With the invention of steam engines and internal combustion engines, physical male strength has become obsolete. Additionally, with the invention of the birth control pill, women have been freed from the inevitability of motherhood. Fathers, in turn, have become less needed for the support and protection of their families. As such, certain male values, like authority, are becoming less salient, according to psychiatry professor Frank Koerselman in his pamphlet “Ontvadering” (“Defathering”), where he examines the implications of this shift and how we are moving towards a fatherless society.
Koerselman explains that children need both safety and security, as well as guidance to play a role in an outside world that demands much and does not make it easy. Traditionally, mothers provided security, while fathers prepared the child for contact with the outside world. However, with gender roles becoming more fluid, these classical male values are becoming less prominent. Authority is playing less of a role, resulting in many children today struggling with frustrations, not knowing how to cope with a “no” or with strict boundaries, making them less mentally resilient.
It will be interesting to monitor how the current shifts in gender associations result in changing roles of parents and how they affect the children of tomorrow.