“Parents need to make peaceful co-parenting a real goal because the emotional wounds caused in the heart of a child can last a lifetime.”
The above quote is true. I have seen it too many times that I care to remember.
The number of single-parent households in the United States has reached high levels in recent decades. Children raised in a single-parent household experience more physical and psychological problems compared to those raised in two-parent households. The implications of homes in which fathers are absent, willingly or involuntarily, is important for criminal justice and mental health professionals to focus on.
Findings suggest that a negative developmental trajectory almost always results for children lacking a father in the home or in their lives.
There exists a considerable research base that suggests that children raised in households lacking a father, or relationship with their father, experience psychosocial problems with greater frequency than children with a father in the home or in their lives.
These problems have been found to extend into adolescence and adulthood and include an increased risk of substance use, depression, suicide, poor school performance, and contact with the criminal justice system.
Whether a father is incarcerated, abandons his children, or is alienated by the mother and/or her family, the following adverse results are common:
ADVERSE OUTCOME 1: Perceived Or Real Abandonment
Children who grow up without their fathers may come to resent paternal-figures due to perceived abandonment. These feelings may burgeon from a lack of trust and result in a heightened sense of anger. As a child grows into adolescence and young adulthood, these problems may contribute to contact with the criminal justice system, use of illicit substances, as well as a variety of mental health problems. These consequences may result in interpersonal dilemmas including the inability to develop strong social bonds.
ADVERSE OUTCOME 2: Criminal Justice Involvement
Family structure and the lack of paternal involvement are predictive of juvenile delinquency. The more opportunities a child has to interact with his or her biological father, the less likely he or she is to commit a crime or have contact with the juvenile justice system. In a study of female inmates, more than half came from a father-absent home (Snell, Tracy, & Morton, 1991). Youths who never had a father living with them have the highest incarceration rates, while youths in father-only households display no difference in the rate of incarceration from that of children coming from two-parent households. The absence of a father in a child’s life may also increase the odds of his or her associating with delinquent peers.
ADVERSE OUTCOME 3: Gang Involvement
A high percentage of gang members come from father-absent homes, possibly resulting from a need for a sense of belonging. Gaining that sense of belonging is an important element for all individuals. Through gangs, youth find a sense of community and acceptance. In addition, the gang leader may fill the role of father, often leading members to model their behaviors after that individual. Having a father in the child’s life greatly reduces the likelihood of a child joining a gang.
ADVERSE OUTCOME 4: Mental Health Issues
Coming from a fatherless home can contribute to a child having more emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression. Fatherless children may start thinking that they are worth less than other children who have fathers and wonder why their father abandoned them. This may also lead to an increased risk of suicide and/or self-injurious behaviors. Children who do not grow up with a father are also more likely to be aggressive and exhibit other externalizing problems. Children from a father-absent home are also more likely to become depressed, have suicidal thoughts, anxiety, social withdrawals, and school absences if they see or hear their parents fighting.
ADVERSE OUTCOME 5: Poor School Performance
Evidence suggests that not having a father at home may have a negative impact on a child’s overall academic performance. Research has shown that children who come from a father-absent home are more likely to drop out of school when compared to children who live in a two-parent household (Whitehead & Holland, 2003; Popenoe, 1996; Blankenhorn, 1995; McLanahan, & Sandefur, 1994; Sampson, 1987). Children from father-absent homes are also less likely to pursue higher education.
ADVERSE OUTCOME 6: Substance Abuse
Children who grow up in a home where a father is not present are at a greater risk for abusing alcohol and other drugs. Boys who came from a home without a father were more likely to use drugs than boys who came from a home where a father was present. Involvement of a father can, hence, be a protective factor against child and adolescent substance use.
If there is any doubt regarding the horrible impact on a child when they are either kept from their father or their father abandons them, just ask any of our juvenile court judges in west Georgia.
They see the pain that these children experience every day.