Children being raised without fathers is an epidemic in the United States that is on the rise. When speaking of absentee fathers, I am referring to to fathers who are uninvolved or who appear every so often in a child’s life. These fathers do not seem to realize that their absence negatively effects their children. Most research focuses only on the children and not how the absence of a father continues to affect these children into adulthood.
My research paper delves into the topic of fatherless women and how their romantic relationships are affected. My favorite part of the paper is when I intertwine the fatherless woman syndrome with the adult attachment theory. This is where the reader can see a clear connection and realize why some fatherless women have a string of bad relationships. Creating this research paper did prove to be a little difficult.
I originally wanted to investigate the effects of fatherlessness on both men and women . However, finding information pertaining to adult males was challenging. Almost all the information I found about fatherless adults were on women. So the worst part of putting this research paper together was finding the information I needed. The lack of information relates to the worst part of my paper. My paper only reveals the effects on fatherless women and not the effects on men. Hopefully in the future research will start to emerge about men and how they too are affected.
Absentee Fathers and How They Effect Women’s Relationships
Envision a child who can not remember how his or her fathers looks. That child constantly wonders if the men he or she passes by could in fact be daddy. This child has no memories of any special time spent with the father. The little girl or boy has no idea of the fathers personality. All he or she knows is that the stranger on the telephone who calls a few times a year, calls himself dad. Unfortunately, this scenario happens often to over twenty one million children across the United States (Linzy, 2011). These children have many negative outcomes from being raised without a father in their lives. But, the side effects do not just stop once that child turns eighteen. Often overlooked are the effects that an absentee father has on his adult children, particularly women.
Women who have been raised without a father in their lives can be effected in various ways. Of particular importance is the way women’s romantic relationships are effected. John Bowlby developed the attachment theory which helps in understanding the intimate relationships between human beings. It is believed that if infants have an insecure relationship with their caregiver that normal social and emotional development will not occur (Fraley, 2010). In reference to fatherless women Blankenhorn (1996) states, “because they are deprived of a stable relationship with a non exploitative adult male who loves them, these girls, can remain developmentally ‘stuck,’ struggling with issues of security and trust that well fathered girls have already successfully resolved” (10).
Looking at past research, it is possible to state that the attachment style of an adult in a relationship, may be a partial reflection on that adults experiences with his or her caregiver. Women who have been raised without fathers tend to experience insecurity within their relationships. The attachment styles that relate to these insecurities are preoccupied attachment, dismissing – avoidant attachment and fearful – avoidant attachment (Becker-Phelps, 2011) .
Barras (2000) states, “There is a direct link between being fatherless and the likelihood of being in a dysfunctional relationship”. Women who have been raised without a father often possess the fatherless woman syndrome (67). This syndrome consists of five primary categories that deal directly with a woman’s romantic relationships. The first category in the fatherless woman syndrome is the un – factor.
This occurs when the woman suffers from low self esteem and feels that no one could ever want or love her. This correlates to the woman’s relationship as a child with her dad. According to Blankenhorn (1996), “A father plays a distinctive role in shaping a daughter’s sexual style and her understanding of the male – female bond.
A father’s love and involvement builds a daughters confidence in her own femininity and contributes to her sense that she is worth loving” (11). The woman who fits into this category may believe that because her father was not in her life, that she is not worthy enough to have anyone romantically involved in her life. Why would anyone want her if her own father did not? A woman who felt these feelings of unworthiness would possess the fearful – avoidant attachment style.
Women who are characterized with this attachment style tend to be distrusting of their partners and often have expectations of getting hurt by their partner (Becker-Phelps, 2011) . Unfortunately for the woman, she tends to act in a way that causes her significant other to end the relationship. So her prophecy becomes true, however she is unaware of her part in it (Barras, 2000, p. 67).
The triple fears factor is the second section of the fatherless woman syndrome. There are three fears that women in this category experience, abandonment, rejection, and fear of commitment (Barras, 2000, p. 67). Those who fear abandonment possess the preoccupied attachment style and may become incredibly clingy with their romantic partners (Becker-Phelps, 2011). According to Calvin (1993), women who have been abandoned by their fathers tend to cling to their significant others, because they fear being abandoned once again (161-163). All three fears go hand in hand as well. Fatherless women fear rejection because they do not want to experience abandonment. Therefore they avoid committed relationships. These type of women are sometimes placed into the category of the dismissing – avoidant attachment style. According to Barras (2000), these women will take no chances in their relationships and will not seek love. They want safe relationships, where deep feelings are not involved. When in a relationship, they will be the first ones to leave if there are any issues, because they themselves do not want to be the one to experience abandonment (68 -69).
Calvin (1993) states that women who have been raised without fathers are known for breaking off relationships before their partners can abandon them (161 -163). Upon interviewing Kernita Sylvester (2012), it was apparent that she fit into this category. She was raised in a two parent home until the age of eleven, when her parents divorced. Her father was preoccupied with a new life that did not involve her. Due to her abandonment the romantic relationships she pursued seemed to end quite quickly. At the first sign of any problem in a relationship she would bail instead of trying to work things out.
The next category in the fatherless woman syndrome is the sexual healing factor. Barras (2000) believes that the primary indicator of fatherlessness in a girl or woman is in her sexual expression (69). Some women who have been abandoned avoid intimacy like those in the dismissive – avoidant style. However, other women tend to go the opposite way and become incredibly promiscuous. Studies have shown that fatherless adolescent girls are more likely to be promiscuous than those who have been raised by their fathers.
This phenomenon continues on into adulthood. Blankenhorn (1996) states that “If a woman has a good relationship with her father she is less likely to be on a quest for male approval or seek male affection through promiscuous sex” (10). Those who are promiscuous seem to interpret sex as love and seek this love by going from one man to another. They are searching for the love they never received from their fathers as children.
The over factor brings forth the fourth part of the fatherless woman syndrome. Barras (2000) states that, this type of woman is determined to not allow any man or woman to discover her wound. This kind of woman happens to be the classic over achiever. She may be a chronic workaholic, who is extremely centered on her career or she may be the smart women who focuses only on her intelligence. She may even be the receiver of countless awards.
There are various ways that these women can overachieve. She uses the over achievement to conceal the wound that occurred from her father not being in her life (71). Like those individuals whose attachment style is preoccupied, she is consumed with others perception of herself. She wants anyone that looks at her to see only perfection, not the hurt. In her relationships, her desire is to be the perfect mate. She may not argue, yell or even get mad at her partner. She is the woman who does everything she can for her significant other. When others speak of her they describe her as the perfect woman.
The RAD factor is the final section in the fatherless woman syndrome. RAD stands for rage, anger and depression. Women in this category are sometimes filled with unexplainable anger and rage. Unfortunately, they take their anger out on their loved ones, especially those they are in a romantic relationship with. Often times these women experience depression which can cause them to turn to addictions in the form of food, drugs and alcohol. “There is a direct correlation between the increasing number of women taking drugs, being diagnosed with clinical or bipolar depression, being found guilty of child abuse or some other violation, and the number of fatherless women” (Barras, 2000, p. 7).
Attachment styles are a reflection of the relationship between a child and his or her caregivers. When a child is abandoned, insecurity ensues. Therefore, it makes sense that women who were raised without their fathers would not possess a secure attachment style. Instead these women are ravaged by low self esteem and insecurity, which influences their actions within their romantic relationships.
Barras, J. (2000). Whatever happened to dadd’ys little girl? the impact of fatherlessness on black women. (pp. 67 -72). New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group.
Becker-Phelps, L. (2011, May 24). Learning your attachment style can light up your life. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/making-change/201105/learning-your-attachment-style-can-light-your-life
Blankenhorn, D. (1996). The first man in every girl’s life. Headway, 8(9), 10 – 11.
Calvin, T. (1993). Your heart belonged to daddy…and then he “abandoned” you!. Cosmopolitan, 214(1), 161-163.
Chanelle, C. (Photographer). (2012). Retrieved from http://iamcocoa.com/relationships/2011/3/15/5-signs-youre-too-clingy.html
Fraley, R. (2010). A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research. Retrieved from http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm
Linzy, M. (2011, June 06). Single parent statistics. Single Parent Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.singleparentmagazine.net/single-parent-statistics/
Sylvester, K. (2012, November 6). Interview by E. Sylvester [Personal Interview].