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Parental Narcissism and the Disengagement of the Non-Custodial Father After Divorce

Abstract

This paper argues that dominant narcissistic tendencies may keep certain non-custodial fathers from maintaining stable relationships with their children after divorce. It identifies the common characteristics and behaviors of the narcissistic non-custodial father to show the special difficulties he faces in the divorce process. Its main contention, made on the basis of the literature and with the help of two case descriptions, is that divorce and loss of custody pose a special threat to the narcissist's weak self and that the narcissistic father's post-divorce litigation and disengagement both stem from his driving need to maintain the “grandiose self” that protects his vulnerable and fragile core. Furthermore, the paper suggests that the family therapy framework cannot meet the needs of the narcissistic non-custodial father in the post divorce period. It urges that family care professionals be taught to recognize the common behaviors of narcissistic non-custodial fathers in relation to both their children and the helping professionals they consult and be made aware of the strong counter-transference feelings that such clients may evoke in them. It argues, too, that the focus of the treatment be moved to the mother and, especially, the children.

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Cohen, O. Parental Narcissism and the Disengagement of the Non-Custodial Father After Divorce. Clinical Social Work Journal 26, 195–215 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022823102590

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  • non-custodial father
  • narcissism
  • divorce
  • parenting