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Mariëlle Osinga: is father absence a problem for every child?

Is father absence a problem for every child?

From an evolutionary perspective, a father’s involvement in child rearing has been considered necessary for the survival and development of the offspring. This implies that the absence of a father would lead to ill health and maladjustment. Indeed, research almost universally portrays father absence as disadvantageous for educational attainment, leading to internalizing and externalizing problems and risky sexual behaviour.

Marielle Osinga

What is lacking, however, is a comparative perspective that also includes societies where growing up without one’s biological father is more common, like on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, a former Dutch colony with 150,000 inhabitants, where 28% of children grow up with their mothers and are surrounded by family members except from their fathers.

It may well be possible that children and adolescents in Curaçao and in similar societies experience father absence differently than children and adolescents in societies where nuclear families that live together are the norm. Why? An explanation might be that the greater acceptance of absent fathers and the presence of close others throughout childhood and adolescence might work as a buffer against the stigma and risk otherwise associated with growing up without a father.

Since little is known about what father absence means in cultures in which it is more common, we need to take a cross-cultural perspective to identify whether father absence is universally negative. Only if we expand cultural knowledge will we be able to truly elucidate the implications of growing up without one’s biological father for the development of children and adolescents.

This didactic approach teaches students to become aware of their contemporary viewpoint in explaining and interpreting historical events. In addition, this approach offers teachers a practical and valued method for teaching students to contextualize.

dr. M. (Mariëlle) Osinga
First name
Non-residential fatherhood, cross-cultural comparisons, young people's development, thematic analysis, structural equation modeling, Bayesian statistics
Last modified:07 May 2020 1.52 p.m.
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