What is Absent Mother Syndrome

Do you know what absent mother syndrome is? In this article, we'll tell you about it and help you prevent it. Keep reading!
What is Absent Mother Syndrome

Last update: 03 April, 2022

Being a mother isn’t an easy task, and there’s no book that teaches how to be perfect and infallible. For this reason, motherhood is learned on the fly and things are done as well as possible. However, sometimes children may feel that their mother doesn’t meet all their emotional needs and this is known as absent mother syndrome.

As they grow, little ones develop their own conception of “the ideal mother”. But this model often doesn’t line up with reality and, as a result, children may see their moms as distant and cold in terms of affection.

As a result, some children, adolescents, and adults feel that their mothers are unreachable people, as they’ve never met their emotional needs.

Absent mother syndrome

Attachment is an essential element for the adequate emotional development of the child. That emotional union that little ones establish with their closest contact figures allows them to feel safe.

Almost always, the strongest emotional bond that a child establishes is with their mother and they initiate it immediately after childbirth. We must consider this connection as a relationship that facilitates the learning of autonomy from the emotional point of view.

However, the emotional bond can also be established with the father or with other relatives or people who are very close to the child. These attachment figures favor their emotional development even more than if the union occurred only with the mother. In addition, they prevent the occurrence of problems in the event of maternal absence.

Childhood loneliness.
Children can feel lonely when their emotional needs aren’t met, even when there’s a physical closeness with their caregivers.

How does the child feel in this situation?

Many mothers are absent not by choice, but due to circumstances beyond their control: Work, extended hours, multiple tasks and obligations, among others. All of them mean that they don’t have enough time to strengthen the emotional relationship with their little ones.

When mothers can’t really connect with their children, an emotionally–lacking relationship is established. This is capable of satisfying physical needs, but not emotional ones.

A child suffering from absent mother syndrome feels rejected by their mother because they’re not able to understand the context or the background of the matter.

Infants don’t have sufficient cognitive development, so they draw their own conclusions based on their experiences, sensations, and emotions.

Because of this, the child gets used to feeling alone, disappointed, abandoned, and angry. They won’t even create a secure attachment with their mother, which is a key aspect of their correct emotional development. Finally, two types of possible reactions can be unleashed:

  • The child exhibits aggressive or arrogant behaviors, which do nothing but hide their fear and pain. In this case, the minor becomes problematic and may even commit criminal acts or abuse substances.
  • The child withdraws into himself and develops low self-esteem, which produces a negative image of themself. This can end up turning them into a dependent person who needs to be approved by others and who constantly seeks recognition or affection from others. They’re afraid of rejection and think that they don’t deserve to be loved.

The effects of absent mother syndrome on the child

A non-attachment relationship with the mother causes the child to grow up without the essential foundation for emotional maturity. This absence can have consequences in the following aspects of their life:

  • Eating problems. They stop eating to express their feeling of loneliness.
  • Recurring feelings of rejection. They feel betrayed, disappointed, angry, and alone because they don’t receive what they need from their attachment figure.
  • Risky behaviors to attract attention.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Lack of motivation in everything they do.
  • Physical health problems. This lack of emotional attention makes little ones sick frequently.
  • Poor communication. The child uses tantrums and cries to express what they need because they can’t find any other way to get it.
  • Emotional dependence. The child or adolescent doesn’t have the necessary social skills to solve problems on their own because they haven’t learned them.

Tips to avoid absent mother syndrome

To avoid absent mother syndrome in your little ones, you must try to take time out of the day and provide quality moments for your children.

In addition, you can put the following tips into practice:

  • Make yourself continuously available. This doesn’t mean obeying their every command, but rather making the child feel supported whenever they need it. Let them know that even if there are times when you’re busy, they can always count on their mother.
  • Give them attention and love. Always show them your affection, your love, your affection, and be attentive to their emotional needs. As much as possible, try to satisfy them in a timely manner.
  • Accept them unconditionally. Let your child know that even if they make mistakes or behave inappropriately, you still love them. This unconditional acceptance is what shows that a mother’s love is above all else.
mother and son walk down the street
Sometimes, it’s a matter of enriching everyday moments with a little attention, love, and empathy. We need to be there for them even in the little things.

About absent mother syndrome

Absent mother syndrome can have consequences throughout the lives of children. This lack of an emotional bond makes them very dependent people who always need acceptance and recognition in each relationship they establish. And in the future, this may require the help of a professional.

For this reason, it’s important to find time to dedicate it to your children, even for a few minutes a day. It’s always good to prioritize quality before quantity, but don’t forget that both factors are relevant.

Also, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the weekends to make family plans and to take advantage of time together. Your investment of time in the present will pay off in our child’s emotional health in the future.

“The best legacy of a parent to their children is a little of his time each day.”

Leon Battista Alberti

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.

  • Torres Arellano, E. V. (2015). Ausencia de la madre y su incidencia en el desarrollo socio-educativo en niños y niñas de 4 años (Bachelor’s thesis, Universidad de Guayaquil Facultad de Filosofía, Letras y Ciencias de la Educación). En internet: http://repositorio.ug.edu.ec/handle/redug/14516
  • Sanchez Fonseca, J. S. (2019). Ausencia materna por abandono de hogar, su incidencia en el trastorno de conducta en un adolescente (Bachelor’s thesis, BABAHOYO: UTB, 2019). En internet: http://dspace.utb.edu.ec/handle/49000/6663

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