Childhood can be a very exciting and confusing time for most children as they learn, grow, develop relationships, and begin to mature. Parents and adult care givers play a significant role in the identity formation of a child. Most children learn how to behave, speak, and interact with others through a process called modeling behaviors, i.e., children learn by watching and mimicking the behaviors of parents and caregivers. However, children that are raised in single parent households often do not have an opportunity to witness adults interact with each other in a loving and caring manner or how the adults resolve interpersonal and familial conflict. For the sake of this article we will be focusing on children that grow up in single parent homes headed by women.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological father in the home. Children that grow up in homes without a male role model more likely than children raised in a home with a male figure to struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, inadequacy, aggressive behavior, self-doubt, etc. Specifically, girls that grow up in a home without a father figure, often struggle with feelings of unworthiness. It may come as no surprise when we grow up without pertinent adult figures we are more likely to search for the things we feel we have missed in our lives, overly fantasize about the missing figure (often giving them super human qualities), or blaming the present adult as a reason why the absent parent is not active in our life. Children growing up in a single parent household tend to focus more on the perceived faults of the present parent while idolizing the absent parent.
Children brought up in a household by a single mother are at a higher risk of developing deviant behavior or other conduct disorders, struggle with self-doubt, engage in people pleasing behaviors, sample/abuse drugs, develop maladaptive coping skills, are more likely to be negatively influenced by the wrong crowd, etc. Research conducted on fatherless households also suggests greater impact on daughters than on sons. Children learn how to love and receive love by the adults in their life, so it would be beneficial to all children to have healthy loving role models.
Potential consequences of growing up a father-absent home Include:
- More likely to suffer from conduct disorders
- More likely to experience challenges in interpersonal and romantic relationships
- Four times more likely to live in poverty
- More likely than children raised in a two-parent home to experience a teenage pregnancy
- More likely to experience emotional problems
- More likely to engage in unlawful acts
- More likely to face abuse and neglect
- Are more likely to struggle with obesity
- Are likely to not complete their education
- More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
- More likely to have multiple failed relationships
- More likely to search for love in the wrong places
Children not only grow, but thrive in a loving, well supported environment. Healthy living environments is not isolated to just heterosexual households, but same sex, grandparent, and other responsible care givers. Every child should be given the opportunity to have both male and female role models, even if those individuals do not reside in the home. Having both male and female role models provides the child with a higher likelihood of developing a healthy identity formation and a better chance of relating to the opposite sex.