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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