Consequences of Paternal Absence in Children

In today's modern society, it's normal to see children growing up without their fathers. However, did you know that paternal absence has negative repercussions on children's physical and emotional development?
Consequences of Paternal Absence in Children

Last update: 23 July, 2018

In this day and age, there are many children growing up without their fathers around. There are many factors that lead to paternal absence or abandonment.

However, one thing is true: Children almost always suffer the consequences of growing up without their father.

Consequences in children who grow up without their fathers

If a child experiences the abandonment of his or her father, he or she may have certain issues growing up. The problems may include some of the following:

Low self-esteem

School aged children that grow up without one of their parents often lack self confidence. This is the stage where they become conscious of the father figure and are aware of his absence. However, they lack the maturity to understand the reason behind this difficult reality.

It’s also during this stage that children unconsciously seek out a father figure in another person. This can be a grandparent, uncle, or another important person in their lives.

Behavioral difficulties

It’s common for children who grow up without their fathers to develop rebellious behaviors. The child may refuse to obey and have a hard time relating to classmates and teachers. They can also be emotionally unstable.

Low academic performance

The lack of the father’s attention towards the child has such an impact that it affects academic activities. Children often have a hard time concentrating, are apathetic about completing school work, and lack motivation overall.

Lack of identity

Children achieve their physical and emotional development within their family circle. However, if a parent is missing, then the child will struggle with relating to the family and feeling secure. 

As a result, it’s hard for the child to develop certain abilities and maintain relationships in the community.

Other difficulties that a child who grows up without a father may have include anxiety, rage, and feelings of guilt. Furthermore, the child may experience a sense of abandonment, isolation, depression and have a hard time facing stressful situations. 

These children often feel overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

Consequences of Paternal Absence in Children

The conflicts that a child who suffers from parental abandonment deals with can last a lifetime. 

As a result, this creates a vicious cycle – many children who grew up without a parent also abandon their own children. At the same time, they are more prone to drug abuse or addiction to other harmful substances from an early age.

Are children who grow up without their fathers different from other children?

While every case is unique, children who have both of their parents present in their lives tend to be more stable. They usually do better than children who didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with their fathers.

However, there are mothers who raise their children on their own and provide everything they need. These children are able to develop normally and function perfectly in society .

“School aged children that grow up without one of their parents often lack self confidence”

What is the reason behind paternal absence?

The reason that a father is far away from his children is different in every family. In some cases, it may be due to the parent’s death. 

It may also be because of illness, divorce, or the fact that the parent works far from home. Another frequent problem is parental absence due to substance abuse.

At the same time, even mothers and fathers who raise their children can be absent emotionally. Even though they’re physically present, they don’t fulfill their role as guides and references, nor do they provide stability and security for their children.

Often, this includes parents who get up very early to go to work, and return very late at night. They are unaware of the emotional damage that they cause in their children’s lives. 

They don’t participate in their child’s diverse developmental processes. They don’t strengthen the bond that the child needs in order to feel loved.

Consequences of Paternal Absence in Children

How to avoid feelings of abandonment in children

Keeping a child from suffering the consequences of growing up without a father is difficult, but not impossible. T he child needs the support of the rest of his or her family. Family members must come together to provide a safe and secure environment where the child is valued.

While a father can never be fully replaced, the child can find a father figure to represent him. 

This can be a grandfather, uncle, teacher or another adult who is close to the family and the child. That way, the child won’t experience the same feelings of abandonment and can develop a healthy self-esteem.

The consequences of growing up far away from a parent can be devastating for children. Therefore, helping them avoid feelings of abandonment and frustration is extremely important.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bowlby, J. (1986). Vínculos afectivos: formación, desarrollo y pérdida. Madrid: Morata.
  • Bowlby, J. (1995). Teoría del apego. Lebovici, Weil-HalpernF.
  • Garrido-Rojas, L. (2006). Apego, emoción y regulación emocional. Implicaciones para la salud. Revista latinoamericana de psicología, 38(3), 493-507.
  • Marrone, M., Diamond, N., Juri, L., & Bleichmar, H. (2001). La teoría del apego: un enfoque actual. Madrid: Psimática.
  • Moneta, M. (2003). El Apego. Aspectos clínicos y psicobiológicos de la díada madre-hijo. Santiago: Cuatro Vientos.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.