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The Effects of an Absent Father on Academic Achievement

by Alison LaFortune

Fathers are an important part of a child's well-rounded development. The two biggest threats to a father's presence in their child's life are divorce and having a child out of wedlock, according to Edward Kruk, Ph.D., writing for Psychology Today. Fathers have a tendency to be viewed by family courts as simply a financial resource for the child. However, a father brings positive benefits to a child that no other person can fulfill in the same way, notes Jeffrey Rosenberg, et al., of the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children's Bureau.

Effect on Well-Being

Fathers have a direct impact on their child's well-being, which in turn affects the child's academic success. Children with absent fathers can struggle with a diminished self-concept or behavioral issues in class. Rosenberg states that living with their fathers can help children to have good physical health and to avoid drug abuse and other self-destructive behavior.

Focus on Academic Goals

There is evidence to suggest that fathers push academic achievement more than mothers. Mothers are more likely to be the nurturers, while fathers focus on goals related to school and future careers. A father can have such an impact on school success that children with absentee fathers are more likely to miss school and to undervalue academic goals, which in turn lowers their chance of progressing on to a more accomplished career, according to Rosenberg.

Rules and Structure

Fathers are also likely to be more strict than mothers. They have a tendency to set the rules and maintain boundaries that a child needs in order to learn how to behave appropriately. Hearing a father's firm, deep voice encourages compliance from the child, according to Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, as cited in a Deseret News article entitled "Fatherless America?" Having a father in the picture gives children much needed structure in their lives, and that can lead to a more disciplined child in the classroom.

Making It Happen

Children need both a mother and father in their lives, and each plays a role in academic achievement. Fathers who are not living with the child's mother can specifically plan time to be with the children. Kruk says there is a need for fast, low-cost, effective ways for non-residential parents to have their court-ordered parenting time enforced. Seeking out allies in the pursuit of quality time with their children is a way that fathers can try to be more of a presence in their children's lives, and influence their attitude and choices regarding academics, notes Rosenberg.

About the Author

Alison LaFortune specializes in articles on education and parenting. She has a Bachelor of Science in elementary education, and taught seventh grade science and language arts for five years.

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