Experiences of young adult women with emotionally absent fathers
For many years the focus of research on child well-being and development has been primarily on the dynamics of the mother-child relationship. The mother was seen as the more influential parent as she spends more time with the children. The father’s role in the development process was thus undermined. Fortunately research on the father’s involvement in a child’s life has improved over the past thirty years. Where previously fathers were mostly perceived as the breadwinners and providers they are now also considered as being caregivers who are more closely involved with their children and the accompanying responsibilities. Research indicates the importance of a father’s role in child development and has found that the intellectual, emotional and social development of a child is influenced by the father. The most beneficial circumstances for children to grow up in is where both of the biological parents are part of the household, satisfied with their marital relationship and loving towards their children. Unfortunately there is a significant increase in South African families where the father is absent and where the mother is burdened with additional responsibilities. However, a father can be emotionally absent despite physical proximity and emotionally absent fathers can be included when describing fatherlessness due to the destructive effect it has on children. Some research indicates that a father is the most significant factor in his daughter’s life and the quality of their relationship influences her personality and general well-being in life. Most literature focusing on the paternal parenting role is more focused on the father-son dyad, the least studied parent-adult child dyad is that of adult daughters and fathers. A great number of research studies on the subjects of divorce, single parents, physically absent fathers and the resulting effects on males are available. Much less literature, especially in the South African context, can be found to focus on and explain the experiences of young adult women who grew up with an emotionally absent father. The aim of the study was thus to explore the subjective experiences of young adult women who grew up with an emotionally absent father. A qualitative research method was used with a phenomenological approach as research design. Eleven voluntary, 20-31 year old adult women, participated in the study and were recruited by word of mouth. Data were collected through in-depth interviews that were audio taped and transcribed verbatim. Transcribed data were analysed by means of thematic analysis from which themes and sub-themes were derived. Two main themes with sub-themes were identified. It was found that the participants experienced their fathers as emotionally absent because it was difficult to share their emotions with them, the participants' fathers did not show affection or express their love. They showed no interest, approval or acknowledgement and the participants found it difficult to trust their fathers. According to the participants their relationships with other men were influenced because of this. They further struggled with trusting other people and suffered from a low self-esteem. Due to repressed emotions they did not portray their true self and sought their fathers’ approval by doing things he liked.
- Health Sciences