My Daughter

My Daughter
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Friday, March 25, 2011

The effects absent fathers have on female development and college attendance

"It is ironic, and of some interest, that we have subjected joint custody to a level and intensity of scrutiny that was never directed toward the traditional post-divorce arrangement (sole legal and physical custody to the mother and two weekends each month of visiting to the father.) Developmental and relationship theory should have alerted the mental health field to the potential immediate and long range consequences for the child of only seeing a parent four days each month. And yet until recently, there was no particular challenge to this traditional post-divorce parenting arrangement, despite growing evidence that such post-divorce relationships were not sufficiently nurturing or stabilizing for many children and parents."

"There is some evidence that in our well-meaning efforts to save children in the immediate post-separation period from anxiety, confusion, and the normative divorce-engendered conflict, we have set the stage in the longer run for the more ominous symptoms of anger, depression, and a deep sense of loss by depriving the child of the opportunity to maintain a full relationship with each parent."

Examining Resistance to Joint Custody, Monograph by Joan Kelly, Ph.D. (associate of Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D) From the 1991 Book Joint Custody and Shared Parenting, second edition, Guilford Press, 1991.

Researchers agree the females who lack father figures are more prone to experience diminished cognitive development and poor school performance (Grimm-Wassil, 1994, p. 149).

Girls who have little contact with their fathers, especially during adolescence had great difficulties forming lasting relationships with men. Sadly these females either shy away from males altogether or become sexually aggressive. Girls with involved fathers learn how to interact with males by using the father-daughter relationship as a model. They not only have a concerned male to converse with but also a feeling of acceptance, knowing they are loved by at least one male. Females without father figures often become desperate for male attention (Grimm-Wassil, 1994).

Females who lose their fathers to divorce or abandonment seek much more attention from men and had more physical contact with boys their age than girls from intact homes. They also tend to be more critical of their fathers and the opposite sex. These females constantly seek refuge for their missing father and as a result there is a constant need to be accepted by men from whom they aggressively seek attention (Grimm-Wassil, 1994, p. 147).

Girls with absent fathers grow up without the day-by-day experience of attentive, caring and loving interaction with a man. Without this continuous sense of being valued and loved, a young girl does not thrive, but rather is stunted in her emotional development. The coping mechanisms that adolescent girls whose parents are divorced develop in response to the absence of their father include the following (Lohr, Legg, Mendell, and Reimer, 1989, p. 352):

* Intensified separation anxiety
* Denial and avoidance of feelings associated with the loss of a father
* Identification with the lost object
* Object hunger for males

Studies show that females with absent fathers often have diminished cognitive, development; poor school performance, lower achievement test scores and lower IQ scores (Grimm-Wassil, 1994). Cognitive development affects how children perceive and interpret the information they are presented, thus making it difficult for them to excel if cognitive development is impeded.

Santrock (1973) presented additional evidence indicating that early father-absence can have a significant debilitating effect on cognitive functioning. Among lower-class junior high and high school children, those who became father-absent before the age of two generally scored lower on measures of IQ (Otis Quick Test) and achievement (Standard Achievement Test) tests that had been administered when they were in the third and sixth grades than did those from intact homes.

Fatherless daughters compared to those with present father figures are in higher risk of teenage pregnancy, college drop out and low self-esteem. In addition fatherless daughters are in higher risk of suicide, homelessness and disorders. According to Getting Men Involved: The Newsletter of the Bay Area Male Involvement Network, (Spring 1997):

* 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
* 90% of all homeless runaway children are from fatherless homes
* 85% of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
* 80% of rapists motivated by displaced anger come from fatherless homes.
* 71% of all high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
* 75% of all adolescents' patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes.
* 70% of juveniles in state-oriented institutions come from fatherless homes.
* 85% of all youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.
* Fatherless children are 20% less likely to attend college.

Inconstant father-daughter relations can have a devastating effect on a female's life by making her more vulnerable to outside influences. Daughters of single parents in comparison to those from intact homes are:

* 53% more likely to marry as teenagers
* 111% more likely to have children as teenagers
* 164% more likely to be a single parent
* 92% more likely to divorce if they marry

Daughters need the example of what a man really is, how one is supposed to act, what a man needs and how he thinks (Griffin, 1998, p. 29). Fathers are the key to teaching their daughters about men. Research has suggested that most women who see their mothers being abused will themselves become abused in adulthood (Griffin, 1998). Positive secure father-daughter relationships allow females the confidence needed to be successful in their effort as well as achieve their goals.

Fatherlessness is a social problem brought on by the breakdown of traditional family. The victims are innocent children who have little voice in changing public attitude and policy. Blankenhorn (1995) studied the epidemic of fatherless America and concluded it is our most urgent social problem. He claims it weakens the family, harms children, causes or aggravates our worst social problem, and makes individual adult happiness harder to achieve'(Soberman, 2000, p. 3).

The continued involvement of the non- custodial parent in the child's life appears crucial in preventing an intense sense of loss in the child.... The importance of the relationship with the non-custodial parent may also have implications for the legal issues of custodial arrangements and visitation. The results of this study indicate that arrangements where both parents are equally involved with the child are optimal. When this type of arrangement is not possible, the child's continued relationship with the non-custodial parent remains essential."


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tube of you said...

appreciative work. Thanks.

Aaron Dunlap said...


I am researching this trying to prepare for my own daughter's struggle in dealing with this. Mom has been doing everything she can to prevent my daughter from sharing in the lives of myself and my family for over a year now... for no reason we can see other than an attempt to lash out at me in anger.

The more I read on the effect of absent fathers on their daughters the more I worry that mom is setting up our daughter for a very bumpy ride through her young life.

It's basically just really sad mom refuses to see the damage she is doing to her own child... for nothing.

I continue to pursue the avenues available to me to change the equation, and court is set for next June, so I hope for some semblance of reason to prevail.

To my last breath I'll continue to fight for my daughter's health, well-being and happiness.

Anonymous said...

Please do keep fighting, and I hope you prevail. I am a 24-year-old woman and the product of a father who was much more out than in my life, and is now completely out. I think I fall under every single statistic named above. I got pregnant at 18, married at 18, had my child just after my 19th birthday, and am now seeking a divorce from an abusive marriage ( witnessed and received abuse from a step father growing up). This read is depressing and makes me feel like my future is set. I suffer from low self esteem, am critical of males, don't trust them, and seem to seek out the ones who will hurt me. Is there any hope for me??

John said...

I wish those women that think they are all their children need would just read any of the numerous research articles. THere are hundreds. I found this while doing research for an essay at school, but plan to email it to the mother of my children when it is done.
the plain and simple truth of the matter is I am a bette rparent than her(her son chose to try and stay with me) our daughters are to youg to realize. and the only reason i left them when i elft was because they deserve their brother in their lives to. but if she keepps thi up when i get out of school they are moving in with me. In our county it is whoeve rhas the most money wins the kids.

@overthirty5 said...

It's amazing that out of our own trials and pains we can end up having a great impact on the lives of others delivering hope and answers to an ongoing problem. Thank you for taking the time to research and write this. I hope and pray your own situation resolves itself sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if women push the men away not only because of anger but fear also. They are afraid to lose control of a part of the very few things they control. I dont mean that negatively towards women but in my aboriginal culture I think women are often the most oppressed. We dont need outsiders to oppress us anymore we are getting very good at it ourselves. I wonder if they try to protect that baby because they feel powerless in other areas and fear that involvement of fathers will diminish their role? Just food for thought.

Aaron Dunlap said...

I believe the anger is fear-based to begin with, so yes I agree that pushing away fathers can be based on insecurity.

When you own a hammer... every problem looks like a nail.

Anonymous said...

My absent father has most certainly affected my life.
I had low-esteem throughout my teenage years and I clung to male attention.

Even though I had great grades, I almost dropped out of high school because I felt so inadequate and I never had plans on attending college. I had a fear of being rejected and I always had a fear of abandonment.

It wasn't until recently that I met a man who had some how managed to help me break the negative cycle I was in, due to not having a father.

The road to being at peace with your past is bumpy a one and it takes a dedicated person to help you get there.

Tichaona Gumunyu : UZ said...


I really agree with you sir, since fatherlessnes can be categorised as a public health problem, since it implicates on the developmental trends that children have to undergo, let alone the impact it can impinch on the later life. Indeed, the phenomena can pose a negative effect on the general health of an individual coz all the consequences you mentioned above eventually feed into the health bucket. i wish if all aspiring fathers do now consider the welfare of their to be children b4 they even get one.

Anonymous said...

This concerns me as I have a 3 year old daughter who's father is, and always has been absent, he never even paid her attention when we lived with him, and he blames me for his absence even though I have told him multiple times all he has to do is get his license and we will share custody! He only makes time for her 1 day a month and thinks he is a great father! He really needs to open his eyes!

Anonymous said...

My farther comitted suicide when i was 15, i am now 21. I agree with a lot of this research but i would like to put a possitive spin on it somehow- so here goes...

I did indeed use to cling to men, i was alway in one relationship going straight to the next. However, i broke that cycle by taking a long break from being with a boyfriend and instead concentraited on my studies.

Since this break i have attained a 2:1 degree and also had time to realise that being self-sufficent isnt as scary as i once thought.

(This break was not easy - i did think about killing myself a few times and ended up on anti-depressants). BUT if i had to do it all again I WOULD! Sometimes the seemingly smoothest course isnt the right one.

I now have great friends that support me and make me laugh ALL THE TIME. I also make them vet all my potential partners so i dont end up with (excuse my French) a dick head ha.

Im not going to lie, i wish i had my Dad, but i'm NOT going to fall into these statistics - LETS FIGHT GIRRRRLSSS!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts
and I will be waiting for your next post thanks once again.
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Unknown said...

Why is everyone talking about how mom is causing this? What about when mom keeps every avenue open and dad chooses to not be present? And what about when there is a strong father figure that is not the biological father?

Aaron Dunlap said...

Then those are both good things... This post is about the opposite case, where we see the ill effects of girls who grow up without a positive father figure.

hseairra said...

I am slightly disturbed reading this. I am a 18 freshman in college at a state university and I've never been promisciuos and remain a vigin today. I also don't beg and plead for males attention, I actually do fine without it. I grew up raised by my mother as a only child and for the most part of my life there was no male figure in my life. When I was around 14 my mother, who had been seperated from my father since I was 8mo old, married my stepfather with whom I have a fair relationship with. This article makes me wonder how my very absent father has affected my life with other men or if it has even affected me at all. It makes me worry that I may be affected in ways that I myself cannot even point out. I just want some advice on the topic. Thanks,

hseairra said...

I am slightly disturbed reading this. I am a 18 freshman in college at a state university and I've never been promisciuos and remain a vigin today. I also don't beg and plead for males attention, I actually do fine without it. I grew up raised by my mother as a only child and for the most part of my life there was no male figure in my life. When I was around 14 my mother, who had been seperated from my father since I was 8mo old, married my stepfather with whom I have a fair relationship with. This article makes me wonder how my very absent father has affected my life with other men or if it has even affected me at all. It makes me worry that I may be affected in ways that I myself cannot even point out. I just want some advice on the topic. Thanks,

Aaron Dunlap said...

These studies are not saying the results of absentee fathers on female development are unavoidable, just that not having a consistent, positive male role model puts young women at risk for various problems. All of us have challenges to overcome based on who we are, and where we came from... our experiences contribute to who we are. As you proceed through your life, you will hopefully take notice of your strengths and weaknesses and work to maximize your strong points, and mitigate your weaker ones. In my opinion this information serves as both a cautionary tale for parents... to be used to help prevent parents from setting their children up for problems later in life, as well as helping people to recognize and understand how their childhood might affect them. This is the first step in working through our problems... learning to recognize them for what they are, something of how you got to that point, and hopefully working through these issues in a positive way.

Don't assume anything... try and be honest with yourself about how you see yourself and how you feel and act. If you honestly feel happy and confident... be that. But also confront yourself and examine your life constantly... In my experience nobody can BS me... like I can.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, what negativity. Talk about generalising. I know women who grew up with daddy always around and were a nightmare when they grew up and ones which came from divorced backgrounds who were fine. It will affect you, if you let it. My daughter's father walked out ages ago and wants nothing to do with us, he is a piece of sxxm, selfish loser, however I won't let it affect my daughter, she is only 5 years old and it has not affected her at all, she is well adjusted, popular, bright, loved very much and when her father was around at the beginning she was the opposite, our bad relationship effected her and you could sense the unhappiness. Please don't just go by these 'statistics', you haven't interviewed every person in the World whose father has done a runner, it's so self righteous, once you have interviewed every child in the world re this situation, then write about it, otherwise, shut up please.

Aaron Dunlap said...

These are the results from a study... you are basing your opinion on a couple of people sounds like. The study does not say it's inevitable... just more likely.

Lighten up francis...

Anonymous said...

I find this very interesting and, in the case of a few school friends I had, very true.

I lost my father when I was 4 years old and for a variety of reasons my mother chose to move both of us into her parent's house - she was a young mother dealing with the loss of my father. Due to this I ended up having not only my grandfather dote on me like his youngest daughter, but I also felt like I had two mothers (not always a good thing my mother would say lol). I also had two uncles around who also still lived with my grandparents.

I have often felt that I somehow faired better with the death of my father than if he just left and my mother wouldn't let him see me; though I am in no way happy that my father died at such a young age, I feel like it would have caused abandonment issues if I thought he just didn't want to be around...

I cannot imagine any mother who would willingly deprive their child of a father and I always get angry when I hear of this - unless there is a reason then I feel that it is a selfish way of lashing out an keeping control. I am so lucky in that, even though my father couldn't be there, my mother made a decision that she thought best for me.

tash talksbeauty said...

This critical essay shed a light on the very real damaging effects of lack of father figure. It resonates with me in many ways, while the statistics worry me. I excel in school and I am not married nor pregnant. Divorce is a scary reality I may have to face, but I know the wrath it takes on children. At 19 years of age I figured my relationship with men has been affected due to the absence of my loving father. I do not blame my mother nor do I blame my father. My hope is that mother's acknowledge the importance of equal parenting. My love goes out to divorced parents and children of divorce.

Anonymous said...

i didn't have a father figure at all, i didn't get pregnant and although i am a complete underachiever i am intelligent enough, however, my problem is; i have a sense of worthlessness and low self esteem and i don't know how to fix it...I also have problems with knowing the right way to act in social situations, not only did i not have a father growing up, i changed schools 12 times..and yes moved that much too...i seem to have a lot of NERVOUS energy that comes and goes with different stresses , and i am overweight and find comfort in food.. i have maintained a 12 year relationship with my husband and have 3 kids... i spent ages 16-20 years- of my life drunk or stoned although i dont touch any of it now that i have children.

Eric Ray Debnam said...

I was an absentee father. I wish I could go back, I never would have left. I wrote this song for my daughter. It's called, Daddy Won't You Please Come Home.