by Kenneth Braswell
CEO, Fathers Incorporated
Father absence has become a growing concern in our society. With research suggesting that children growing up without fathers are more likely to experience negative outcomes such as behavioral problems, poor academic performance, and increased risk of substance abuse and mental health issues (Anderson, 2018; Buchanan & Maccoby, 1996). While there are several factors that can lead to father absence, shame and guilt are often overlooked. This blog will examine how shame and guilt can impact or contribute to father absence and provide resources and advice to help fathers overcome these emotions.
Shame and guilt are complex emotions that can be closely intertwined. Shame is the feeling that one is inherently flawed or unworthy, while guilt is the feeling that one has done something wrong or failed to live up to one’s own or others’ expectations (Lewis, 2018). These emotions can be powerful, and when experienced by fathers, they can lead to withdrawal and disengagement from their children.
One way that shame can impact father absence is by creating a sense of inadequacy. Fathers who feel shame about their parenting abilities or their ability to provide for their families may avoid spending time with their children out of fear of being judged or criticized (Lamb, 2000). Similarly, fathers who feel guilty about past mistakes or failures may distance themselves from their children as a way of avoiding confrontation or having to face their own feelings of shame.
Another way that shame and guilt can contribute to father absence is through their impact on mental health. Shame and guilt can be incredibly debilitating emotions, and when experienced over a long period of time, they can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues (Lewis, 2018). Fathers who are struggling with their mental health may find it difficult to maintain a strong and consistent presence in their children’s lives, leading to father absence.
In some cases, shame and guilt may even lead fathers to engage in self-destructive behaviors that can further contribute to their absence. For example, fathers who are struggling with addiction or other destructive behaviors may distance themselves from their children out of shame or guilt, leading to father absence (Lamb, 2000).
It’s essential to recognize that shame and guilt are not the only factors that can contribute to father absence. Still, they are significant factors that should not be overlooked. Several resources and interventions can help fathers overcome these emotions and maintain positive relationships with their children.
- Mental health resources and support groups:
Fathers who are struggling with their mental health may benefit from seeking professional help. Therapy can help fathers address the underlying emotional issues that may be contributing to their absence, increase their confidence and empowerment in their parenting abilities, and develop stronger connections with their children.
Several organizations offer support groups for fathers to connect with other fathers and share their experiences. These support groups create a sense of belonging and validation that can help to reduce feelings of shame and guilt and increase father engagement. For example, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse offers a directory of fatherhood programs that include support groups for fathers across the country. (fatherhood.gov)
- Fatherhood programs:
Several fatherhood programs are available to help fathers develop their parenting skills, establish healthy relationships with their children, and maintain consistent engagement in their children’s lives. These programs offer fathers the tools they need to overcome feelings of shame and guilt and become active and involved parents.
One example of a fatherhood program is the Gentle Warriors Academy operated by Fathers Incorporated, which provides support to fathers in Atlanta, Georgia. The academy offers a variety of services, including counseling, education, and employment support, to help fathers overcome the challenges that can lead to father absence.
- Professional advice and guidance:
Finally, fathers who are struggling with feelings of shame and guilt can benefit from seeking professional advice and guidance. Social workers, counselors, and other professionals can provide fathers with the tools they need to understand and overcome their emotions and develop positive relationships with their children. These professionals can also offer guidance on how to communicate with their children, manage their emotions, and create healthy boundaries that support their well-being and the well-being of their children.
In conclusion, shame and guilt can have a significant impact on father absence. Fathers who experience these emotions may feel inadequate or struggle with mental health issues, which can lead to disengagement and withdrawal from their children. While there are several factors that can contribute to father absence, it is essential to recognize the role that shame and guilt can play.
Fortunately, several resources and interventions are available to help fathers overcome these emotions and maintain positive relationships with their children. Mental health resources and support groups, fatherhood programs, and professional advice and guidance can all help fathers develop the skills they need to become active and engaged parents. By promoting strong and positive father-child relationships, we can help to support the healthy development of children and families.
If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of shame and guilt related to fatherhood, it is essential to seek help. Reach out to a mental health professional, a fatherhood program, or a support group for fathers in your community. By taking the first step towards overcoming these emotions, you can become a positive and engaged father and provide your children with the love and support they need to thrive.
Anderson, K. (2018). The effect of father absence on child development. In Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Buchanan, C. M., & Maccoby, E. E. (1996). Adolescents after divorce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lamb, M. E. (2000). The history of research on father involvement: An overview. Marriage & Family Review, 29(2-3), 23-42.
Lewis, M. (2018). The role of guilt and shame in psychopathology. In The Wiley Handbook of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (pp. 414-425). Wiley-Blackwell.
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
Gentle Warriors Academy