
“With depth and insight, Diamond explores for the first time, in a most readable way, the complex ever-changing development of fathers and sons.” Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst / Author
“Both scholarly and anecdotal, the book contains profound truths while remaining accessible and evocative.” John Munder Ross, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst / Author


“Michael J. Diamond’s beautifully wrought text has much to offer the layperson and clinician alike in understanding the ways that fathers and sons influence each other throughout the life cycle. This self-in-relation perspective is brought to vivid life by the author’s moving and stimulating exploration of how the reciprocal relationship between fathers and sons liberate both from the constraints of patriarchy. These lofty ambitions are successfully realized by the author quite economically (in) this book, just over 200 pages in length. My Father Before Me is replete with wisdom (and) makes for compelling reading.” Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

“Diamond takes the reader through a rich, well-crafted and sensitive description of the stages not only of a father’s input with his son, but of the son’s reciprocal influence on his father. This lifelong journey is a particular strength of Diamond’s work, transcending the genre of ‘studies of parenting’ to a larger framework of fathers and sons growing old(er) together.” Journal of Family Therapy

" Dr. Diamond weaves fundamental, complex psychoanalytic tenets into understandable, relevant discourses about the psychological importance of fathers throughout the continuum of development....One is left with the sense that the powerful presence of fathers in their sons' lives and the ongoing interchange of generational influences is a labor of love....In a more expansive way, the author creates a space for the reader to consider life courses and the meaning of significant fathers in their own lives as well as in the lives of the families with whom they work.” Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

“As the noted psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott gave us the notion of the ‘good enough mother,’ clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Diamond proposes the ‘good enough father,’ a man who cultivates his own emotional life and becomes fully engaged in his children's inner lives to enhance their growth....Diamond traces the father-son relationship from the protective "guardian" phase of the son's infancy through successive stages of letting go as a father allows his son to separate and mature, guides the boy into manhood and, finally, parent and child move closer together again as a father ages and the reality of death must be accepted.” Publishers Weekly

“Diamond’s objective is to expand upon ‘the mutual, reciprocal development in the father-son connection.’ Of many themes found in the book, a dominant one is that masculinity is defined differently for men who do and do not have a son. Additionally, Diamond argues, a son influences his father in ways a non-parent can’t experience. He focuses on men in traditional families, noting that his conclusions apply as well to ‘fathers of adopted children and of stepchildren, late-time fathers, single and surrogate fathers and fathers in non-traditional relationships such as gay fathers, stay-at-home dads, and fathers serving as primary nurturers.’” New England Psychologist



Between The Lines, PBS Interview (Barry Kibrick, interviewer)


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