I found the father-hunger syndrome. Does anyone knows if there is another, maybe more official term for that?

Any sources that someone could use for the particular syndrome?


1 Answer 1


This is a large subject area, but I will outline a strong starting point for you to do more research where needed.

James M. Herzog's (1980) term Father Hunger, sometimes referred to as a syndrome, and sometimes referred to as the Father Complex may have its roots in many theories developed over the years.

Those who subscribe to Psychodynamic theories, the roots of Father Hunger could be from Freud and his Oedipus Complex, or Carl Jung and his Electra Complex. Both of these are in Freud's Psychosexual Theory of Development during the Phalic Stage of development, (around the age of 3 to 6 years), which also equates to Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Theory of Development stage of Initiative vs. Guilt (Sigelman & Rider, 2012: p38).

The Father Complex Wikipedia article, which has plenty of source links, states that

The father complex also stood at the conceptual core of Totem and Taboo (1912-3). Even after the break with Jung, when "complex" became a term to be handled with care among Freudians, the father complex remained important in Freud's theorizing in the twenties; — for example, it appeared prominently in The Future of an Illusion (1927). Others in Freud's circle wrote freely of the complex's ambivalent nature. However, by 1946, and Otto Fenichel's compendious summary of the first psychoanalytic half-century, [in The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946)] the father complex tended to be subsumed under the broader scope of the Oedipus complex as a whole.

Alongside the shift from a Freudian emphasis on the role of the father to Melanie Klein's beliefs surrounding object relations theory stressing upon the mother, what psychoanalysis tended to single out was the search for the father, and the negative effects of the switched-off father. In postmodernism, the father complex surrounds the loss of paternal authority — the absence of the father. The father could be absent due to death, marriage separation, divorce or simple withdrawal by the father.

Father hunger is the result of receiving too little quality fathering as a child or young adult. Some argue that even grown men and women need fathers or father surrogates and that the absence of such role modeling and support is associated with less fulfillment in life. In general, father hunger results from too little intimacy between child and father. (Schaller, 1995)

There is a mixture of psychosexual development theory and postmodernist theory within an article stating that

The tween years find daughters writhing into a sea of hormones as puberty overtakes their bodies. They become extremely emotional. Girls edging into womanhood want to know how to act. They question “Am I attractive?” “Am I loveable?”

Fathers are looked to for answers to these developmental questions. Young adolescent girls bring an intensity to dads as they want to talk about these things. Girls long to understand the opposite sex and how they rate. And girls do all this in a style that is over the top – from giggling to screeching, from restless to rebellious. Uncomfortable with emotions to begin with, fathers resist daughters who feel overwhelming to them.

Add burgeoning sexuality to the mix. As girls physically morph into curvaceous women, fathers often withdraw because the change makes them uncomfortable, unsure if those old hugs or kisses are inappropriate somehow. (Sagarese, 2014)


Herzog, J. M. (1980). Sleep disturbance and father hunger in 18-to-28-month-old boys: The Erlkönig Syndrome. In: Solnit, et al., eds. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 35(1): pp 223-230
PMID: 7433580 DOI: 10.1080/00797308.1980.11823111
URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00797308.1980.11823111

Sagarese, M., (2014) Dads, Daughters and Food [Online]
Available at: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-05-16/features/sfp-dads-daughters-food_1_father-and-daughter-dads-yo-yo-dieting

Schaller, J. L., (1995). The Search for Lost Fathering: Rebuilding Your Father Relationship
Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H Revell Co. ISBN-13: 978-0800755522
Chapters 1, 3 & 8 free to read on the author's website

Sigelman, C. K. & Rider, E. A., (2012). Life-Span Human Development. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


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