The father’s tenderness. Perspectives on male affection

By Martín Berasain


Graciela Rosenberg


About the book:

In this book, the author claims that “a father’s tenderness,” loving and caring attitudes towards children, makes fatherhood more expressive. A father’s tenderness supports and accompanies children and young adults as they grow up. A book for understanding the role of fathers in today’s world.


There are clear signs that the masks and shields of male chauvinism are cracking in many countries. Consequently, women will soon be able to choose male partners who show greater sensitivity and a greater capacity to express their feelings, men who are ready to love them on equal terms.
For thousands of years, men have been deprived of the possibility of showing their emotions, afraid as they were of losing their appeal and prestige in the eyes of women. Long ago, people used to associate sensitivity with weakness, when in fact it is the notion of support and reassuring comfort that should come to mind.
Even though some women are still drawn to chauvinistic men who are reluctant or unable to express tenderness, we can see that many women and men seem to become more open to displays of affection as part of their personalities.
In this book, I address the relationship between fatherhood and tenderness towards their children in men, between fatherhood and fatherly affection. In particular, I address the way in which fatherly affection currently shapes the bond between a father and his children.
The role of the father is changing in different societies around the globe and will continue to do so.
There are new expectations and desires regarding parenting; men want to raise their children and experience every stage of fatherhood with them, as well as watch them grow. Many men share quality time and activities with their children.
This will have a positive impact on future generations in terms of health.
There is no family or society without a father. That is to say: without male parents.
There is no such thing as a “good father” who does not try to own up to his responsibilities, to share his love, to provide food and shelter, to set limits, to instill values and to guide his children. These should happen in real time, in every instance of everyday life and whenever the father spends time with his children.
The literature on positive male affection is not abundant, particularly on men in their role as fathers. Love and affection towards children are inherently female traits. In this sense, maternal affection is taken as a natural phenomenon, while a man’s pure and endearing love for his children, as well as any display of love, is taken for granted and hardly ever mentioned in papers.
However, there is almost nothing left without the love of an adult who embodies the functions and competences of a father, a real father. This adult, who should be part of the social fabric and deal with the nurturing of bonds, provides care, support and guidance to children and young adults.
No society is indifferent to the characteristics and styles of adult masculinity and to the bonds forged between male parents and their children. These exemplary bonds, a loving education with teachable moments, as well as the setting of limits, become deeply engraved in young adults’ building conscience and shaping future attitudes.
Bearing all this in mind, in the book I explore the relationship between feelings and fatherhood, between love and everyday contact, and between these aspects and a loving fatherhood, which is more comprehensive and emotional, with a steady hand regarding education, devoted —a present parenthood.
It is worth noting that psychology has not delved deeply into fatherly love and male tenderness as it did into other phenomena. Male tenderness has been neglected by social sciences and left out from theoretical considerations that may support deeper research on the father’s affection towards his own.
Although there is a plethora of papers on motherhood and women’s joyful experience as mothers, little has been said about bonds between father and children, where father’s feelings, father-child interactions and the impact fathers have on their children’s subjectivity have been taken into consideration.
Thus, maternal love and mothering skills have been considered as a great virtue and the condition for children’s healthy psychological development, whereas little attention or focus has been placed on reflections about fatherly love in this regard.
According to ancient folktales, present in every patriarchal society, the main authority was always in the hands of men/fathers. On the contrary, the female figure has been associated with kindness and sweetness. This polarization will hopefully be overcome and coalesce in the future.
The polarized division of roles tends to match the tasks and the functions assigned to men and women since ancient times.
In most societies, being pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding, tucking up, nurturing, providing shelter, and professing love all fall under one and the same female disposition towards caring for children. Men come in second place, and so do their capabilities when it comes to showing affection and offering warm companionship to children and young adults. So much so, it is generally assumed that a more genuine expression of love and affection towards children and young adults comes from women, while the examples of male affection and true virile expressions of love are very few.
To fill the void of valuable information, I included several quotes from papers by international renowned specialist in men and gender studies. I also searched for material to season and enrich this book with quotes and citations. I cite these sources to limit the author’s bias even though that is an impossible task.
As a psychologist, I tend to adhere to the notion that children come into this world devoid of knowledge, of a moral compass and intellectual structure, of skills and education, which are later developed thanks to the affectionate bonds they forge with adults.
In the first decade of life, the foundations of a child’s personality are laid and consciousness is formed, together with an array of abilities, and ways of being and behaving that have psychological repercussions.
This does not mean that psychotherapy conversations should only focus on tenderness.
Tenderness is one emotional element, but it is not the only one. It differs from others in that it has been systematically overlooked.
In psychotherapy, my starting point in the study of all these topics that I share herein, the prevailing idea is that emotions are intertwined with thoughts, behaviors and interactions, which feed back into each other.
A typical phrase in psychotherapy is: “It is not facts that disturb us, but rather what we think of them.” This suggests that our assessment, reasoning and presumptions regarding facts influence the emergence and intensity of emotional reactions.
It is commonly accepted that tenderness is the emotion of children, very young ones. When we see one of them, we tend to say “Aw, that’s cute,” in a graceful tone.
Human adults, just like most mammals, exhibit loving care towards their offspring. If we see a female of any species cuddling and feeding a newborn, we would probably say something like “Aw, that’s cute,” and it wouldn’t be awkward.

There is also tenderness in the treatment of the elderly. In the case of life partners and friends, this feeling is expressed in a more subtle and elusive way. Therefore, it is difficult to perceive it.
As I said before, in the following pages I will address the most elusive and neglected aspect of tenderness —the father’s tenderness towards his children.
Our prejudices lead us to equate tenderness with softness and weakness.
Affection is a basic form of love that is present in families since the early bonds and from the beginning of human life.
It is worth asking ourselves if this emotion is part of women’s ancestral and exclusive heritage or if it is developed differently in adult individuals of the human species, particularly parents. What is the relationship between fathers and tenderness? Has it always been this way? Has it changed? Why?

Translated by Natasha Besoky / Laura Estefanía