Overview of divorce in the contemporary society and its effect on children and parents.
- Assess the extent to which father absence in families due to divorce may result in poor outcomes in children;
- Evaluate the reasons why father absence makes a difference in families facing divorce related complications;
- Assess possible solutions to avert the challenges faced by children with absent fathers.
Sociological theory to assess the impact of absentee fathers on the well-being of children at different growth stages
Method of Data collection:
Significance of Study
Through the findings of this study, it will be possible to understand the role of parents in child upbringing and the possible challenges that children from divorced families may face in different stages of their growth and development.
How Does Father Absence Contribute to Poor Outcome in Children?
- Assess the psychological effects with focus on the emotional, social, and intellectual challenges faced by children raised by their mothers.
Reasons Why Father Absence Makes a Difference in Divorced Families
- Evaluate the role of a father in an ideal family;
- Assess the impact of father absence with regard to economic deprivation, social support, and poor parenting;
- Assess the impact of father absence with regard to discipline and behavior related issues on children.
Possible Solutions to the Problem of Father Absence in Families Broken by Divorce
- Assess the role of the government in reducing the impact of economic deprivation on single parent families;
- Economic incentives, fair social policies, and sensitization of divorcing parents on child welfare.
- Overview of divorce in the contemporary society and its effect on children and parents;
- Summary of the main themes of the essay.
Divorce and Its Effect on Children with Absent Fathers
Divorce has become a common phenomenon in the contemporary families. When parents part ways, the process may leave indelible marks on the psyches of developing children as most of them get traumatized when finding out of the parents’ separation. Inasmuch as there is a minority of children coming from affected families that may feel relieved by their parents’ divorce, the majority of children face difficulties, which at times develop into crises that affect them in the longer term (Peretti & Di Vitorrio, 1993).
The main objective of this essay will be to assess the extent to which father absence in families due to divorce may result in poor outcomes in children. The essay will also evaluate the reasons why father absence makes a difference in families facing divorce related complications. An additional objective will be to assess possible solutions to avert the challenges faced by children with absent fathers. The essay will also base its assumptions on sociological theory to assess the impact of absentee fathers on the well-being of children at different growth stages. This will be realized through an in-depth literature review on the subject matter. This study is considered potentially useful in understanding the role of the society and families as agents of socialization. Through the findings of this study, it will be possible to understand the role of parents in child upbringing and the possible challenges that children from divorced families may face in different stages of their growth and development.
How Does Father Absence Contribute to Poor Outcome in Children?
Numerous research initiatives agree that there is a correlation between father absence and adverse outcomes in children. However, these research initiatives tend to disagree on whether father absence is the main cause of these adverse outcomes. Adverse outcomes in children with absentee fathers can be explained in terms of the psychological effects as such children are believed to suffer emotionally, socially, and intellectually especially when raised by their mothers (Peretti & Di Vitorrio, 1993). These assumptions are based on the understanding that when a household lacks the presence of a father, children in such families often feel abandoned, which results in the feeling of alienation and loss of self-esteem. From the sociological theory, it is possible to assert that father absence following divorce affect the capacity of these children, especially sons to create intimacy and restore their self-esteem. This is because the emotional and physical absence creates an environment that generates the feeling of abandonment and the need to grieve. The existing social and economic institutions have also been found to be major contributors of father absenteeism’s after divorce. This is because by denying fathers custody they block them from their responsbility of continued involvement in the lives of their children (Arendell, 1999).
Parent involvement in the socialization process of children is considered instrumental for growth and development. This explains why children in divorced families with absent fathers often find it difficult to engage in an effective identification process with different elements in the society. from a sociological perspective, father absence can perceived as a strategy used by fathers in managing emotional aspects resulting from the feeling of rejection and appreciation by their children. When children grow older, they often begin understanding the divorce situation in their family and the absence of a father leads to development of resentment by children. When such children are dragged into their parents’ conflicts, they often take sides and are willing to support the decisions made by their mothers. Others express their anger about the economic difficulties facing them, implying that their fathers were responsible (Arendell, 1999).
An additional effect of a father’s absence in a child’s life is that children in the preschool age often feel responsible for the divorce. This is because at this age their cognition is highly egocentric. Furthermore, the preschool age is considered as the worst period for a child to lose a father because of the attraction to the opposite sex parent and the repulsion of the same sex parent. An absent father would mean that children, especially the girls, would fail in their ability to repress their desire for the opposite sex parent and identify with the same-sex parent as a conflict resolutions strategy of the oedipal stage. The danger of such failure of the boy is that he will fear his father by not identifying with him. Furthermore, he may fear the love of his mother and other females, which could result in him developing a female role in a homosexual relationship. Respectively, the girl’s failure to resolve the complications at the oedipal stage may result in developing a fear for the mother and not identifying with her. It is also possible that such a child will fear to love her father or any other male and acquire a male role in a homosexual relationship (Peretti & Di Vitorrio, 1993).
Figure 1.0: Social development of children of divorce. Adapted from National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH, 2003)
Children growing in families with absent fathers because of divorce can be perceived as those subjected to social deprivation, especially on the role of a father, an essential role model of acceptable social behavior such as self-control. Furthermore, the father is viewed as an important figure because of his role as a punisher of deviant behavior. When children lack such a resource in the family, there is a possibility that they will develop deviant behavior since the efforts of the mother are considered inadequate with regard to her ability to ensure successful social development (Santrock, 1977). This is often in terms of ensuring that children live in accordance with the acceptable social norms. These findings have, however, been criticized on the assumption that there are families managed by divorced mothers whose children do not demonstrate any form of socially unacceptable behavior. Inasmuch as such single parents may have received help from the male members of the extended family, it is possible to argue that the absence of the father may have a strong effect on the upbringing of children. However, it cannot be used as the only reason to explain the acquisition of deviant behavior among children raised by single mothers (Santrock, 1977).
Figure 2.0 Perceived effect of divorce on children adapted from Divorced Parents and Child-related Orders, adapted from Melbourne (1989)
Children raised in divorced families with absent fathers often face the challenge of engaging in successful relationships. Such children often have negative attitudes towards marriage and positive attitudes towards single parenthood. These negative attitudes have resulted in a decrease in their level of commitments towards the development of effective relationships which results in low quality relationships. Absentee fathers therefore contribute to increased compromise in the relational and emotional stability of these children (Susan et al, 2001).
Inasmuch as absent fathers affect children living in divorced families, absenteeism has been perceived as a strategy of action aimed at circumventing the possibility of additional conflicts with their spouses and the development of negative attitudes by the children. These fathers understand that the main source of conflict with their former partners results from child related concerns. Conflict over children are often complex and the fathers consider absenteeism as the only way of avoiding the possibility delaying child development (Arendell, 1999).
Reasons Why Father Absence Makes a Difference in Divorced Families
In the family setup, the father is considered as the household head that, together with the mother, plays the role of instilling socially acceptable behavior in children. This means that as the household head, the father has a major role in influencing the eventual personality and behavioral traits adopted by children. Disadvantages associated with father absence in broken families can be understood from the perspective of economic deprivation, poor parenting, and insufficient social support (Cherlin, 2013). Economic deprivation has been cited as one of the major reasons why children living apart from their fathers tend to be less successful when viewed through different social parameters. In countries such as the United States, child rearing is a private matter, and this makes the economic well-being of the parent significant in the determination of the quality of health care and childcare that children receive (Cherlin, 2013). A parent’s income also determines the quality of education and the type of school that a child attends. From an ideal perspective, in families where both parents share the responsibility of educating their children and providing for their well-being, it is easier to economically manage their needs. According to the United States Census Bureau in 1995, the median income for families led by two parents was $50,000 compared to approximately $18,000 for families headed by mothers (Cherlin, 2013). These statistics also indicates that about 50% of families headed by mother live below the poverty line compared to 10% of families headed by both mother and father. From these statistics, it is possible to conclude that the departure of the father has negative economic effects on the economic prospect of such families (Cherlin, 2013).
Economic disadvantages cannot be cited as the only challenge facing children without fathers in divorced families. Other elements such as poor parenting emanate from the understanding that absence of a father reduces a child’s access to sufficient parental attention. In situations where mothers decide to acquire a stepfather, children experience additional challenges of interacting with an estranged father (Peretti & Di Vitorrio, 1993). For the stepfather, building a new relationship with the child may be difficult, and this may result in such fathers disengaging from the children. Poor parenting also emanates from the understanding that the absence of the father may affect the quality of the relationship between the mother and the child. This is because the insecurities and economic hardships that arise from single parenthood can result in psychological distress and depression hence affecting good mothering. The departure of the father in such families may also trigger a disruption in normal family routines and possibly undermine discipline levels in the family. Single mothers in such situations may be overwhelmed with the time and energy required in raising children, and this may make them more lenient or strict with their children, which may be dangerous for successful child socialization (Peretti & Di Vitorrio, 1993).
The loss of social support can be cited as an additional reason why father absence due to divorce matters. This is because the departure of the father also means the departure of the sustaining network of facilities, programs, individuals, and groups of care providers that give sufficient backup for parents. The decline of such backup efforts necessitated by movement after a divorce makes its relatively impossible for the single mother to ensure success in child rearing (Cherlin, 2013). It is reasonable to argue that when a family stays in a neighborhood or community over time, it creates associations with other stakeholders in the surrounding, and this makes it easier for parents to know more about opportunities available for their children in the community or neighborhood. In such an environment, the parents are more likely to know about afterschool programs and have the best influences and connections to access these resources. However, through divorce, children may lose touch of such people and existing valuable resources, which are crucial for their success in the future. Additionally, the eventual absence of fathers leads to children’s losing contact with their father’s friends and family (Cherlin, 2013).
The absence of a father makes a major difference in the development of the child considering that the loss of a father through divorce makes it impossible to fill the void of male presence in a child’s upbringing. Existing studies assert that there is consistency in the patterns of high levels of aggression among boys from divorced homes where fathers are absent. This can be explained by the traditional responsibility of the father to suppress aggressive behavior in children, especially boys. Boys, in their adolescent age, tend to become disrespectful to existing societal and family norms. In addition, they perceive their mothers as relatively inferior with regard to their ability to punish aggressive or unacceptable behavior. Most of these attitudes emanate from peer pressure, and without the father, it is less likely that such children will choose to suppress their aggressive behavior (Cherlin, 2013). In the society set up, the father is perceived as the punisher of deviant behavior. This means that without the father, there is a high likelihood that such behavior may go unpunished hence breeding unacceptable levels of deviance and aggression among children. The understanding that maternal intervention may be inadequate and that some elements of male adult attention may be necessary to foster behavioral change in aggressive children explains why father absence in families broken by divorce may have a negative effect on the overall upbringing of children (Cherlin, 2013).
Possible Solutions to the Problem of Father Absence in Families Broken by Divorce
Inasmuch as divorce has become a common phenomenon in different societies, it is notable that single parents in families broken by divorce face different challenges depending on their surroundings. In divorced families with absent fathers, economic deprivation has been cited as one of the outstanding setbacks. However, the severity of this challenge varies in different countries. For instance, in the United States, poverty rates of single parent families are reduced by about 15 percent through government assistance programs. In Sweden, public support helps reduce poverty rates among single parent families by 90 percent (Cherlin, 2013). This phenomenon suggests that it is important for governments in different countries to assess the poverty situation of single parent families and develop effective and relevant economic strategies that can help in reducing the economic challenges that these families face. The eventual economic policies and strategies developed must be relevant to the prevailing economic demand of these families. Through such approaches, it will be possible to improve the economic well-being of the parents, which translates to an improvement of the economic conditions of the children in such families (Cherlin, 2013).
Other than addressing the economic challenges of children without fathers due to divorce, it is possible to develop direct solutions to their challenges. One of the ways is sensitization of the parents on the potential risks associated with divorce and father absence. The sensitization process must be accompanied by the provision of information on the possible ways of minimizing the risks. Inasmuch as information alone is not sufficient in solving divorce related issues, it has the ability to encourage parents facing marital challenges to try rebuilding their marriages or encourage other parents to ensure that they maintain a cooperative relationship even after divorce. Through different cooperative efforts, it will be possible for the parents to develop a plan on how to address matters related to education, health, and child care. Such cooperative efforts will ensure that both parents are present in crucial and different situations of child upbringing (Cherlin, 2013).
It is the responsibility of the governments to ensure that the social policies developed encourage marriage. The United States government must ensure that the current tax and transfer system is neutral by eliminating the existing marriage penalties, which have the tendency of discouraging permanent unions for couples at different income levels. Penalties such as those that limit benefits to certain groups of parents such as single mothers include income test and tax schedules that are in favor of single-parent families compared to two parent families. Such policies discourage the possibility that parents with low wages will choose to live together and get very little help from the government. Instead, they will choose to divorce and get help in the form of cash assistance, health care, and childcare subsidies. This is more likely when the mother believes that the employment prospects of the father are poor and makes a decision to live as a single parent instead of living with the child’s father (Cherlin, 2013).
The government can mitigate the adverse effect of divorce on children by insisting that fathers play a supporting role in their children’s upbringing even after the divorce. This would mean the establishment of paternity for children born outside of wedlock and enforcing child-support commitments to ensure that all children with absent fathers are supported. The introduction of such policies will play role in reducing divorce rates by not only preventing fathers from departing but also mitigating the negative effects of economic insecurities among single mothers (Cherlin, 2013).
It is also crucial for parents to cultivate a close father-child relationship. This will necessitate that divorced parents find ways to work together for the sake of their children. This assumption has led numerous states in the United States to mandate counseling sessions and parent workshops among parents during their divorce period. The main objective of these sessions is to sensitize parents on the benefits of improving their communication skills and maintaining a positive cooperative relationship for the well-being of their children (Cherlin, 2013).
The absence of a father in a family broken by divorce does not necessarily mean that children raised in such families will develop socially deviant behavior. Existing studies suggest that the absence of a father plays a contributory role in the eventual behavior acquired by children during the socialization process as father is a role model figure in the family. The mother may not have the capacity to ensure that she singlehandedly manages to raise children in accordance with socially acceptable norms. The challenges that single mother families face due to divorce include economic deprivation, insufficient social support, and poor child upbringing. However, through cooperative efforts among the parents, the introduction of policies and laws that encourage marriage and sensitization of parents on their role to children even after divorce, it is possible to develop effective solutions in addressing the problems faced by families with absent fathers.
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