From a search of a number of full-text databases, the phrase seems to
have arisen in the early 1970's.
The first reference I found was this one:
Mental Retardation: Readings and Resources
Book by Jerome H. Rothstein; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971
pg 49...There are many "unavailable mothers" ? not only working
mothers, but also those who are unable to supply the needs of their
children because of difficulties of their own: they are *emotionally*
unavailable. Among them are those who cannot arouse themselves
sufficiently from their passivity or lethargy to show affection for
their children. Others are deeply depressed or mentally ill and reject
their children for any of a multitude of reasons.
[NOTE: the word 'emotionally' is italicized in the original]
I think from the context and the use of italics, it seems as if the
author is specifically attempting to coin a phrase to refer to the
model of the detached parent.
The definition provided has also been used fairly consistently over
the years, but in a somewhat expanded framework, as it is applied not
only to parent-child relations, but to any sort of relationship. It
is also used casually to simply mean emotionally distant,
unresponsive, or cold.
As for gender breakdowns, it seems to find equal use in referring to
men or women.
Here is the result of a Google search on phrases having to do with
emotionally unavailable men:
"emotionally unavailable man OR men OR father OR fathers OR dad OR
dads OR husband OR husbands"
which leads to 621 results.
A similar result for women:
"emotionally unavailable woman OR women OR mother OR mothers OR mom OR
moms OR wife OR wives"
leads to 646 results, which I would say is pretty much a dead heat.
I trust this is the information you were seeking.
However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need. If there's anything more I can do for you, just post a Reqeust
for Clarification, and I'm at your service.
Clarification of Answer by
08 Jan 2006 15:53 PST
I'd be glad to look into this in more detail for you.
But I just wanted to make sure you noticed my earlier remark that the
phrase "emotionally unavailable", in addition to its formal use, "is
also used casually to simply mean emotionally distant, unresponsive,
Please help me to understand what more you want you to know -- beyond
that simple generalization -- about the use of the phrase, and I'll
see if I can find out for you.