The effects of absent fathers on children’s lives

All children have a biological father, but the very fortunate ones have a ‘Dad’. Children who have a loving, involved dad in their lives are enriched in immeasurable ways.

Boys thrive under the guidance of a mature male role model, potentially growing up to be confident men, and often emulating the strength of character and positive values displayed by their fathers.

Girls benefit from the attention and approval of a loving father by potentially being comfortable with their femininity and growing into self-assured women who value themselves enough to seek out positive relationships and life experiences.

There are many reasons why a father might be absent. Unfortunately, some men renege on their responsibility and disappear completely from their children’s lives. Others are relegated to part-time fathers due to divorce. Still others are physically present, but opt to remain uninvolved and emotionally disconnected from their children.

Ways in which a father’s absence affects his children:

Increased feelings of vulnerability

Children who don’t have the daily presence of a father in their lives sometimes feel more vulnerable. Not having the security and guidance of a strong male father-figure, as their peers do, might potentially leave them feel deprived.

Decreased feelings of self-worth

Children who don’t have a father often question their own worth. They sometimes blame themselves, thinking that something must be wrong with them because their father went away, or does not seem to care.

Feelings of embarrassment

Children who don’t have a father present could potentially feel embarrassed. They might be teased by other children, or asked to explain what they themselves do not comprehend. School officials, teachers, coaches or other adults might inadvertently put the child on the spot with enquiries regarding the home situation.

Gender specific negative impact of an absent father

Boys are particularly vulnerable to feelings of helplessness. They are sometimes thrust into the role of man of the family, a role they are entirely to young and ill-equipped to fill. They might suffer guilt and a sense of incompetence. Experiencing those negative feelings over a long period of time could wreak havoc with their self-esteem.

Girls of absent fathers sometimes feel uncomfortable around adult males. Some will go to the other end of the spectrum and become clingy and needy around men, in an unconscious search for a daddy. There is the potential of adult relationships reflecting inner feelings of unworthiness and some girls of absent fathers might settle for a less than ideal life situation.

Trust issues

Children of both genders sometimes grow up with serious trust issues. If the one person most likely to be there for them was unavailable, how can they trust anyone else to love them and stand by them. Establishing and maintaining trusting relationships is sometimes difficult for the children of absent fathers.

Financial insecurity

Children without a father present in the home often lack the necessary basics and even minimal extras that a single mother might find it a challenge to provide. They might not have the benefit of good health insurance, college savings accounts, extracurricular activity funds and other amenities that a father’s income might provide.

A father who is a real ‘dad’ in every sense of the word can be a real hero and literally save the emotional and financial lives of his children, whether he is a biological father, step-father or father-figure.

“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” (Author unknown)