A daughter can feel rejected if her father is absent from her life.

How Does a Parent's Absence Affect Teens?

by Jaime Vargas-Benitez

A teen benefits from a healthful relationship with both of her parents, but circumstances can make it impossible for both parents to be involved. A death, divorce or other event can leave a teen with one parent. If parents are diligent in dealing with the emotional effects this can have on a teen, it might ease the long-term effects of a one-parent household. Counseling, peer support groups, or support of extended family can ease the effects on a teen. A teen can experience everything from cognitive development issues to anxiety when raised in a one-parent household.

Troubled Relationships

When a teen is missing a parent, it affects her relationships with others, too. One issue prevalent in teens without a father is having troubled relationships, according to Edward Kruk, associated professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, writing at PsychologyToday.com. He says a teen who feels abandoned by her father develops a poor self-image, and becomes increasingly resentful and afraid of further abandonment. This girl is more likely to engage in premarital sex, aggressive behavior, and use drugs and alcohol.

Cognitive Effects

A teen growing up in a two-parent household performs better academically than a teen who has an absentee parent. Single-parent households are more likely to have teens with lower cognitive ability, according to a 2001 study in the "Journal of Human Resources." A contributing factor to decreased cognition in teens with an absentee parent is lesser parental involvement in a teen's education. One way to combat these factors is by finding support through community involvement, family support or counseling.

Aggression Issues

A teen who is missing a parent might be dealing with resentment, which can show itself in the form of aggression. A fatherly influence in a child's earlier years, which often includes playing and rough-housing with a child, teaches them the appropriate responses and actions for dealing with aggression, according to a 2006 study published on the Child Welfare Information Gateway. When a father is absent, these lessons can go unlearned, and when the child is a teen, he is more likely to be left with an inability to appropriately deal with his own aggression.


A teen living in an absentee-mother household might be prone to bouts of anxiety. A Science Daily article titled, "Absent Mothers Can Cause Hyperactivity and Anxiety in Offspring Later in Life, Mouse Study Finds," suggests that when a child is removed from a mother's care too early in life, anxiety issues develop later. The study involved mice, and early weaning and removal from the mother's care. The thought is that a teen without a mother has not had the nurturing and closeness that a healthy mother-child relationship provides. Along with hyperactivity, anxiety issues are linked to maternal separation. For teens, this can lead to problems with academic performance and social problem.

About the Author

Jaime Vargas-Benitez has been a parenting writer since 2010. She has worked in the child wellness field in various roles for over 20 years. Along with the experiences of raising her own kids, she has been privileged enough to participate in the raising of hundreds of other children as well.

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