Child Development Issues

Grow up without a Father



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"Grow up without a Father"
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If you ask them, people probably tell you the same thing - a child needs both parents to grow up into a healthy individual. But is it necessarily true? What about children who grow up in the absence of a father?

First, let us take a look at what the science of psychology has to say on that matter. When we focus on the relationship between father and daughter, the primary goal of this bond is supposed to be establishing healthy predispositions for all future relationships of a woman with men in her life. Having a loving father will provide a girl with knowledge that she can trust other men and is able to connect with them. She is less likely to persist in a relationship that is not satisfactory or even abusive, since a proper father figure showed her that she is worthy of love and care. These are all findings of numerous observational studies, dealing with the effects of presence or absence of a father-daughter relationship.

But as it is widely known, psychology only talks about how people feel on average and the way in which different persons respond to environmental stimuli varies greatly among the population. Therefore it cannot be unquestionably claimed that every girl growing up without her father will suffer the same consequences. It may affect her greatly or not at all.

Before I continue, I would like to offer my view on actual effects of not having a father in your life. Some may argue that having a father is essential for development. But I disagree. It is only that important if there are absolutely no other male figures in her life, no one to bond with. In this case, it might have the consequences for a girl in the form of not being able to connect properly with men. But even that is a long shot. Aside from what psychology tells us, it is difficult to establish to what extent a father is actually essential. I am not making claims here that children do not need fathers, as that would be just ridiculous, I am merely proposing that an absent father might not have such harsh consequences on a woman when she grows up.

However, I believe that a father is actually needed for everything described previously and is "the first and obvious choice," if you will, to learn to connect with men, although even in his absence, a girl is perfectly capable of forming bonds with other people, as long as she has someone to bond with. The absence as such might not be as important as the question why. Why there is no father in her life might be more determining in a young girl's life, as it might even trigger negative emotions towards men in general.

Let me explain. Imagine that a girl's father died in a car accident. This leaves "only" grief for a deceased father without any additional emotional baggage (given that this man was actually a good father). A girl does not resent him for this, nor does she thinks he left her because she was not important to him. Of course those feelings might occur directly after the accident, depending on a girl's age and emotional stability, but it is highly unlikely this event will scar her so deeply that she will not be able to form any real connections with men when she grows up. I feel I must emphasize - in no way am I claiming that having lost a parent at a young age is not unimaginably traumatic and does not leave consequences for life, just not for the reasons relevant to this discussion. Losing a father in this case means losing a person who is dear to this girl and growing up without him means "only" sadness for this loss, not inability to trust other men because of feelings of betrayal that he is not in her life.

Now imagine this girl's father is a drug addict, in prison, or she and her mother had to run from him because of his violence. In this case a girl might very well develop feelings of worthlessness, such as thinking that she is not worth being loved because her own father couldn't love her, hence possibly being in a submissive role in all her relationships in the future. Or she might feel, as cliche as it sounds, that all men are just some variations of her father and that they cannot possibly develop any deep feeling towards her.

This is the difference I feel is important. It might be very hard for a girl from the second example to break from her childhood's feelings towards her father and trust her partner. She could subconsciously resent every man who wanted to come near her because she felt betrayed by her father. Or in the case that her father left later in her childhood, when she already had time to get to know him, she might even think that it is no use developing relationships with men, because they only lead to disappointment and hurt. She might not even know why she feels this way, because our actions are often dictated by our subconsciousness, part of our mind we are not aware of but develops through our life based on the events we experience.

Although these sorts of feelings seem quite logical, there is another way a girl might react to such a scenario. Because of the absence of a father, she would feel a void that needed to be filled and she would easily get too attached to people. That might lead her to be too trusting, too submissive in a relationship, so afraid that people will leave her that she would be willing to do anything, even sacrifice her own wishes and desires to keep them around. If such a woman landed in a violent relationship, it is highly unlikely that she would seek a way out, being to afraid of losing her partner, thinking she needed him and could not deal with him leaving.

Even though these are all plausible explanations of the effects of growing up without a father, the majority of women are still able to put that behind and experience meaningful and healthy relationships. The most important thing to understand is that there are as many reactions to a given situation as there are people in it. While one girl will experience extreme trauma for not having a father, the other might not feel the void at all.


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