Cases of children growing up with absent dads are not new but they have been on the rise in the recent past. According to Annread Kamunde, a consultant counsellor at the Kenya Institute of Business and Counseling Studies, the number of children growing up without a father figure is worrying.
Kamunde avers that according to the African and Christian set up, a family is considered complete when there is a father, mother and children. She notes that there is always a vacuum if a family lacks any of the three and most importantly a father or mother.
“Both the father and mother have their God-given roles in the family and failure by one of the parties means the other party has to work extra hard to fill the gap. If that is not taken care of a lot of problems may arise,” Kamunde points out.
She notes that although there are hundreds of successful children who were brought up without their fathers, a fatherly presence is key.
The father effect, which is a term used to refer to the benefits of a paternal presence, is wide ranging and increases with the quantity and quality of time fathers spend with their children.
A report published in the Acta Paedriatica journal, shows an active fatherhood role not only reduced the frequency of behavioral problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, but it also had a positive effect on cognitive development, along with decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.
Conversely, being an absent dad has ramifications on the life of one’s children. According to Kamunde, girls need a father’s affirmation as she grows up as it will help in boosting her self-esteem hence turning out to be a strong woman.
“Her confidence in her own abilities and value as a human being can be greatly diminished if her father isn’t there. She is thus likely to suffer academically, professionally, physically, socially, and romantically if she did not form a healthy relationship with her father,” says Kamunde.
Many studies have shown that women who were brought up without their fathers have self-esteem issues and have a far higher prevalence of depression later in life. Data suggests that children without fathers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. On self-esteem, girls develop their sense of self-worth and self-esteem based in a large part on the attention and love they perceive from their fathers. There is a myriad of studies, which indicate that girls with absentee fathers struggle to form lasting relationships, as they fear rejection and abandonment.
To address the absentee father issue, Kamunde draws her solution from the African traditional set up. “In the past, women who bore children before marriage would look for father figures to help raise their children and most of the times it would be her father, brothers or even uncles. We need to borrow from that to ensure there is no fatherhood vacuum,” she offers.
That said, a daughter can grow, thrive and lead a wonderful life without a father, but only when she realises the problem is not her but her father.