In the contemporary period of our times, bit by bit, we are losing the true meaning of a family. Bonds are starting to lose the true affection, replacing it by emotionless technological advancements. Family members may be living in the same household, but with each one holding a device to engage into a virtual world rather than the real one. It’s like one needed a bigger world rather than the small one that of the household. One needed to connect with people thousands miles away, engage into a world level content rather than sharing in the limited channel of communication at home. It’s like it is more pleasurable to open Facebook, Twitter, or CNN to read what the whole world is saying rather than listening to what one’s own parents, siblings, and beloved are saying; for they seem too local and accordingly less appealing than the whole circle of friends, the whole group, or the whole world; through the window called Social Networks and the Web. Or maybe one is enjoying the identity-less world of the internet and social networks; the details-less view, where one would be able to make and control his appearances, which are under less control in front of the same household. On Social Networks and the internet, one can draw the appearance he wants. In the olden days, family members after work or school spend the night watching TV together or going out together. In vacations and weekends, family members would go to parks, ride bicycles, or BBQ. Obviously, social networks and the technological advancements have changed the landscape of social and family relationships and bonds. Needless to enumerate the inherent positives and negatives of such dynamic change. However, if this is the case with co-residing family members that we at least experience multiple times during our life together, one would speak of what could be worse: Children born and raised up without fathers. In our contemporary period, more children are growing up without remarkable father intervention. Two main drivers of interest in this writing are: 1) The increase in divorce rate worldwide and 2) Labor migration. Both can be entitled under one name: Non-resident biological fathers. In this writing, I exclude some radical forms of fatherlessness, other than the two listed above: 1) Orphan children, for this form of fatherlessness constitutes a no-choice factor, 2) Existing fathers in the same household, but emotionless, less participating, and indifferent to their children, for this comes from a different root cause and entails different routes of impacts and resolutions.
Family, as sociologists call it ‘Primary Socialization’, remains the backbone and nucleus of any society. Through this primary socialization, civil members of a society are produced, puffing out the major ingredients of this small family into the whole society; if all is good, society improves; if things are bad, the whole society suffers. Yet, these impacts are not responsibly and carefully taught or examined by those starting families and taking the decision to have children. Thanks to the ‘pure’ biological nature of having children, which granted automaticity masks out the mental preparedness by-product of the process, which is sadly not automatic. One can be granted to have a baby from pure biological sense without having to satisfy the intangible mental attributes as a prerequisite. While such absence of preparedness and teachings of what it means to have children have generalized impacts on any family, the thing is enormously devastating when it comes to fracturing the family, which is again attributed majorly to this same root cause. Today, once a family has started, it grows easily to destroy it, sadly after having children. The very act does not lay in examining reasons of separation, whether by divorce or just leaving out, rather it lies in questioning why the family was started in the first place and was taken that far with no regard to the anticipated signal of future failures all the way through. And if the many years were lived noting no family issues that could result in this, the question would be how worthwhile our ‘acute’ sudden reasons now that mandate on us to leave the family behind, whether by divorcing or choosing to migrate for work abroad, after this proclaimed years of stability. In many cases, it all rolls up to a hole in our understanding, control, and decision-making.
The United States has the lion share in divorce and separation worldwide, leading the list in the first rank, with 50% to 60% of children not having fathers, that is 1 in 3 children goes to bed at night without saying goodnight to his/her father; according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The trend is also worldwide. In Europe, for example, 14% of households with children are lone mother-headed, with UK only having 300,000 families than separate each year, 92% of which are lone mother-headed families, attributing to an overall number of 3 million and 160,000 of separated families in year 2012; 30% of this number never seen their fathers. This is according to UK Centre for Social Justice published report “Fractured Families” in June 2013. The rate of fatherless children is growing alarmingly worldwide, doubling since the 1960’s. Yet in front of this increase in phenomenon, we are here interested in daring to the destiny of these children raised up without fathers. What are the impacts? And what can be done to work around these implications? If you happen to be among those, with the above frightful statistical numbers, you are not alone.
At the first hit upon taking the father out of the picture, whether driven by divorce or physical separation, is the immediate absence of the Male Role Model, in Psychology terminology, from the household. The degree of impact of such loss depends on the age of the children at the time of separation, the younger the more devastating. And the impact does not only influence the children directly, but it continues to impact the mother as well, which in return impacts the children indirectly though their lives with her. In order to understand the impacts, let’s first briefly discuss what the Male Role Model does.
The male father existence in the same home represents many symbols. Male fathers tend to represent a challenge, to children and to mother. At the peak of any chaos inside the home, there would still be a minimum sort of order. The challenge of a father ties some order and discipline in the home. Male fathers tend to be playful, loud, life-matters talkers, and risk takers. Their presence takes the children to the extra mile of exposure to life. Male fathers represent the Security in the home, providing a backbone for children to go out and face life, to spend their times not worrying as they feel that there is a father would come to rescue in times of danger. The same feeling is fed to the mother, a panic mother would quickly transfer the same panic in her kids. For male children, the male role model is essential in establishing a model to look up to in formulating their personalities. From that model, the boy learns how to be a man. The attributes of an adult male role model represented above are necessary in formulating male children. For female children, the female feels secured by her father’s presence more than the boy. Her personality is fed more by his tenderness and kindness to her. The presence of the Male Role Model to the female kid gives her a frame of reference for her future husband or partner. She understands through this role model how a man should be. The father provides the mature emotional growth to the female and a complete paradigm for a future male partner. Without Male Role Model, according to research, males grow up tending to be more aggressive or too soft. They grow easily associative to bad habits and negative male role models found in friends or gangs. Females deprived from true male role model tend not to choose the correct male partner at the beginning of her romantic life. And after some failures, when she finally happens to meet a true man, she has a high chance of turning him down and being unable to give him back the true female role; she simply did not learn the true Male Role Model to understand how to deal with a real man.
No matter how great the mother is, a lone mother-headed family ultimately misses the Male role aspect. The absence of the male role model also impacts the female mother and influenced her conduct of upbringing her children negatively. Female Role Model tends to be soft, nurturing, gentle, and comforting. With the absence of the male role model, the balance of parenting and the even distribution of authority is lost. Accordingly, the mother can become too lenient towards her children that she loses control over them and fail to provide corrective actions when they misbehaves. Or, on the other hand of extreme, the anxious mother from knowing that she is weak in front of the responsibility of raising up her children on her own and aware of the solid aspect of losing the male role model, she attempts to play it herself; thus, jumps to the other extreme of being too protective, too resentful, and too anxious. Therefore, complicating the matter to its negative pole and ultimately masking out the soft nurturing that she should give as part of her Female Role Model. As no matter how hard the lone mother is trying to be both a mother and a father at the same time, the end result is a too soft helpless mother or too rigid, too resentful, too protective, too anxious mother; both results skew the upbringing of the kids.
Once Men Step Away from Co-Residence, the Transforming Power of Fatherhood Dissipates.
No matter how convenience and ease communication technology availed today, once the man steps out of the household, a gap is existed. Once the father is at distance, the details of the day to day life is missed and his parental influence starts to fade away. He is no longer in control. And studies have shown that though the abundance of communication means nowadays, non-resident fathers bit by bit over duration of years lose the amount of communications than that at the beginning. At the start of separation, the father may see and call his children multiple times in the week; then, as the years pass, the amount shrinks. And the study confirms that even maintaining distant communication at best, it puts the father away from the fine details of his children’s day to day life, missing the whole point and lose the power. The core impact of the fatherless is essentially missing the Male Role Model, which spurs out the loss of many other things. This is the common impact among all the fatherless.
In due turn, the absence of the father from the household is associated with other impacts that fluctuates from child to another depending on other factors; be it genetics, luck, or other family members’ support. A core impact in this category is the Economic Impact on the family left behind, for those who hadn’t source of income other than the one that used to be provided by the father. Surprisingly, the factor of this economic stress sometimes also happens to those whose parents are not divorced and the father is an immigrant worker working abroad, not only the divorced parents. Either cases, an apart bread-winning father still sticking to financing his left behind family is detached from the very details of the family’s lifestyle than the case of being living within it and sensing when it’s below quality or excessive. Due to this absence of perspective, apart fathers financing their families develops other traits that yield economic stress. Father may start to grow suspicious to the mother’s control over the sum of money; accusing her of not properly managing it when it’s finished. On this developed sense of a ‘guilty mother’, the apart father becomes more reluctant to response and compensate with additional sum of money or an increase. Not sharing in the details of the family day to day lifestyle is also a factor that hinders the man’s perception of needs. Unlike the co-resident father, the apart father does not know what’s in the refrigerator, doesn’t share trips to supermarkets to conceive how prices versus needs are aligned. Missing such lifestyle details and its impact on the distant father’s perception of how his family is living day to day results in negligence to remedy or opens the room of suspicions that something is wrong with the mother’s mismanagement of money or children wanting more more to misuse it…etc. Such concerns yield to apart fathers’ resentment to supply more money while it’s really needed. This is the ugly case of fathers sticking to financing the left behind family. The other case is the opposite extreme. Sometimes the distant father feels guilty for leaving the family behind; and if he is financially capable, he tends to wrongly compensate for his absence by unreasonable supply of money, thinking that he is compensating his family for his apartness or fulfilling the objective of working abroad. The case is better visualized by the case of fathers taking the family decision to immigrate for abroad labor for the objective of enhancing the family’s financial status. The unreasonable supply of large amount of money has it’s own drawbacks with lack of accountability. Children, especially adolescence, get spoiled by the money since it is supplied without the accountable male role model to monitor and track. Children with this lack of father’s power in supervising closely can either lead them to misuse the money in wrong doings or grow spoiled irresponsibly. As Aristotle says, supplying children with good minds is necessary for supplying them with money. Therefore, financing the family while being away, which is the good scenario, still holds with it some concerns. The other scenario, the bad one, is when the separation of the father comes with it a cut of financial support, a case better seen in the context of divorce. In such cases when the family does not have other channels of financial support, the family suffers the most. This is represented in high rate of not completing education, degraded standard of living and poor healthcare. In such condition, some helpless mothers resort to painful mean of gaining money that even add up to children’s misery. Mothers may resort to taking on multiple jobs throughout the day, depriving her from spending quality time with her children and leaving her emotionally and psychologically wrecked by the end of the day. Some other mothers resort to marriages to other men for the sake of availing a male breadwinner to provide food and shelter to her children. In such cases, often these marriages are not good ones that contribute to overall wellbeing of the family and is often abusive to the sort. Moreover, it entails psychological impacts on the children be seeing the mother rebonding with a man other than their father and leaves them a sense of humiliation by getting money from a man not their father. According to statistics, women resolving to marrying other men for the sake of securing a channel of financial support, usually ends up in failure of marriage after short period of time. A percentage of such women re-attempt subsequent marriages for the same reasons; leaving out enormous psychological impacts on children.
Some findings of researches in psychology, sociology, and cognitive sciences associate various mental, psychological, and physical impacts of the fatherless. Throughout this writing, I focused on the two stone wrecking negative influences, the male role model absence and the economic implications, for I believed them to be the salient attributes in almost all fractured families and believed to be the main losses that flood all the rest of damages, that re reported by researches. For the sake of completion, I will enumerate them here. Fatherless children are 30% to 40% more prone to develop abusive use of drugs, get attached to the wrong people, suffer chronic stress and depression, develop anti-social habits and challenges in dealing with peers, see the world as a hostile place fearing to deal with it. They also may suffer degraded performance in school and more prone to criminal acts. The researches here are statistical in the sense of pointing out the high potential based on group studies rather than theorizing consequences; it’s just these dispositions are more exposed to fatherless children. Like I said, a fact that discouraged me from overanalyzing these researches in this writing and compelled me to just focus on the two present implications that seemed common across such incidents and seemed to make more sense as consequences.
To that end, we shall not always try to find an exact revert to such unfortunate cases rather to think of ways to deal with actual challenge presented. Dealing with the challenge for those who destined to miss the complete unity of a family falls equally on the mother and the children when they grow up. The lone family headed mother should focus on availing a close male role model for her children. If she has the privilege of being part of a bigger family, she should foster caregiving and interaction between her children and male relatives in her family,. If the mother is unfortunate to be not part of a bigger family, availing male teacher can provide a sort of male role model presented to her children in the least sense. Teachers are in great position to act like one since children in their early age look up to them and respect them, which are again attitudes she has to implant in them throughout the process. Under the inevitable consequences, the mother should start a lifetime journey of stirring up her children realization of the situation and consequences they have been put into with mutual responsibilities on both sides. In normal context, parents tend to conceal life’s challenges from their kids so that they enjoy comfortable cheerful childhood, but in the case of fractured family, when it comes to choosing between the chocolate bar and the bread; then, the bread should precede. Choosing to transfer the real situation with its challenges progressive as the children grow and the required attitudes towards it becomes a matter of life. Damaged lives are resultant from lack of awareness rather than its existence. In nurturing children with the difficult situation they had been put into, it helps lessen the drawbacks, and most importantly, sets the stage to the second phase of the process, which is the responsibility on the children when they grow up. This nurtured awareness throughout the years helps prepare them to amend what they have missed for themselves when they grow stronger. When children safely grow to age of adulthood and strength aware and responsible, they can humanily stand for themselves. No matter how tough their quality of life was due to economic sparsity or family support, they can teach themselves, work for themselves, mature themselves, associate with good people, and make their own future. Only in prudent growth of awareness lies nurtured mentality that can make over the whole human who suffered. The history is full of people who just did so. Isaac Newton was born and never seen his father as he died 3 months before his birth. His mother remarried to another man, whom Newton hated and always condemned his mother for marrying him, leaving him at the custody of his grandmother. Newton was reported by psychologists to have suffered what’s called Asperer Syndrome, which is a type of Autism characterized by difficulties in social interactions and non-verbal communication. He was a victim of family disturbances, yet he challenges himself to competing with his school peers that he become the top-ranked student. It is worth noting also that his mother has taken him out of school, wanting to make him a farmer, yet his school master has convinced her to let him continue his education. Such is an example of a role others may play in the lives of the deprived, if we can find ones to ourselves. Thomas Edison, while he did not suffer family disintegration in the sense discussed in this writing, he had an non-interactive father who did not participate in his upbringing, so it’s still relevant to include him as a model for he was a produce of his mother alone. He only attended formal schooling for 3 months and then his mother has taken the burden of truly educating him at home. Edison later recalled, saying in his own words “My mother is the maker of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.” Such as the heroic role of a mother in making successful men on her own. And in our contemporary time, Barack Obama, the president of the U.S. His parents divorced when he was 3 years old and since which he only saw his father only once at the age of 10. He only lived with his mother for 3 years; then, spent his entire early life at the custody of his grandparents. With the aid of scholarships, he was able to continue his schooling and join Columbia College majoring in Political Science. In his writings and talks, Obama talked that in a period of his teenage years, he used alcohol and cocaine to “push questions of who I am out of my mind” and that he was a member of a gang smoking marijuana.
While the family is comfy backbone, the role of the mother in lessening devastation by conscious endeavor, like Edison’s mother, could make a difference. Then, to our utmost certainty, one can start out making himself without blaming conditions. Life’s conditions may control making the road more difficult or more relaxing, but it’s us who can control choosing the road and traversing it against all odds.