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Fatherlessness & Childhood Development

June 15
18:50 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph –

Father’s Day is upon us and I could not help but ponder on how weak the celebrations are with regard to this. Mother’s Day was blown totally out of proportion with flowers, talk shows, radio talks, movies dedicated to them and gifts in abundance. However, for men, it is usually a BBQ day (in which they have to bbq the meat themselves) or just a day when they are showered with one gift and by that I mean a coffee mug that says “world’s greatest dad” or something of that mediocrity. Could this misleading concept that society has groomed of the emphasis of fathers being dismissive and unimportant be affecting early childhood development and possibly the level of crime and violence we are now facing??

If it were to be classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic and it would be a national emergency. Oftentimes when we think about a fatherless child we think about a deadbeat dad or one that is just not at home. However, there are also fathers that are physically present but emotionally absent. The importance of a mother and a father in a relationship has been proven crucial to childhood development as they contribute differently in personality and character building of the child. Mothers are observed nurturing and most naturally children have an affinity to their mothers, maybe more than they do to their fathers. Some would go on to say that this is due to the bond and 9 month head start that mothers had during pregnancy, but her techniques in teaching are totally different when compared to the male approach.

A father’s approach is often times more tactile and active. He would be observed throwing the child in the air, rolling over on the floor, hunting for worms and probably doing many of the things considered dangerous in the view of a mother. A mother’s form of teaching is often geared towards developing motor skills such as drawing, finger painting, singing and other educational categories. The exposure and stimulation of different sides of the brain from a young age, creates a rounded little human.

Sadly, raising a child as a single parent has become the norm. In this scenario we observe children being in the sole custody of one parent, or confused and divided – forced to spend half of his or her life at one home and the other half at another. This change makes discipline and principles hard to maintain or enforce. Women have taken up the role of what they consider to be both mother and father. In their minds she is being a mother by being nurturing and also the father by being the “provider” because let’s be real, we view men as just providers. Very little thought is given to how the father figure influences cognitive and emotional development of a child.

Studies reveal that children who are deprived of a father are robbed of physical, emotional and intellectual benefits. Children with involved fathers have better educational outcomes. They are observed with better linguistics and cognitive capacities. Our lack of understanding about the great influence a father plays in the lives of children has made it easy for us to accept when they are slackers and when they choose to walk away – making it easy for mothers to settle for financial child support rather than their physical presence because as parents we can’t stand to be around each other, after all he was “just a donor.”

Children pick up easily on body language and learn things that aren’t even taught at times. They observe how we speak to each other. They overhear the things we say about each other and believe it or not they mimic our behavior to a particular extent. Psychology expresses that having an absent father greatly influences a child’s personality. Children who are sent to therapy are observed with diminished self-concept and compromised physical and emotional security. Many express feelings of abandonment and often feel misunderstood and struggle with expressing emotions. Many are seen with behavioral problems, having intimidating personas in an attempt to disguise fear, resentments and anxieties. Truancy and poor academic performances, delinquency and youth crimes are not all due to an absent father but in many cases a root can be found there.

We don’t really understand the gravity of fatherlessness and the impact that it is having within society, nationally and on a global scale. As children grow, their needs change and the role of fathers increases. Research shows that growing up fatherless can alter the prefrontal cortex of the brain and that children are more likely to be aggressive or constantly angry.

Do you want better outcomes in society?

Treat fathers as an essential part of the team. See, the problem isn’t the fact that there are no father figures within the family structure, but rather the concept of the presence of fathers not being all that important. Why should they feel necessary, if we treat them as if they are disposable?

We keep singing what a deadbeat he is, or acting as if a boyfriend, an uncle or grand-dad can fill the role as the male in the family and disregard the importance of the father’s influence on childhood development. It’s not that we don’t see the need for a dad, because of course we allow the father to come over for an hour or so, or probably send the child over for a weekend – in an effort for him or her to have a bond with dad or at least know who his dad is. But most of the time it is a lost cause. Fathers take that time to spoil the child or prove that he is the better parent by showering the child with gifts or allowing him or her to sit behind the TV or play video games all day and eat take out just to be considered in the eyes of the child as “the better parent.” There is no time for growth and no room for discipline.

There are many reasons why a father might not be actively present in the life of a child; death, divorce, by choice, might be unaware and the list goes on. One thing is certain, though. Overlooking the importance of the role of fathers within society greatly affects the early development of a child and ultimately affects a country productivity.

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