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How to reduce negative effect on children with absent fathers

The effects on children and strategies to reduce negative effects of absent disenfranchised fathers. Proposed for the theme based educational session on the new century for AAFCS: New Challenges, New Solutions?

YOU NEVER

You never said you’re leaving
You never said goodbye
You were gone before I knew it.
And only God knew why
A million times I needed you,
A million times I cried
If love alone would have saved you,
You never would have died
In life, I loved you dearly
·In death I love you still
·In my heart you hold a place,
·It broke my heart to lose you,
·But you didn’t go alone
For part of me went with you,
The day God took you home
*Author unknown*

A poetic introduction of this kind can send tears down the cheek of children whose fathers are disconnected. It can put worry on the faces of mothers who have to nurture children to adulthood. It can cause financial strain to agencies/society that have to offer guidance/financial assistance. However, no guidance/assistantship/support is enough than the presence of the man at home. 

 KEYWORDS:  Families, Children, Absent fathers, Negative Effects and Disenfranchized lives.

Summary:

The more men are absent from home, the more problems besiege modern families. The presence of men have much to offer to children, women and families. Money cannot suppliment the psychological yearning of children whose fathers are categorized as “dead beat” dad. Resourses cannot offer the emotional needs that children desire during care. Support/ relief cannot cushion the mental trauma created  after the man is gone. Therefore, modern strategies and intiatives are to be channeled towards finding a way to lure men “back to the basis” (family). Modern families can do this by removing those modern obstacles  that made them to leave in the first place.

DEPARTURE:

{div width:468|height:70|float:left}{module Inside Advert 468×60|none}{/div}A new century for FCS and families has come. And the old century challenges confronting families are calmly disappearing. As old as they are, they continue to wear new looks and do un-surpassing damage to our families. The most complex issues confronting modern families have taken a dramatic new turn. These challenges are not the daily rising unemployment nightmare. They are not those sky rocking healthcare costs; retirement fears, financial meltdown, homelessness or poverty. They are not about biotechnological safety concerns or how to eliminate childhood obesity. They are not about unsafe and insecure food practices or social responsibilities. They are not about wedlock pregnancies, sexuality issues across family life span. They are not about foreclosure or bad credit card debits or systemic generational differences that affect homes. Rather, the new century challenge is how to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to the effects of absent and disenfranchised fathers in our families. A family story illustrates a kind of challenge teenager’s face when they lack father-figure in their lives.  “How do you brush your teeth”? Peter asked his eldest brother Fitzgerald. Shocked and uncomfortable, Fitzgerald did not answer back. Second later, he was overwhelmed by grief as he heard him talking on the phone to a friend, “Hey Dude, how should I shave and brush my teeth at the same time?” It was only then that I realized that peter had no father-figure present in his life. He has no male model to teach him the early morning hygiene. He had no father-figure to educate him on how best to be a man, and so instead he sought those answers on how to be a man from friends, outsiders who had no bond or emotional attachment to him.

Hence, Father Absence is a major force behind many of the attention grabbing issues that have dominated the news: delinquency, sexuality, out of wedlock, teen births, deteriorating educational achievement, depression, substance abuse, and alienation among teenagers in addition to the growing number of women in poverty (Propenoe, 1996). Unlike most conventional positivist research, there is no single accepted outline for a qualitative research proposal or report. But the generic outline that follows is suggested as a point of departure for this exploration. However, this applies specifically to the research paradigm and methods that seem most applicable to the study as well as positive strategies that will reduce negative effects of father’s absence. Therefore, the relevance of this proposal cannot be overemphasized. The reason is because the general pattern that emerges for children raised solely by a mother are: High rates of Juvenile delinquency, less chances of attending college, higher rates of leaving home early to get a job, joining the military service, getting married early, to cohabitate, increased interpersonal conflict with mother, more psychological problems and lower grades and overall educational attachment. Absence of a father is one of the most common predictors of child abuse (Smith et al, 1980).

OPERATIONAL DEFINTION, DESCRIPTION AND NEW THOUGHTS:

Interest in and concern for men’s role within families is burgeoning (Hawkins & Dollahite, 1997; Marsiglio, Amato, Day & Lamb, 2001). Today, children are suffering in ever-greater number from the catastrophic loss of the paternal function (Anscona, 1998). Two demographic trends have contributed to the rise in father absence including the increase in divorce rates and the increase in unwed childbearing (Jennifer, 2003). A fatherless home is one where the mother is often stressed out and exhausted from fulfilling not only her duties as a mother, but that of a father too. The consequence is that children will grow to feel unwanted, abandoned and unloved. According to evolutionary biology, human beings need to be loved and be accepted at all times.  If acceptance or attachment is lacking, they will find a way to seek it out. Hence, children act out in school, seek out gangs, and find a way to numb the pain with dangerous habits such as sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, crime or even suicide. Children without father-figure always find a place on the streets engaging in risqué and dumb behavior. They develop tough life and often times unruly in school. They do all these because they want to feel belonged amongst men. And when they fail to achieve this, they spend time with friends and grow strong attachment with them because they are seeking for a father figure, a role model, someone whom they will look up to and learn from (Jendayi, 2007).

This proposal traces the changes in the concept of fatherhood from a simple two variables model (i.e., father absence has a negative influence on children) to the more sophisticated constructs of father involvement that focus on how fathers accept the parental role (Randal, 1998). Despite these changes, research has used simple explanatory models attempting to associate paternal absence with isolated child outcomes. This proposal will offer strength, empowerment, and educational tips to fathers who are going through divorce or family crisis. We believe that education and social support and community networking would help reduce the alarming rate of disengaging from the family. It will help restore peace at home where children and their mom would be loved and be appreciated. Through social networking, men would have the opportunity to repair broken relationship with children and forge new attachments that are lacking.

STATEMENT OF THE ISSUE AND PROBLEM:

For thousands of family researchers, being a father is not easy. Like mothers who struggle to balance work and family obligations, contemporary fathers faced increased demands to become more a part of family life while maintaining strong attachment to work (Daly, 1996). In this proposal, I intend to discuss some of those thorny issues that cause men to disappear at home. That man has disappeared from contemporary family decision and responsibilities is a fact (Susan, et al, 2002)). This is the more reason why early social-psychological research on family leisure emphasized the importance of shared family time for strengthening families. This proposal will challenge society and children to stop saying things about their parents who are not involved in their lives. The paper challenges children to start asking questions about their fathers, and why they have decided to abandon home. This paper calls on children not to stop asking until they have learnt something about their father’s first job, their early dreams. This will infinitely take energy but it is worthwhile and it must be done now. The absence of a biological father is the leading cause of many of our nation’s family crises. Crime, drug problems, teen violence, inner-city strife, and Juvenile delinquency have been cited among the results of fatherless homes. The compelling implication of these findings is clear: One parent is simply not enough (Ballard, 1995). Father’s absence has become a prominent issue in the fields of education, sociology and psychology; although in the last decade or so reviewed literature on the topic has tapered off (Patricia et al, 1982). Men’s absence at all times have rock the very foundation of human families and the proper development of children since they are understood as having a unique and essential role to play in child development, especially for boys who establish a masculine gender identity (Louise et al, 1999). These findings make the father the single most important figure in the lives of their sons and daughters. Without a father, a young star will spend a lifetime trying to find out who he is from others. Without a father, boys would be raised by women who at best would teach them to be good persons (RoS, 2009).

At all times, it is vital for a father to be present. Father-presence rearing therefore is one in which mother and father jointly and simultaneously provides education (in the broader sense of the term) the young. Father –absent rearing is one in which the mother, in the absence of regular assistance from the father carries the major responsibility for provisioning and educating children. The bottom-line is that the absence of a regular assistance creates a toll on individual children, families and communities-and is too often encouraged by lack of family supportive polices in the workplace (Eileen, 1997).      

OBJECTIVE: 

The aim of this proposal is to make recommendations and generate awareness of the importance of the participation of fathers in the lives of children and promote social policy strategies that will value the contribution each parent brings to the family.  Another objective is to identify and recommend five new initiatives, namely:

–          To increase the awareness of problems created when a child grows up without the presence of a responsible father.

–          To  identify obstacles that impede, or prevent the involvement of responsible fathers in the lives of their children;

–           To identify strategies and how to overcome these obstacles and encourage responsible fatherhood ;

–           To facilitate the transition to polices, perception and practices that will promote the contributions of responsible fatherhood, and;

–           To provide ideal strategies that would help provide secure foundation and boost children’s social responsiveness and positive feelings about self and beyond the level of children whose fathers are uninvolved  (Grimm-Wassil, 1994).

{div width:200|height:90|float:left}{module Inside Advert 200×90|none}{/div}Based on available family studies, it is believed that a present supportive father cannot be replaced, which is the main reason research suggest many females never get over the loss of their father (Grimm-Wassil, 1994). Thus, positive strategies will provide security, stability, and understanding among fatherless children and their mothers. Security so to speak is vital to children and important to their growth. This paternal protection enables children to thrive in relatively safety existence, thus enhancing their chances of growing into healthy adulthood (Elium, 1994). A conceptual framework in this study is based on some models and philosophies of intervention. It challenges us to question why we must reach out to children in absent father homes. The reasons why modern man must reach out to children of absent father are manifold. Because they are:

*4. 6 % times more likely to commit suicide

*6.6 % times more likely to become teenage mothers

*24.3 % more likely to run away

*15.3 % more likely to have behavioral disorder

*6.3% times more likely to be in the state operated institution

*10.8 times more likely to drop out of school

*15.3 times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager (Life Coaches for Kids, 2009)

 THEORITICAL FRAMEWORK AND NEW INFORMATION:

Absent fathers are pervasive in modern families, societies, and cultures. That children grow without the presence of their father is not new information. What is new is a growing body of what family researchers has identified through conceptual analysis. Studies have identified that father-absence is pathological and it severely affects the abandoned son’s capacity for self-esteem and intimacy (Dennis, 1998). Many adolescent males abandoned by their fathers have difficulty developing and sustaining self-esteem, forming lasting emotional attachments, recognizing their feelings, or being expressive with their adult partners and children. On one hand, adolescent girls raised in fatherless households are more likely to engage in promiscuous sexual activity before marriage; to cohabit; to get pregnant out of wedlock and to have an abortion (Mattox, 1993). Despite sexual activities, children are deeply influenced by the separation of their fathers. The Newsletter of the Bay Area Male involvement Network (spring, 1997) identified that:

–          63 % of youth suicide is from fatherless homes.

–          90 % of all homes runaway children are from fatherless homes

–          85% of all children who exhibit behavioral disorder come from fatherless homes

–          80% of rapists motivated by displaced anger come from fatherless homes

–          71% of all high school dropouts are from fatherless homes

–          75% of all adolescents patients in chemically abused centers come from fatherless homes

–          70% of juvenile instate-Oriented institutions come from fatherless homes

–          85% of all youth in prison grew up in a fatherless home

–          Fatherless children are 20% less likely to attend college

Research has found a negative relationship between proneness to experience shame and problematic relationships between fatherless children and their mother, with no relationship between process to guilt and relationship adjustment. Effects of early father separation were more profound than later separation in adulthood. After a man is separated from his children, he will be left to develop different coping skills to survive. Studies identify a different coping patterns in girls who had lost their father through death than those whose loss were through divorce or unforeseen family circumstances. Divorce weakens parental interaction and promotes father’s disengagement. The lack of opportunity for constructive interaction with a loving attentive father has resulted in apprehension and inadequate skills in relating to men.

The absence of a father affects the leaving process of a child making it difficult but not impossible for them to excel academically. Females of absent -fathers often have diminished cognitive development, poor school performance, low achievement test scores and low I.Q scores (Grimm-Wassil, 1994). Also, the coping mechanism of adolescent girls whose father is absent or divorced, in response to their absence include the followings: Intensified separation anxiety, denial and avoidance of feelings associated with the loss of a father; identification with the loss of object and object hunger for males (Lohr et al, 1989). These behavior patterns are carried into womanhood and maybe the present-day cause of unfaithful relationship ships in marriage.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF FATHER’S ABSENCE:

A growing body of literature has documented candid theories exploring how children miss their father on a daily basis. And the intersection between negative effects of absenteeism of fathers and strategies to reduce their absence necessitates a shift in perspective in the approach to meeting the needs of children. The absence of men is responsible for 1.8 increased risk of mortality in children. Infants born to single mothers are likely to have low birth weight. On one hand, parental effects father-absence on mothers include: distress and depression and the likeliness to be poor (American Children, 1997). Studies show that mothers are less likely to use preventive and ambulatory care; 20 to 30% higher probability of experiencing accidents, injuries and poisoning (Remez, 1992); greater risk of being involved in dangerous or unhealthy behaviors (McLanahan, et al, 1991); risk of feeling neglected doubled with more developmental delays (Wakefield et al, 1988); increased risk of developing antisocial behavior (Pfiffner et al, 2001). Indeed, antisocial behavior is generally associated with antisocial activities that include: fighting, lying, cheating, criminal activity, depression, conduct disorder, suicide, separation anxiety and empathy.

The prenatal effect of the absence of a father on both mother and children include: smoking, breast-feeding, depression etc. Prenatal effects on infants include: Infant mortality, birth weight, breastfeeding and SIDS/Rasp, illness. The general healthcare effects include: poverty, child abuse and neglect. Fatherless daughters compared to those with father-figure are in higher risk of teenage pregnancy. They are most likely to face college drop-out and low self-esteem. Children of absent fathers are more likely to experience behavior problems such as difficulty paying attention, disobedience and social disorder. They are at a greater risk of being physically abused, or harmed by physical or emotional neglect (Sedlak, et al, 1996). These children are more likely to commit crimes such as possessing and using alcohol, or distributing alcohol or drugs, possessing a weapon, or assaulting a leader, administrator, or another individual. They are on average more likely to be poor and experience health problems (Horn, et al, 2002). The absence of a father can cause a great harm to both boys and girls in their social lives. There are innumerable body of research that identified the negative consequence of absence father focusing on how daughters are hit by it and how it diminishes their developmental process as individuals. Poor developmental outcomes carries with it negative social, psychological, moral, spiritual life where children misbehave and bring social disgrace to families. Besides these outcomes, Sara (2006) note that father’s failure and absence can cause daughters to fail in acquiring a husband.

EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TO REDUCE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF FATHER’S ABSENTEEISM IN THE FAMILY:

PUBLIC EDUCATION, PROGRAMS AND MODERN STRATEGIES:

Father involvement is affected by multiple interacting systems, including a father’s mental health, expectations, family relations, support networks, community support groups and culture; the child’s own characteristics, public education and policies. We propose that public education aims at helping men become better fathers is essential to instill standards for their kids and mothers. We propose that training/education would help men understand the ultimate demand of family life.  Education, training and awareness will help them know where to get support from social agencies, labor organizations that will help provide counseling sessions; reduce child support payments, and enhance training classes. The above program/ education can help shape polices on fathers in the AAAF services. Through the power of education, absent fathers will come to know that:

-All fathers can be important contributors to the well-being of their children

-Parents are partners in raising children even when they are not living with them under the same roof.

-Men should receive the education and support necessary to prepare them for the responsibility of parenthood.

-Government can encourage and promote father involvement through its programs and through its own workforce policies especially for low-income fathers.

-Strategic initiatives with welfare reforms will increase public awareness of father’s involvement in the lives of children. Therefore, public education should  focus on fathers, including fathers in two-parent families, teen fathers, non custodial fathers (both divorced and never married) and single fathers etc.

Every man can learn to be good father if he wants. Studies have shown that a little bit of knowledge and an adequate family involvement can lead to improved fatherhood skills.  To acquire this noble skills require the right attitude- the attitude and effort to become a good father to one’s children. And to become a good father, we propose that men must be actively involved in family activities. Involved presence requires total commitment and plenty of financial consideration. Given the varied  ‘types’ of fathers, attributes that define positive fatherhood is essential in understanding strategies for father’s involvement on children’s development across a varied range of family social settings. One of those strategies is fatherhood initiative. The fatherhood initiative is to serve as an out-growth of those socio-historical changes serving as further catalyst for the single interest in father involvement (Catherine, et al, 1999). This strategy along with family social agencies is to review positive programs and policies with the aim of strengthening the role of fathers in families by highlighting father’s contribution to their children’s well-being. We propose that workshops are to be held on a regular basis to discuss issues on male fertility, family formation, and parental roles and responsibilities. These efforts will help educate men on the negative consequences of being absent from home. Through these initiatives, we can eradicate father’s absence by examining how fathers are conceptualized in any social policy and how research and policy can jointly help strengthen father’s role in the family. We also propose that a fatherhood project can go a long way to stimulate discussion and action to support the involvement of men in childcare. This project should aim at recognizing, encouraging and supporting men’s care and the protection of children by stimulating debates and discussion, as well as portraying positive images of fatherhood. The project should focus on advocacy, gathering and disseminating information about men as father and men as care-givers. Any modern project must aim at executing the following activities:

 – Influencing social expectations and perceptions about men and their care for children

-Rallying peer and professional support to enable men to be more involved in children’s lives;

-creating a sense of shared responsibility for children’s development among men and women

-Engendering broad-based and long-term commitment to men’s involvement with children; and

-Identifying and addressing barriers to men’s engagement and protection of their children.

 Sensitizing men to the effect that their involvement has on the well-being of children as they grow up;

-Promoting public education concerning the financial and emotional responsibilities of fatherhood

-Assisting men in preparing for the legal, financial and emotional responsibility of fatherhood

-Promoting the establishing of paternity at childbirth

-Encouraging fathers, regardless of marital status, to foster their emotional connection to, and financial support of their children;

– Establishing support mechanisms for fathers in their relationship with their children, regardless of their marital and financial status; and

-Integrating state and local services available for families

– Enabling men to become actively engaged in child care; supporting them in responsive, and committed fatherhood; generating public discourse about men and fatherhood; promoting increased funding through national and international donors for the inclusion of men in programs to support children; Encouraging organizations to include men in program activities; individual/group therapies and developing a research agenda on father-child issues. The call for these strategies is for men to assume moral responsibilities as fathers and husbands to their wives and children. Another strategy is to develop a work ethic that will maintain a risk-free lifestyle and establish paternity of children born in the marriage. This will give absent fathers the opportunity to receive intense non-traditional one-on-one support, or group support which include family outreach, fathering skills, health and nutrition information, medical and housing referrals, and educational and career guidance. We believe that these efforts would work and seek to improve relationship between fathers and children by dealing with their homecoming or permanent confinement. We also believe that workshops will help improve data gathering on the motives, attitudes, and intentions underlying childbearing of men and women in all types of relationships; and investigate further the meaning of fatherhood; and motivation and impact that further involvement has on children’s development across families, cultures and ethnic groups (Federal Interagency Forum on child and family statistics, 1998).

A responsive father program therefore can be another positive strategy. This program will enable fathers develop skills to support children developmentally and finically. Along with this initiative, public or private ventures can help enhance the capacity of young and unmarried fathers to become responsible and become an involved parent. This program must be designed for fathers in the Urban and inner-cities where the problem of father absence is most acute. Advocacy and outreach will help convince unemployed men to become wage-earners, and providers of child support. It will inspire men to rededicate themselves to the responsibilities of fathering, by promoting an ideal model of good married family man. Parental family service program is relevant to provide services designed primarily for children and their mothers to incorporate a focus on involving fathers, and in the process, become more responsive to the rights and needs of fathers. Programs that increasingly provide health education and social services to children will act as catalyst to encourage fathers who are absent to play active role in the lives of their children (Theodora, et al, 1995).

Despite the above responsive programs, Lamb et al (1987) proposed three components of father involvement, namely:

-Engagement- A father’s experience of direct contact and shared interaction with his child in the form of caretaking, play and leisure.

-Accessibility- A father’s presence and availability to the child irrespective of the nature or extent of interactions between father and child; and

-Responsibility- A father understands and meeting of his child’s needs, including the provision of economic resource to the child, and the planning and organizing of children’s lives. These tripartite frameworks lend credence to further analysis of father presence and involvement (Catherine et al, 1999). Their presence influences the well-being of mothers. Black (2002) believes that adolescent mother’s experience less depression when infant fathers are involved. Fathers influence and involvement influences the breastfeeding decision of the child (Bar-Yam et al, 1997). Based on some reviewed literature, the father in prenatal activities was associated with higher birth weights (Levy-Shiff et al, 1990). We believe that father’s involvement in the physical care of his child before the age of 3 significantly reduces the probability that he will sexually abuse that child. Premature infants whose fathers spent more time playing with them had better cognitive outcomes at age 3 (Yogman et al, 1995). These infants will exhibit less anxiety or will be crying when separated from a parent. They will be less likely to engage in stealing, truancies and drug use (Barnes, 1994); with lower occurrences of psychological distress in teens (Harris et al, 1988). We believe that children of involved father are more likely to live in cognitively stimulating homes (William, 1997); they are more likely to demonstrate more cognitive compliance on standardized intellectual assessment; they are more likely to enjoy school and less likely to fail a grade or have poor attendance record. Children of involved fathers are more likely to demonstrate greater internal locus of control, have a greater ability to take initiatives, use self direction and control and display less impulsivity (Mischel, 1961). We believe these positive initiatives and strategies would help reduce the negative effects on families.

 CONCLUSION:

The integration of research, strategies, policy and proposals on father’s absence is yet in its infancy. Due to limited studies in this field, little is known and proposed about the number of fathers who have remained uninvolved in the lives of children due to financial or unforeseen circumstances. But in the recent socio-emotional trends, some children experience warm relationship with their fathers; others experience inconsistent, unstable support; others are adversely affected by destructive fathering behavior; still others have lost their fathers very early in their childhood development. Because this field has extensively remained unexplored, many questions are cogent. How can social policies ensure that the next generation of absent fathers receives adequate support and recognition that will help children and families? What role can schools, communities and institutions play in preparing fathers to be present in the lives of their children? What programs will encourage and promote positive presence of fathers at home in the 21st century? How can society establish security in the father/child relationship? How can policies create room for openness to a wider range of affective experience? What new models can be created to balance the needs of the men and children at home? Answers to these questions are based on reversing attention on the man and family.

In order to turn things around, I propose that a maximum focus on father presence, frequency of visitation, or provision of child support can reinforce the narrow thoughts fathers have concerning economic responsibilities. Such reinforcement should center on the frequency of father-child interactions and the emotional attachment between father and child. Engagement otherwise maximum presence include: play, direct care (diapering) and indirect care, e.g. washing baby clothes are other components that affects outcomes in children. Research conducted by Bethesda (1997) suggests that the assumption of responsibility, which is often neglected in survey studies, maybe the most important component of father involvement. These frameworks will definitely exert positive and direct influence on the family and child’s development. Father’s engagement will establish an important attachment relationship with child. Beside relationship attachment are advice, information, guidance and emotional and intellectual support thereby inculcating knowledge, self-esteem, and a sense of security in children (Catherine, et al). These strategies I believe are relevant to children and family. The reason is because children and family are at the center of life’s meaning. They are the place where fathers are linked together by a golden chain of love. If AAFCS implement these initiatives and strategies, families, children and fathers will come to celebrate triumphs and share adversities across generations and across miles. Like never-ending hug, families will enrich the man and the man will empower his wife and his wife will approach maternity of her children with steadfast devotion and enduring love. And when the presence of the man is felt in the family, children and their mother will believe more in him.

(Expert of a proposal paper submitted to AAFCS 101st Educational Session and Annual Conference titled: New Challenges, New Solutions, and New Century for FCS).

Prepared by Gerald Chijioke Ogbuja

10/8/2009

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