A child's mind is constantly growing. As your child develops, he absorbs everything around him, including how he is treated by his father. Both males and females need a steady father figure to guide them into adulthood. Unfortunately, many fathers are not physically present. Even worse, he may be present, but simply disinterested in his child's feelings or behavior. It is extremely important for fathers to understand the role they play and the consequences of their possible neglect.
An absent or neglectful father can cause behavioral problems for a child. According to Dr. Rick Nauert, children with an active father figure "had less behavioral problems than those who just lived with their mother." Basically, a child who lacks paternal attention is more likely to act out or misbehave. A father who is physically or psychologically distant can increase the risk of destructive activities, such as smoking, poor social skills or crime. In fact, "One study of convicted murderers in Texas found that 90 percent of them either did not play with their father as children, or played abnormally," according to David Popenoe, Professor of sociology at Rutgers University. A missing father figure can also negatively impact a child's academic achievement.
According to Healing Hearts & Families, girls who are neglected by their fathers will experience a plethora of problems. They may suffer from depression, low self-esteem, anger, failed romantic relationships, fear of rejection and a compulsive need to seek approval from others. Daughters may become obsessed with earning their father's approval. Fathers who neglect their daughters emotionally through physical, sexual or mental abuse can cause their daughters to feel victimized. Later in life, these women will continue acting like victims in relationships. Alternately, they may feel compelled to help others or even become abusive themselves.
David Popenoe explains that "fathers tend to stress challenge, initiative, risk-taking, and independence." He further reveals that fathers need to pay attention to their sons to help develop their masculinity. Fathers who are absent or neglectful, essentially rob their sons of this learning experience. In turn, this can affect the way male children develop their life skills and identity. In their teenage years, this can worsen, as "Teenage boys without fathers are notoriously prone to trouble."
As a father it is important that you understand the importance of your role in your child's life. Simply spending time with your child is not enough, because the way you act affects his mental development. A helpful father is attentive to his child's emotions. You must pay attention to your child's feelings before they intensify into more overt reactions, such as anger. Do not be dismissive of your child's feelings. Everything she says and feels should be taken seriously. Failure to do so can make her feel unloved. You must also be a bastion of authority, enforcing rules and consequences. Being present, physically and emotionally, can save your child a great deal of pain in the future.
Alex Saez is a writer who draws much of his information from his professional and academic experience. Saez holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Queen's University and an advanced diploma in business administration, with a focus on human resources, from St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario.