The Fatherless

According to the U.S. Census Bureau,

24 million children in America live in father-absent homes. 



The Father Wound

The Father Wound is a result of not having a strong, loving, and supportive relationship with a responsible father figure. We believe this absence creates significant symptoms such as selfishness, anger, and an adversity to open up in trusting relationships.

“Tell me about your father.”

Your father is the most important person in your life. Ask a person about his father and you are going to receive an outpouring of emotion. For some people, thoughts of their father bring warmth and happiness. For others, thoughts of their father bring anger and hurt. Your dad is the first man in your life and carries the key to a young man’s heart. 

“Do I have what it takes?”

Whenever a young man is abandoned by his father, something is created inside them that we call the “Father Wound”. The Father Wound what happens when the part of a young man’s heart that yearns for love, acceptance, and affirmation is never filled up by your father. For one reason or another, your father was never around to tell you “You are mine”, “You have what it takes”, and “You belong here”. This hurts. This is the father wound. 


“I don’t need help. I am on my own.”

When the father who was supposed to fill up your emotional tank isn’t around to do that and you are left with a young man with a broken heart. The young man has a void in his heart from this abandonment. He will spend the rest of his life trying to fill this void. Because of this wound, the young man usually:

  • Is angry for being abandoned
  • Has no self-confidence because no one has ever affirmed him in his masculinity.
  • Is starving for attention and acceptance because he doesn’t get it from his dad. 

This boy wants to be a man, but he has no one around to show him how to be one. If dad isn’t around to show you how to be a man, who will show you how to be a man? The boy turns to this world to be accepted and affirmed into his manhood. We call this “False Masculinity”. 

False Masculinity

The world is a very dangerous place to learn how to become a man. This world will tell you that a real man is someone who:

  • Has athletic ability. Somehow, if you can shoot a basketball, crush a baseball, or catch a football, you are immediately elevated to being a little more masculine. And the kids who can’t do those things, they get deflated and pushed to the side. 
  • Has sexual conquests. Sex becomes something that validates manhood and maturation. If you can manipulate and use girls for your own pleasure, somehow you are rewarded with being a “real man” 
  • Economic success. Later on in life, your worth as a man depends on your job title, your bank account, and the things that you own. The concepts of power and possessions tells us if we are a “real man” or not, and those that have the most are deemed in America as being manly.

Taken from the book "Season of Life" by Jeffrey Marx, we call this “from the ball field to the bedroom to the billfold”. And no matter how much you make, no matter how far you go in life, those things will never heal your wound or tell you who you are.

In America

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of every three -- live in biological father-absent homes. Nine in ten American parents agree this is a “crisis.” Consequently, there is a "father factor" in nearly all of the social issues facing America today. But the hope lies in the fact that children with involved fathers do better across every measure of child well-being than their peers in father-absent homes.


The Father Factor

Statistics on the impact of growing up without a Father and the effect it has on society ranging from education to substance abuse.


71 percent of high school dropouts are fatherless.  Fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills. Children from father absent homes are more likely to play truant from school, more likely to be excluded from school, more likely to leave school at age 16

Source: Kruk, Edward. "Co-Parenting after Divorce." Psychology Today. 23 May 2012: n. page. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. 


Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44 percent of children in mother-only families.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011.

Crime and Incarceration

85% of youth in prison have an absent father. Fatherless children are more likely to offend and go to jail as adults Youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.

Source: Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan. “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397. 

Source: Kruk, Edward. "Co-Parenting after Divorce." Psychology Today. 23 May 2012: n. page. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. 

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father. Fatherless children are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood.

Source: Hoffmann, John P. “The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use.” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (May 2002): 314-330.

Source:  Kruk, Edward. "Co-Parenting after Divorce." Psychology Today. 23 May 2012: n. page. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.

Pregnancy & Sexual Activity

Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree.

Source: Teachman, Jay D. “The Childhood Living Arrangements of Children and the Characteristics of Their Marriages.” Journal of Family Issues 25 (January 2004): 86-111.

Self-Concept and Security

Children consistently report feeling abandoned when their fathers are not involved in their lives, struggling with their emotions and episodic bouts of self-loathing.

Source: Kruk, Edward. "Co-Parenting after Divorce." Psychology Today. 23 May 2012: n. page. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. 

Emotional & Behavioral Problems

Data from three waves of the Fragile Families Study was used to examine the prevalence and effects of mothers’ relationship changes between birth and age 3 on their children’s well-being. Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Living in a single-mother household is equivalent to experiencing 5.25 partnership transitions.

Source: Osborne, C., & McLanahan, S. (2007). Partnership instability and child well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1065-1083. 

Fatherless children have more difficulties with social adjustment and are more likely to report problems with friendships and manifest behavior problems. Many develop a swaggering, intimidating persona in an attempt to disguise their underlying fears, resentments, anxieties and unhappiness.

Source: Kruk, Edward. "Co-Parenting after Divorce." Psychology Today. 23 May 2012: n. page. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. 

The Positive Impact of Father Involvement

In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers.

Source: Howard, K. S., Burke Lefever, J. E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman , T. L. (2006). Fathers’ influence in the lives of children with adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 468- 476.


Child Abuse

A study using data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study revealed that in many cases the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. The results suggest that Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies have some justification in viewing the presence of a social father as increasing children’s risk of abuse and neglect. It is believed that in families with a non-biological (social) father figure, there is a higher risk of abuse and neglect to children, despite the social father living in the household or only dating the mother.

Source: “CPS Involvement in Families with Social Fathers.” Fragile Families Research Brief No.46. Princeton, NJ and New York, NY: Bendheim-Thomas Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center, 2010.