One in three American children do not have their biological father present in the home, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative. The reasons for an absent father vary and can include situations out of the parents’ control, such as death or military service, or voluntary abandonment for reasons such as the economical stress of raising a child. While the influence of a father figure for a son is important throughout all of childhood, some development can be hindered specifically in the infancy stage.
According to KidsHealth.org, responding to a baby’s signals helps to stimulate social and cognitive development. Bonding is a process in infancy that is established through answering cries, touching, talking and making eye contact with your baby. Although a significant amount of bonding comes from the baby’s mother, bonding with the father is also important, especially in moments when mom is not available. The Child Welfare Information Gateway states that infants who receive a lot of affection from their fathers are more securely attached than infants who do not. Depending on the other consistent individuals available for bonding in a baby’s life, an absent father can result in poor attachment and delayed social or cognitive development.
Setting the Stage
An infant’s relationship with his father can help set the stage for his development or social and emotional status later in life. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, babies with an involved father are more confident in exploring their surroundings as they start to progress into the toddler phase. Additionally, Colorado State University Extension states that the absence of a father can lead to negative behavior and poor academic achievement, especially in young boys.
Keep in mind that an absent father can impact a newborn even if he is physically present. The negative impacts on an infant son’s development can occur with a father who is emotionally absent and refuses to bond, so it is important to be emotionally available as well as physically present. The Child Welfare Information Gateway stresses that the quality of the relationship between both parents is also an influence on healthy development.
If you are raising an infant with an absent father, talk to the baby’s doctor to learn about ways that you can encourage your baby’s healthy development despite missing the influence of one parent. His doctor might have ideas about positive development activities or information about community support groups where you can network with other parents in the same situation.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images