According to science, an absent father can affect a child's emotional development

Shirley Marie Bradby

December 04, 2018

According to science, an absent father can affect a child's emotional development

Both parents are important; their presence or absence affects the life of a child and that of the future adult.

When the father figure is missing, however, the consequences are different from the case in which the mother is absent; this is because the two figures, however important, cover different roles and functions. 

If the mother is seen as a source of nourishment in the first months of life and as an inexhaustible source of affection, the father is the one who supports the child on his or her path of personal growth during the various stages of growing up.

This is why the lack of a role model like that of a father can leave indelible scars.

via Psychology Today


Those who did not have the possibility of counting on a father, for all the many different reasons, could in adulthood have difficulties in relating to others and consequently, experience insecurities and anxieties. A child sees their father as a kind of yardstick and it is by comparing themselves with their father that they can consolidate some of their skills or become aware of them. 

Not having a benchmark to use to compare, improve or simply decide to do something differently, is to never be sure of their abilities. That is why, when grown up, the child could manifest submissive behavior caused by the very low self-esteem that he or she has in regards to themselves. 

Unfortunately, mothers are not always able to fill the gaps caused by the absence of the father; certainly not because of their incompetence, but because it is very difficult to fully understand the feelings experienced by a child without a father and what are their needs.


When it comes to absent fathers, one can never speak in general; every story is a case in itself, there can be various reasons why a father is absent, ranging from a voluntary decision or to something involuntary.

In any case, it is good to try to tackle the gap and fill it with the opportunities that life offers us; this may mean re-establishing a relationship with a father who in the past has been distant - clearly, only if this is possible and beneficial -- or consolidating those with other family members - uncles, grandfathers or  loved ones - that can help when it comes to facing life's obstacles, just like a father would do. 

Unfortunately, there are more and more frequent cases of absent-present fathers, in the sense of fathers who, even if they are present, they do not contribute significantly to raising and following the growth of their children, due to their frequently distracted and inattentive behavior. 

Having children requires commitment and responsibility, and the recognition that also the non-doing or non-being of a parent can be detrimental to a child's proper growth.