A father’s death can have long-term effects on a child’s later success in life and can be particularly harmful if the father passes away during a child’s late childhood or early adolescence, according to new research.
Recognizing the impact that a father’s death can have on adolescents could lead to improved counseling and assistance programs, especially for needy families in the developing world, said Mary Shenk, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri.
“Certain negative effects of a father’s death can’t be compensated for by the mother or other relatives,” she said.
“The loss of a father can result in lower adult living standards for the bereaved children. Not only is a child emotionally affected, but the lack of a father’s earning power can cause children to get married younger or drop out of school in order to work.”
“Earlier studies have focused on how the absence or death of a father affects children in the United States and other wealthier parts of the world,” Shenk said. “Our study looked at the developing world where father death is much more common.”
For her study, Shenk interviewed 403 older men and women of Bangalore, India, about their families and examined the effects of death on their 1,112 children.
The death of the father before a child reached 25 years old correlated with lower educational achievement, younger ages at marriage and smaller income later in life, the researcher reports.
However, the effects were significantly smaller for children who lost their fathers when they were younger than 5 years old or older than 20.
Older children and adolescents between 11 and 15 years of age showed the largest decrease in later success.
“For young children who lose their fathers, other factors can take over to compensate,” Shenk said. “Infants and young children often don’t remember their lost fathers, and in many cases another family member may step in to care for them.
“Also, since young children are not yet in school, their educations don’t suffer as much.”
Source: University of Missouri