Brittney Hodges Psychology 1101 Mr. Marks March 14, 2011 Effects of Paternal Absence on Sex Role Development Approximately twenty-six percent of children in America are being raised by a single parent. That accounts for 21. 8 million kids under the age of 21 (Wolf, 2010). Eighty-four percent of these single parents are mothers. How does not having a father figure in the house all the time affect a child?
Research has shown that being raised by a single parent can severely affect a child’s sex role on many different levels - sex role orientation (the self-evaluation of maleness or femaleness), sex role preference (the individual’s preferential set towards symbols of a sex role that is already socially defined), and sex role adoption (how masculine or feminine an individual seems to others). (Biller, 1969) How do you tell if a young child is a boy or a girl? If the baby is dressed in pink, it is usually a girl. If the baby is dressed in blue you can confidently assume the child is a boy.
Boys and girls will always be treated differently. What toy do you give a little girl? The most common answer would usually be a Barbie doll. What would you give a little boy? Most people would probably say an action figure, or a matchbox car. These are classic example of sex typing. A mother will treat her child differently than a father would. A mother thinks of her children as just that, her children. She doesn’t treat her son differently than she would her daughter. A father definitely treats his son completely differently than he would his daughter.
His son, aka “my boy” is treated in an aggressive manor, where his “princess” is encouraged to be a feminine sweetheart. In a two parent household children learn different things from each parent, and learn from how their parents interrelate. What happens when there aren’t two parents to look at? How can a boy grow up to be a man and a father if there is no father figure to learn from? Research shows that paternal absence can slow a child’s sex role development. There are many different factors that go into how a child develops.
Paternal absence seems to have a major effect on a child’s sex role development, especially if the absence occurs at a young age. Over-dependency on the mother is evidence of a father being absent during the preschool years of a child’s life (Biller, 1969). Fathers are known to be role models for masculinity and independence. When the father figure is not around, it is quite easy for the nurturing mother to come in and baby the child. Maternal encouragement also has a large impact on whether or not paternal absence has an effect.
A father’s absence does not have to play a huge role in a child’s life, but it often does. If a mother encourages her son to be aggressive and masculine he may develop to be the “tough guy” a father could have raised him to be. There have been many experiments done in order to study the effects of being raised by a single parent. In one experiment (Biller, 1969), researchers matched father-absent and father-present subjects as closely as possible. There were 34 five year old Caucasian boys and their mothers, 17 father-absent and 17 father-present.
The matched boys were within 4 months of age of each other, one socioeconomic class level and 10 IQ points on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. They were identical in sibling distribution (same number and sex and whether the sibling was older or younger than the subject). Children were seen individually for sex role orientation, preference and IQ assessments, teacher’s ratings were used to estimate sex role adoption. The mothers of the boys were sent questionnaires, assessing father availability and maternal encouragement of masculine behavior.
The boys’ masculinity was measured using several different techniques. Researchers measured sex role orientation using Brown’s IT scale. The boys were told that IT was a child playing a make believe game, and that IT could be anybody or do anything in the world. The subject was then told to choose who IT was being, and what IT was wearing and doing from among various pairs of pictures including people (Indian Chief or Indian Princess), apparel (men’s clothes or women’s clothes), and tasks ( working with building tools or cooking utensils, or fixing something broken or cooking and ironing).
The child was then scored on the choices he made, based on whether or not he made IT masculine. In order to measure sex role preference, a game-preference task was used. Pictures of the same two boys playing four masculine games and four feminine games were shown to the child. The subject was then asked to select the game he would like to play the most. Results of the IT test seemed masculine for boys who were father present, and neutral for boys who had been father absent for 1-2 years and somewhat feminine for boys who had been father absent for more than 2 years.
The game-preference scoring was masculine for father present boys and relatively neutral for father-absent boys. When it came to the mother’s survey results, mothers of father present boys were more encouraging of masculine behavior than mothers of father absent boys. For father-absent boys, the degree of encouragement from the mother was positively related to game-preference scores and to rating scale scores, but not to IT scores, meaning the mother encouraged her son to play masculine games, but not necessarily to be masculine and aggressive in all aspects of life.
This experiment proved that paternal absence has a negative effect on sex role development. It also proved that the effects of father absence depend on the age the absence occurred, and how long the absence has been occurring. This experiment also showed that maternal encouragement for masculine behavior is more important for father absent boys, and that sex role development in father present boys is largely influenced by the father-son relationship (Biller, 1969). There is also a possibility of an androgynous sex role, which is one that has slightly feminine and masculine characteristics.
The development of this type of sex role is also connected to the number of parents present in the household, particularly if the mother is the main parent providing care. Androgynous individuals are not as restricted when it comes to behavioral patterns as traditionally sex typed people; they have also been known to have more reasons for living (Russell & Ellis, 1991). Research supports the idea that these individuals will be more likely to succeed in today’s society. Once a child gets to an age where their gender has more meaning to them, they start acquiring knowledge related to their gender.
How they obtain that knowledge effects how they think their gender is supposed to behave and think. Parental behavior, rather than the gender of the adults in the home, appears to be very influential on a child’s sex role development. (Hupp et al, 2010) Household activities performed by the parents can affect a child’s development. Chores are important because parents are demonstrating gendered behavior, and differentiating responsibility based on gender (for instance, a father cutting the grass, and a mother doing the dishes). Research suggests that when a man and a woman get married, or even move in together, hey divide household chores based on their gender. (Hupp et al, 2010). Which means, if the father figure is present, the mother is left doing all the chores, even the ones that are stereotypically a “man’s job”. Studies also show that father absent females are less feminine than father present females. Maybe this is why there are so many lazy men. As divorce rates rise, the number of single mothers rises. Meaning a child is in a house where a woman is required to do all the work. If a young boy is raised in a house where a woman does everything, why should he expect to have to do anything when he is on his own?
There are many variables that go relate a father’s absence to a child’s sex role development. These variables include: the cause of absence, race, socioeconomic status, and the child’s age (Stevenson & Black, 1988). Different types of reasons for absence results in differing effects on the child, especially absences that are socially sanctioned or traumatic. Analyses show boys whose father’s absence was due to military were affected more severely than other boys. Race is also a factor. Black families differ from white families in methodical ways; many of these differences are related to sex roles.
The most common consequence of a father’s absence is a decrease in finances available for the kids. According to Stevenson and Black (1988), boys are affected more if the absence of the father occurs before the age of five, whereas the girls are most affected if the absence occurs during adolescence. If the absence occurs before the age of five, the effects seem to be not only substantial, but long term. Research shows that boys whose parents separated before they reached the age of four showed anger during therapy. They were afraid of expressing this anger to their mothers, in fear that it might result in them being sent away.
The boy’s solution to this problem was to refuse their masculine identities and take on feminine behavior patterns. The male role is degraded constantly in these households, so the male thinking style is not developed. Results from an experiment show that GPA and citizenship ratings of honors were higher for students from intact families than from other students. And tardies and absences, ratings of “needs improvement” and “unsatisfactory”, and teacher behavioral ratings of an disinterested attitude and disruptive influence were more frequent among children from a broken home (Featherstone &
Cundick, 1992). Throughout this paper we have been discussing the effects on a child without a father, but what is a father? Most people think of a biological father right off the bat, but does that have to be the case? Children relate to many different kinds of people as fathers. That could be a step father, a mothers’ partner, or male relatives who are “like a father”, such as uncles or even close family friends. Fatherhood is not an easy task. This fact could be one reason why there are so many single mothers in today’s society.
The contributions of the father are often perceived to be simply financial. Clearly this statement is false according to all the research that has been done over the years. Research shows that a father’s involvement with his child affects their learning outcomes. When two parent families took part in school functions, the child usually received good grades, enjoyed school and never had to repeat a grade. The same results were found of the families where the father lived outside the home, but was still largely involved in his child’s academic career. Saracho & Spodeck, 2008) Many things happened when a father constantly encouraged and was highly involved with his children. His child did better at school, had better self-esteem, had healthier peer relationships, a healthier sex role development, higher academic achievements, and had overall better personal success. There three aspects of fatherhood: Accessibility, Engagement and Responsibility. Accessibility considers the father’s presence, interactions, and whether he is available to his child. Engagement is the fathers’ direct contact, care giving and interactions with his children.
Responsibility refers to how the father engages in the technical aspect of parenting, making the decisions, choosing a pediatrician and making appointments, discussing issues with teachers, monitoring the activities of your child and knowing the whereabouts. This also includes the financial aspect. (Saracho & Spodeck, 2008) Not much is known about nonresident fathers. It seems to be a trend that nonresident fathers will withdraw from children’s lives, which seriously puts the father-child relationship in risk. Father absence is also associated with becoming sexually active at a young age, which begins a vicious cycle.
A child who’s father may have walked out on him at a young age, or even in adolescence is now sexually active and could be facing a child himself in the near future. The only father he knew walked out. So what does that child know to do? Walk out. The transition to parenthood for an adolescent male is likely to be considered a “crisis”, or signify nothing at all beyond the event itself. Most of the time when a young man becomes a father, it is an accident. But it is a fact that a father’s positive parenting is strongly associated with whether or not the pregnancy was intended.
Unintended children tend to have low self-esteem which suggest that the parents are less involved in the child’s life (Cabrera et al, 2000). Fathers tend to parent more like their fathers did than their mothers, but they will never admit it. No one wants to admit they turned into their parents. Men whose fathers were actively involved in raising them are more likely to be actively involved in raising their own children. Most men learn how to be fathers by experience, they take it day by day. In 1997, only 11% of fathers in two parent household s had taken a formal parenting class.
Those who did take a parenting class were more involved in the child’s life. (Cabrera et al, 2000) In today’s society, some might argue that fatherhood has become more voluntary than a normal mandatory commitment. Others might say that fatherhood is essential to masculinity. I feel that in today’s society we are seeing an increase in a lack of drive and responsibility in males, especially in the role of a father. That being said, I feel the reason behind all of the laziness is the increase of single mothers over the past decade.
If a young boy was raised not having a father figure to learn from, he is taught by his mother. No offense to single moms, I admire them very much, but I feel a mother cannot raise her son to be a man the same way a father could. A father teaches his son how to be a man, how to care for his family. If the only father a child ever knew walked out on him, it would seem that it would have an effect on the way he views the job of being a father. Like this paper stated, there has also been a rise in teen pregnancy, meaning these fathers are much younger men.
Young men, unless raised properly, are known to be irresponsible, and most young men do not realize how big of a responsibility a child can and will be. Parenthood has become more of a voluntary effort rather than something you cannot walk away from. I feel that fathers need to step their game up and teach their sons to be men, rather than let the mother baby them into adulthood. Statistics show that the college student population is 60% female, and that most males drop out after only one year. When asked why, many boys said that it was “too hard”, or “wasn’t for them”.
Seventy-one percent of high school drop outs come from fatherless homes. I can only expect that most college dropouts would be the same way. Women are holding more powerful jobs than ever before (but still getting paid less than a man doing the same job, but that is a different story). I believe that is a result of father absence. Women aren’t as affected by a father’s absence, where boys are hugely affected. Guys today are become the “punching bag” of society. I believe that can effect a guys way of thinking. For example, when you see commercials on TV, who is always the goofy actor that needs education or training?
The guy. If this is all we see on TV, why wouldn’t a guy start to think, “this is the way I’m supposed to act”, especially if he has no one there to tell him differently. I believe the “wussification of men” starts at a very young age, how often do you hear of mothers not letting their kids playing with toy guns, or not letting them wrestle around and horse-play in fear of them getting hurt, or worse…dirty. They are little boys! They are supposed to get hurt and get dirty! Youth sports leagues in some areas have stopped keeping score in order to spare the child’s hurt feelings.
I believe that a child needs to realize that there will always be a winner and a loser in life and sometimes that loser will be you. If a child can learn to accept that, I feel they will be better adjusted as an adult. If they never learn to accept that fact, when they do grow up and “lose”, they are scared to try again, leading to what is perceived by everyone else as laziness. All of these things could be related to a mother “babying” her child. I feel like a good upstanding father would not let his child get babied to the point of being a wuss. Parents have changed, and it shows in their kids. References
Biller, H. B. (1969). Father Absence, Maternal Encouragement, and Sex Role Development in Kindergarten-Age Boys. Child Developement, 40(2). Retrieved March 9, 2011, from http://web. ebscohost. com Cabrera, N. J. , Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. , Bradley, R. H. , Hofferth, S. , & Lamb, M. E. (2000). Fatherhood in the Twenty-First Century. Child Development, 71(1), 127-136. Retrieved March 10, 2011. Featherstone, Darin R, Cundick, Bert P, & Jensen, Larry C. (1992). Differences in School Behavior and Achievement Between Children from Intact, Reconstituted, and Single-Parent Families. Adolescence, 27(105), 1.
Retrieved March 14, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1499729). Hupp, J. M. , Smith, J. L. , Coleman, J. M. , & Brunell, A. B. (2010). That's a Boy's Toy: Gender-Typed Knowledge in Toddlers as a Function of a Mother's Marital Stautus. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 171(4), 389-401. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from http://web. ebscohost. com Russell, D. , ; Ellis, J. B. (1991). Sex-Role Development in Single Parent Households. Social Behavior ; Personality: An International Journal, 19(1), 5-9. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from http://web. ebscohost. com Saracho, O. N. , ; Spodeck, B. 2008). Fathers: the 'invisible' parents. Early Child Development and Care, 178(7;8), 821-836. Retrieved March 9, 2011. Stevenson, M. R. , ; Black, K. N. (1988). Paternal Absence and Sex-Role Development: a Meta-Analysis. Child Development, 39, 793-814. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from http://wfxsearchgalileo. webfeat. org/wfsearch/search Wolf, J. (2010, February 26). Single Parent Statistics - Average Single Parent Statistics. Single Parents - Help, Support, and Encouragement for Single Parents. Retrieved March 13, 2011, from http://singleparents. about. com/od/legalissues/p/portrait. htm