A child without parents as emotional guides has a harder time coping with negative emotions.

Scientific Studies About the Effects of Parental Abandonment

by Damon Verial

With divorce and childhood abandonment becoming more common in the United States, its effects have begun taking a toll on the nation’s youngsters. Regardless of the reason for abandonment, a child will undergo many negative changes, from a loss of emotional control to a forfeiture of school. The scientific studies make it clear: Abandoned children are put at a disadvantage early in life.

1. Studies on Social Changes

Studies such as that performed at Monash University on the wellbeing of children following parental separation and divorce show that parents who abandon their children, whether through intentional neglect or a through unintentional means such as a difficult divorce, suffer a loss in their knowledge of their children’s activities. The end result is a lack of monitoring and guidance over a child’s activities, making the child more prone to risky or rebellious behavior. Without a parent to restrict a child’s social activities and influence who the child associates with, the child is more predisposed to yielding to peer pressure, especially from a bad crowd.

2. Studies on Emotions

Children learn how to do deal with their emotions by observing how their parents deal with emotions. According to the studies of John Gottman, University of Washington psychology professor and author of “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” children without parental emotional guides simply don’t progress in learning to control their emotions. Without parental emotional guides, child who have grown into adults might even appear as mental infants, throwing tantrums when they don’t get their way at work or in a restaurant.

3. Studies on Education

The loss of a parent signifies the loss of both many boundaries and much support. Studies show that a child who previously loses the support and expectations of a parent tends to suffer academically. These studies show that this is especially true for teenagers. Overall, children often lose their inspiration or drive to succeed in school. Abandoned children are also more likely to to avoid school altogether, skipping class in favor of more entertaining and less productive activities.

4. Studies on Ability

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the studies on the effects parental abandonment has on younger children. Whereas older children suffer in terms of learned academic skills, younger children suffer in terms of basic life skills. Clinical psychologist Wendy Hart points out that children under the age of five can “unlearn” basic physiological skills when abandoned by a parent. For example, a potty-trained child who suddenly finds herself without her parents might cease using the toilet, essentially regressing to act as if she were at a younger age.

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