These are the ways in which paternal and maternal abandonment affects children.
Every boy and girl needs parents to grow well. You may be raised in a family with a mom and a dad, or there are two fathers or two mothers. It can also happen that she only has one parent to take care of her. The important thing is the love and care that their reference adults give them.
Now, regardless of the type of family, the fact that one of the parents leaves the family nucleus or does not take care of their own children is something that will have a very negative impact on the mental health of the children.
Next we will see the consequences of parental abandonment, understood both by the father and by the mother, and what it can mean when the infant reaches adulthood.
Main consequences of parental abandonment
All children need the protection of their parents in order to develop fully. Although it is traditional to have a father and a mother, science has been able to show that being the son of a homosexual couple or being the son of a mother or single father does not harm the mental health of children. The myth that a male model is needed, represented in the father, and a female model, represented in the mother, as protective factors against psychopathology is increasingly overcome.
However, what does affect the mental health of the child is having been born into a family with two parents, whatever their gender, and that one of them, in the middle of the child’s growth, leaves the family nucleus . It can also happen that the father or mother does not pay attention to their children, and that, although they are still in the family nucleus, their presence is rather virtual. It may happen that mom or dad comes too tired or tired from work, has no interest in caring for their children and leaves the job to the other parent.
This disinterest in the child, either because they are no longer part of the family or because they are too busy with other tasks, is parental abandonment. We should not think that with the word paternal we refer only to “the father”, but to any parent. As they are figures of protection and attachment, if parents ignore the child who trusted in being able to be cared for by them, they cause very serious psychological damage, which can condition their growth and adult life.
The family environment and its stability play a fundamental role in the emotional development of the infant, in addition to facilitating his psychic maturation. In the first years of life, the infant needs routine in terms of parental relationships. If he was born in a family with two parents, it will be very disruptive for the child to see one of them move away, either abruptly or little by little. The effects of the first contacts with mom or dad are very strong on the child’s mind, so that one of these figures disappears can be really harmful.
Understanding all this, we can understand what are the main consequences of parental abandonment in childhood.
1. Not feeling loved
It is very common among children who have suffered parental abandonment not to feel loved. If the abandonment has been because mother or father is almost never at home, the child may interpret it as not being because they are not interested in spending time with their child. This makes them feel that they are not enough for their own parents, and that they are not worth it.
Another situation that can occur is that the parent has left the family nucleus as a result of a divorce process. If the child does not understand the situation well or it has not been explained to her what has happened, adapted to her level, she can interpret it as that her father or mother has left because she did not want to see her anymore.
It may happen that, in the event of a separation or divorce, the parent who has retained custody has a new partner. Always depending on the relationship that this new person has with the child, it can serve as a protective factor, since this new parent can very beneficially substitute the figure of the father who has left. Likewise, the fact that a father or mother leaves is a very difficult void to fill.
2. Excessive dependency
In families with two parents, when one of them leaves the family nucleus, it is the parent who remains solely in charge of caring for the child. The child, seeing that only that father or mother remains, becomes excessively linked with him or her, developing a relationship of excessive dependence.
It is normal to expect that during the first weeks after a separation from the parents the child takes shelter in the figure of the father who has remained. The problem is when, after a while, he does not detach himself from it, and does not dare to discover the world beyond the protection that his father or mother gives him.
This will affect his social development, since he will not interact as much with his classmates or neighbors. You will be afraid that if you are separated for a moment from your father or mother, she will do the same as the other parent. Thus, the child will miss such enriching experiences during childhood as playing with other children, going camping, hiking, having extracurricular activities …
3. Fear of developing deep attachment
It may happen that after the abandonment that the child is afraid to establish deep relationships, especially with the new partner of the father who now takes care of him. This is because he fears that the same thing that happened to the father who has abandoned them could happen to him : if he establishes a deep attachment with him and, later, he leaves too, the child will be very damaged.
4. School instability
Although this does not have to happen always, it has been seen that children who have experienced the abandonment of their parents, whether the father has left the family nucleus or if he simply ignores it, have a worse academic performance.
It is often the case that the parent who does spend time with them is too overwhelmed to help with homework or any academic problems they have, while the other parent is simply not aware of what is happening at school.
5. Aggressive behavior
Parental neglect can make the child very hostile. This may be because he is angry with what he has been through, frustrated at his father’s departure, or because he becomes defensive thinking that his other father will do the same sooner or later. You can also pay for it with your parent’s new partner, seeing it as a surrogate and thinking that it is the reason you are not coming back.
But the most common cause of aggressive behavior is that you think it is your fault. You feel very angry with yourself because you think he or she did something wrong that precipitated the abandonment of your parent. As he does not have the linguistic capacity to explain it or ask his other father what really happened, the situation overwhelms him and he ends up paying it with anyone or in the form of tantrums.
Consequences in adulthood
Although there are many consequences in the first years after the parent’s departure, in adulthood the consequences may be worse if they have not received psychological therapy or have not understood why their father or mother abandoned them.
1. Emotional intelligence problems
They have trouble identifying their emotions and those of others. They are easily stressed and cannot explain what they feel. They have problems understanding what others are feeling, and their emotional self-regulation is little or no existence.
2. Little psychological flexibility
They take changes badly, such as changing jobs, homes, cities … They are not very flexible behaviorally, seeing in the changes of their routine something really unapproachable. This causes them a lot of suffering and anxiety.
3. Greater risk of addictions
Although this does not have to always be the case, it has been seen that people who have experienced strong parental abandonment take refuge in addictive behaviors. Whether due to ingestion of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs, or through obsessive behaviors such as addiction to sex, pornography or video games, all these types of psychological problems are common in people who are victims of this type of abandonment .
4. Passivity in relationships
Out of fear that their friends, family, or important people will abandon them as well, people who are victims of parental abandonment in childhood can become excessively complacent, to a pathological point. They can even allow really toxic behaviors, which hurt them, but for fear of living again the departure of someone they love, they even tolerate abuse and disrespect.
5. Greater psychopathological risk
Paternal abandonment in childhood, if not properly intervened, can be a risk factor in the mental health of the child once he is an adult. Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders or even personality disorders are psychopathological conditions that can occur in this type of population.
It is for this very important reason, on the part of the parent who has custody of the child or who spends a lot of time with him, to ensure that he receives the proper psychological attention. Thus, thanks to therapy, the child will learn strategies to know how to handle everything that he or she is experiencing, and avoid that once they are an adult they manifest even more serious consequences than those that they may experience in the short term.
It is clear that parental abandonment in childhood implies serious consequences for the health of the child if the situation is not properly managed. Although every family is different and can have effective strategies to prevent, after a divorce, breakup or disinterest of the parent, the child would suffer the consequences, it is very important to go to psychological therapy to ensure that the consequences do not occur explained to throughout this article.
Likewise, it must be understood that because a father or mother is missing, it does not necessarily have to occur all the problems that we have explained. Science has shown that it does not take two parents to develop fully, although it does take one that disappears when the child is growing up can harm him. Likewise, it is important to understand that abandonment can occur without the father or mother having left the family nucleus, which is why it is essential that, if there is still time, spend more time with our children.
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