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Steve Jobs’s Biological Father…and the Reunion That Wasn’t

October 10, 2011

I’m writing to share a comment I posted today to the Wall Street Journal on a sad but fascinating glimpse into Mr. Jobs’s family of origin. Most likely many of us feel we grew up with and our lives were enriched by Mr. Jobs’s genius. It’s intriguing to speculate on the nature/nurture argument, especially when you learn that Mr. Jobs was adopted. Did he struggle with this dual reality, multiple loyalties, as many adopted kids do? Would he have accomplished the same? How would he have been different? Perhaps we’ll find clues to those questions in his upcoming authorized biography. What we do know is that there was never a reunion with his biological father, although he did have a relationships with both his biological mother and sister.

Mr. Jandali’s estrangement from his famous biological children may reflect the sad reality of many unwed or divorced fathers of the 1950’s and ’60’s. It’s easy to judge those fathers’ “choices,”  without understanding their context. My Family psychology practice and research in the area provides this context: Open adoption was unheard of before the 1980’s, and in the case of divorce, prior to 1980, the mother was routinely awarded sole custody of young children, unless she was severely disturbed or agreed to another arrangement. With the nuclear family at its zenith, biological fathers were often asked to relinquish their rights in what was then considered the best interests of the child. These facts aren’t intended to relieve Mr. Jandali of whatever true choice he had, but to remind us, “It’s complicated.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 10, 2011 3:54 pm

    I appreciate your raising the reality of this part of what made Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs. As a fellow adoptee, I firmly believe you can never ignore it’s influence on our loyalties, our perspective, and at times our passion.
    Ann McCabe

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