Father Absence Article #1: Father Absence--The Impact) By: Nina Chen, Ph.D., Human Development Specialist,  Jackson County University Outreach & Extension Center print page

A study conducted by Michael Lamb of the University of Michigan found that children (7 to 13-month-old) had similar reactions to separation from their parents. For instance, when their father left, the children would cry or complain just like when their mother left.

Other research results indicate that children seven months to two years are attached to their parents. This finding reconfirms the importance of both parents to their childrenís early stage development. Fathering cannot be ignored because fathers play an important role in helping their children grow. 

Research findings consistently reveal that warm and affectionate fathers not only can help their children develop positive self-esteem, but also influence the development of their childrenís gender role behavior.

Fathers are significant for both boys and girls. For instance, boys can learn from their fathers about growing up as a male, male interests, activities, and social behavior. 

Girls can learn from their fathers to develop a trusting comfortable relationship with men. Loving fathers also have a positive influence on achievement in boys and personal adjustment in girls.

Loving fathers who provide limit setting, moral reasoning, and reasonable and firm guidance without imposing their will can help promote their childrenís competence. Research on father-child involvement also shows that fathers are significant for children, sensitive to children and fathersí play with children is different from mothersí.

Obviously, fathers are just as important to their children as mothers. 

There are some negative impacts on children when they experience nonexistence or infrequent contact with a parent (usually the father). Research finds that the majority of children miss their fathers very much.

Young children usually grieve the divorced father as if he had died. The permanent separation or fatherís absence may lead to prolonged grief. In addition, father absence can have a negative effect on both boys and girlís social behavior.

Research findings show that children who experienced father absence were likely to have behavior problems and didnít do well in school, particularly in math and science. 

Clearly, research results have proved the importance of a father role for children to grow. If you have not been involved much in your childís life, start now to spend quality time with your child. For a divorced and non-residential father, it is very important to keep regular contacts and spend quality time with children.

Mothers also need to provide support and encouragement to help build the bond between a child and a father.

If you only see your children on weekends, try to use the valuable time to be with your children. Taking a walk, working on the yard and household chores together, running errands, talking, and sharing can help your children learn a lot from you.

This can be the best time for your children because most children would like to hang around with their fathers and this can be a good memory for them when they grow up. 

Through my teachings, I have heard positive comments from divorced fathers who said repeatedly, that they have spent more quality time with their children and have exercised their parenting role more since separation or divorce.

Some fathers felt that they had a closer relationship with their children after the divorce. No doubt, divorced fathers can still play an important role to help their children grow as long as they have regular contacts, practical guidance and a positive role model.

Finally, if there is no father around, you may try to have someone who can provide a positive role model, such as your brother, father, or grandfather as a male presence in your childís life. After school programs, boys and girls clubs, and youth programs can be good sources for your children. Reading books about male heroes who are kind and nurturing also can help. 


Arbuthnot, J. & Gordon, D. (1996). What about the children: A guide for divorced and divorcing parents. The Center for Divorced Education. Lamb, M. (1981). The role of the father in child development. New York: John Wiley.

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