The "Absent Father Wound"

An increase in out-of wedlock births, divorces rates, foreign war, and fathers consumed by the demands of our vocation have introduced our children to the Absent Father Wound of today.  The Absent Father Wound is defined as an ongoing emotional, social, or spiritual deficit ordinarily met in a healthy relationship with their father that now must be overcome by other means.  This deficit often leaves our children with anger and pain, extreme behaviors, addictions or obsessions, inner sense of being lost and incomplete, lacking assurance and self-confidence, and sometimes turning to the same gender to fill the voids.


In 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 74.6 million children in America and 24 million of these children lived in biological father-absent homes. In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau released compiled Data on Family and Living Arrangements reporting 24.4 million fathers were part of a married-couple family with children under 18. However, in June of 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau released unpublished data, from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation, reporting an estimated 70.1 million fathers.


The National Center for Health Statistics reported out-of-wedlock births at 41% in 2009 compared to 5.3% in 1960. Furthermore, a long-term study by researchers from Princeton and Columbia Universities followed the lives of 5,000 children in 2011.  They reported a large majority of the never-married mothers had close relationships with a partner when their child was born but by the time the child was 5, most of the fathers were absent and the child had little contact with him. As many of the mothers went on to new relationships, the children were hampered by repeated transitions that did more harm to their development. In 2011, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reported that one out of every two marriages today ends in divorce and many divorcing families include children.  


While these statistics may illustrate the national tragedy of physically absent fathers, our children are equally vulnerable to the Absent Father Wound when fathers are physically present but emotionally absent. In part, the amount of time fathers spend interacting with their children is related strongly to the father's type of employment and the number of hours they work outside the home (Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, & Hofferth, 2001). 


One man writes, "My father, who’s thankfully still alive, was the son of an alcoholic who compensated in part by overachieving. He was also from the generation which taught that fathers showed their love by working long and hard to provide for their families. As a result, he was often absent, especially during tax season and other deadlines. When he was home, he could often be found reading the paper or asleep in front of the TV. He was also a rather strict disciplinarian, to the point where I often felt his wrath rather than his love while growing up. Materially, I never lacked for anything. However, Dad was absent in other ways, even when physically present. While his discipline succeeded in keeping me from getting into any significant trouble when I was a teenager and college student, it also left me feeling on the edge even into adulthood."


Justin Hunt, father, journalist, anchorman, news director, and producer, writes, "The father wound is so deep and so all-pervasive in so many parts of the world that its healing could well be the most radical social reform conceivable."