By: Carl Maswoswa
Children begin to build self-esteem in early childhood based on social and emotional development. Research shows that children inhabiting homes where the biological, adoptive, or stepfather is present exhibit higher levels of self-esteem and social functioning as compared to those that have absent or unavailable fathers. Statistics say one in every three children, grows or grew up without a father figure in their life.
An unavailable father is where a biological, adoptive, or stepfather does not live in the same household as the children. This absence can be due to death, divorce, career demands (military service), or separation. The father in question will fail to provide for his daughter or son with unconditional love and feelings of security or fulfillment. He may be abusive physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually, be a substance abuser, have disappeared from his daughter or son’s life completely, or ignore them entirely. Fathers can be fully or partially present.
Compared to children born within marriage, children born to cohabiting parents are three times more likely to experience a father’s absence, and children born to unmarried, non-cohabiting parents are four times more likely to live in a father-absent home. A higher divorce rate is another contributing factor to children living without a father figure. Pressures on fathers to be the sole providers may cause lower-income men or teenage fathers to flee. Adults who marry later or forgo conventional marriages for cohabitation or other non-traditional family formations usually result in a higher prevalence of births to single women and higher rates of divorce.
The hallmark characteristic of a fatherless daughter is fear of abandonment. Because she never got the direction she needed from a father figure, she learns to make up her own survival playbook. Perhaps one of the most distinct aspects of the term, “daddy issues” is a fatherless girl’s unusual relationship with men.
It is no secret that many women who have grown up without a father are prone to unhealthy relationships – which can lead to negative coping skills such as sexual promiscuity, total avoidance of intimacy, isolation, anxiety, or depression. The reason why is quite simple. A father is typically the first man in a girl’s life, her relationship with her father serves as the basis of all her future relationships with men.
Men are likely to suffer from slow mental development, short attention span due to behavioral problems, schizoid difficulties, stuttering, sleepwalking and nightmares, autism, as well as specific developmental problems such as dyslexia. Men by far outnumber women in the frequency of transsexuality and sexual perversions. Many men are prone to alcoholism, drug addiction, personality disorders, high-risk behavior, and suicide.
Developing children require two important conditions to grow up feeling good about themselves and comfortable in their relationships to others – love and security.
When a father makes it clear to his child (boy or girl) in every way that he loves the child unconditionally, just for who that child is, he lays up a foundation for the child’s positive self-concept. When he conveys his approval for how that child looks or the activities the child does, he validates that child’s existence. The father helps the child to become confident, self-assured, and ready to face the world.
A child must feel that the world is predictable and that significant others are dependable. If a child is made to feel that he or she cannot depend on his or her parents to make sure that their needs are met, they will likely develop a pervasive general sense of apprehension and anxiety regarding the future.
Every child deserves praise, protection, provision, and the presence of a father figure – in the absence of it we are brewing a half-baked generation that will later on trouble us in the future. Parents (father and mother) should make necessary assessments about whether they have the capacity to nurture a child in the event the child comes through. The effects of having an absent father are devastating. No one deserves such.
Rumbidzai Ngandini started an unavailable father community wherein her personal capacity – she gives free therapy and counseling sessions (playing a father role) to those individuals who grew up without a father. It is a movement supporting those individuals to realize their self-worth and it is a platform where individuals vent out their childhood traumas in turn getting their healing in the process. It is not an overnight job but a continuous journey that needs continuous assessment.
Written by Carl Maswoswa
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