Children Growing Up Without a Dad

Children who grow up without a father are not so different from those who do have a father figure throughout their growth. It all depends on the case.
Children Growing Up Without a Dad

Last update: 02 August, 2022

The fact that there are children who grow up without a dad is nothing new. In fact, throughout human history, it’s been shown that the abandonment of the home by the father has been a constant since human beings began living in society.

Despite what many often believe, children who grow up without a father don’t necessarily have to be disadvantaged, develop behavioral problems, or have a life full of difficulties. It all depends on the circumstances and the particular case. Generalization doesn’t allow us to visualize everything that’s within the spectrum and, obviously, it doesn’t facilitate the understanding of the different cases.

Children who grow up without a father, each case is different

The absence of a father figure in the home doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative aspect in the lives of children. There are many children who grow up without a father who are emotionally healthy, have a good life, and develop good social attitudes. However, for a long time, there’s been a prejudice (unfounded due to the habit of making generalizations) that children who grow up without a father end up being “problem children”.

Why was the father figure thought to be so important in determining the direction a child will take in life? Very simple. Because the father figure was associated with rules, discipline, and punishment. Therefore, the father was seen as a sort of “compass” or moral guide to establish and delimit limits, norms, and patterns of social conduct.

It was also believed that the father figure provided all the stability necessary for the proper development of an individual.

There are various causes for the absence of a father figure in the home. From the death of the father to paternal abandonment. There are also parents who leave the family nucleus due to irreconcilable differences with their ex-partner, or due to illicit substance abuse, among other types of problems that may arise.

The fact is that not all cases are the same, and therefore, the circumstances surrounding growth aren’t even remotely the same from one case to the next.

A child looking sadly at a tablet.

It doesn’t have to be a problem

As long as the child has the support of a family member who provides emotional stability, well-being, and health, the child can develop without problems. The important thing is to know how to cover all the necessary aspects so that the child has a solid support system.

The absence of the father is not an absolutel determining factor in the behavior of children as used to be believed in the past.

For example, in divorce cases in which parental abandonment occurs and the mother obtains guardianship and custody of the children, she’s perfectly capable of meeting the psycho-emotional needs of her children, being the moral guide they need to understand social mechanisms, providing the support they need throughout their development, and of course, being the economic support of the home.

While it’s true that there are many children who, growing up without a father, develop behavioral problems and are emotionally unstable, this isn’t always the case. In addition, every day, more efforts are made to avoid this type of situation, although, of course, it isn’t always possible.

Fortunately, there are numerous family support programs to help families in need. In the same way, family members who request additional training to be able to act as stable pillars for their children can find the necessary tools thanks to family therapy.

The role of the mother, as well as any other family member who decides to be actively involved, can be as or even more significant than the father.

Let’s remember that, in today’s society, there are more and more single-parent families, either because the marriage comes to an end or because of the death of a parent, among others.

Single-parent families in the case of women

By 2017, more than 80% of single-parent families were made up of a mother with her children. The mother was a widow in 40% of cases and divorced or separated in 39.3%. Furthermore, 77% of these mothers were 35 years or older.

What has been said warns of the growing economic difficulties, on the basis that the current economic model presupposes the existence of two adult breadwinners in each family.

However, not infrequently, women must face the daily tension between caring for their children and contributing what’s necessary to maintain the family, making it difficult to fully enter the working world and develop their professional skills. This leads to health problems due to stress or lack of time for personal care.

All this has influenced the increasingly delayed decision to become a mother. This, added to the extension of life expectancy, affects the fact that women with single-parent homes are the main caregivers of their parents.

We’re talking about the so-called “sandwich generation”, made up of the “parent-children” who take care of their parents and their children. Women specifically have the pressure of taking care of their parents (from above) and supporting their children (from below). “In general, women take care of dependents in a proportion up to four times higher than men.”

In more recent research, it’s stated that, in Europe, 80% of non-formal caregivers are women, and the traditional care system is also feminine and non-formal/non-professional.

How does growing up without a father affect children?

In the event that adequate support isn’t provided to the child, the following problems may arise as a result of growing up without a father figure in the family nucleus:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of abandonment
  • Impaired self-esteem
  • Poor social relationships
  • Difficulty tolerating stress
  • School disinterest and/or poor academic performance
  • Disobedience, among other behavior problems

The best thing to do in these cases is to make the child feel loved and listened to. Although it’s not an instant recovery process, the more importance and follow-up we give to therapy, the better it will be for the little one, and therefore, for us.

How different are children who grow up without a father?

Those children who have a relative who’s actively involved in their upbringing tend to do better than those who don’t have the possibility of having a solid and present figure. In this sense, specialists even affirm that children who grow up without a pillar-figure (father, mother, or any other that is part of the family environment), generally develop behavioral disorders.

From the feelings of abandonment, sadness, anger, mistrust, and immense insecurity that these children feel, cases of academic disorders, addictions to illicit substances, and in general, problems living in society are encouraged.

These children have a hard time controlling their impulses; that is, they don’t know how to self-regulate, as they didn’t have a role model to help them understand this.

So, how different are the children who grow up without a father compared to those who did? The answer will depend on the case, as there are children who, even having relied on their parents during their growth, have developed difficulties and/or problems of different types.

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.

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