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living in the hood

Problems growing up with an absent father(and how to fix them)

The environment that breeds single mothers and fatherless homes tend to lack examples for boys to follow into becoming men. This article provides solutions for the children of absent fathers.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

Whether you call it a “single-mother household” or a “fatherless home” doesn’t change the fact that it’s common and sets the kid up for failure. The stats are clear: boys need their fathers, ideally in a loving relationship with their mother. 

While both boys and girls suffer from a father’s absence, the lack of a father figure results in many legal, intellectual, emotional, and behavioral problems.

Being raised in a broken home by a single mother/absent father is the perfect recipe to become a weak and ineffective man. I know this because I was raised in this setting and there were a plethora of problems that I had to overcome before I was able to become the person that I am today. 

The environment that breeds single mothers and fatherless homes tend to lack examples for boys to follow into becoming men. In these places, there are rarely any examples of productive citizens to emulate.

Effects of father absence: The stats about fatherlessness don’t lie

What follows in this article is largely anecdotal evidence and personal observation. However, my experiences and what I’ve seen are largely reflected in the data that we have about children raised without fathers or children living with their mothers for the majority of their childhood.

Consider these stats about fatherlessness from fatherhood.org and all4kids.org:

  • Children living without their father in the home are 47% more likely to live in poverty.
  • Children from father-absent homes are 279% more likely to carry drugs or guns.
  • Children raised in a father-absent home are 2x more likely to suffer from obesity.
  • Children who feel a closeness to their father are twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms.
  • 71 percent of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes
  • 85 percent of youth in prison have an absent father; fatherless children are also more likely to offend and go to jail as adults
  • 90 percent of runaway children have an absent father
  • Father absent children are consistently overrepresented in a wide range of mental health problems, particularly anxiety, depression, and suicide
  • As adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness
  • Father absent children tend to enter partnerships earlier, are more likely to divorce or dissolve their cohabiting unions, and are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership

There isn’t a single metric in a child’s life that is improved without having a father around. It should be noted that the quality of the relationship matters more than the time spent. In other words, it’s entirely possible for a kid to split time but still receive the benefits of having a father present.

With that said, too much time away negates any quality time. Also, just staying with someone because you have a child together, despite a turbulent atmosphere created, is also just as bad.

But the child’s well-being is generally not poorly affected by a solid co-parenting family structure where both parents are heavily invested and involved in the child’s outcome.

The problems with an absent father

Without a father in a child’s life, he never gets to see what a healthy relationship looks like. This compounds with growing up poor, as that means you never get to see what fiscal responsibility looks like either. The values you learn are typically ones of reactive survival rather than proactive progression.

In this world, violence is both the cause of and solution to most problems. Therefore, you never learn how to deal with obstacles without the use of miscalibrated judgment.

Young men from this environment are either too reactive and aggressive or too timid and indirect when they encounter problems in their personal life. Either reaction causes the problem to grow larger, either through agitation or neglect.

The end result is that boys from broken homes can’t become men because they’re either too weak to shoulder the masculine burdens of responsibility or aggressive to work with civilized society. In either case, there is a resistance to discipline.

In the latter case, the boy won’t listen. In the former, he’s afraid to. Either way, the challenge boys from their father’s absence is that they’re ill-equipped to fulfill the roles of adulthood, especially the demands of manhood.

Why a single mother can’t fill the place of an absent father

There is the problem of being raised by a single mother.

Now I’m not here to discuss the various reasons why single mother households not only exist. That’s a discussion for a different article. What am I here to discuss are the biggest problems with that and a young man has to do to overcome those problems.

Generally speaking, women are favored in modern western society. We see this in everything from the abundance of women in higher education to the deficit of women in prison and homeless shelters. It even starts when they’re younger, as we can see that boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. For all intents and purposes, women are treated as a superior class.

While I have no personal problem with this (men are stronger and take risks, which ultimately means there are more winners AND losers), it does come with a particular condition. Women are generally shielded from the negative consequences of their bad decisions, either by societal expectations or by legal enforcement. In other words, they are privileged.

If you’re out with your girlfriend and she decides to confront some random man, not only are you expected to fight on her behalf if the situation escalates, her attacker would be considered in the wrong for physical retaliation, even if she did something to warrant the attack. And even if she got in trouble, the law is going to be far more lenient on her than if it were two men fighting.

The problem that boys face when raised by single mothers is that their examples of behavior come from someone who will not receive the same level of punishment for indiscretions.

A man can’t afford to act the same way as a woman because he will not be judged like a woman. I don’t mean to say that women aren’t capable of being responsible. Only that there is a much greater margin for error being a woman than a man. 

So much so that in most cases, she doesn’t realize that she’s receiving better treatment.

No father involvement leads to delinquency in the son

Boys from single-parent households in poor neighborhoods lack strong role models for masculinity. Without fathers in the home, they suffer from the following issues:

  1. They’re more likely to behave in a way that either maximizes survival (they become meek and submissive) or maximizes emotional expression (giving their emotions too much weight). 
  2. They’re more likely to resist masculine authority and the burden of masculinity because they grew up in an environment where masculinity was either actively resisted or the masculinity they knew neglected or abused them. 

This is the recipe for building misguided boys who will grow into broken men. These broken men often end up doing something that lands them in serious trouble with the law.

Consider these stats about the children from fatherless homes, collected by Paternita.info:

  • 54% more likely to be poorer than his father
  • 60% are rapists
  • 63% of youth suicides
  • 72% percent of adolescents serving sentences for murder are from fatherless households
  • 71% of high-school dropouts
  • 75% of kids in drug rehab
  • 75% of the long-term correctional facility inmates 
  • 85% of rapist that were motivated by “displaced anger”
  • 85% of kids who exhibit behavioral disorders
  • 85% of kids in State Institutions
  • 90% of all runaway kids are from

I know many who were raised in an environment like myself and end up on drugs or in prison.

However, I did not succumb to the fate of so many who come from my position. I recognized many of the areas I lacked and I was able to overcome them and develop myself into a functional man.

[Read about some lessons I learned growing up in the hood: 5 lessons from growing up in the hood]

Children of absent fathers are bad with money

I was 18 when my father died and I received $55,000 in life insurance money. Within 18 months, I was so broke that I was overdrawing my account just to have money to feed myself. During this time period, I was temporarily homeless as well.

I didn’t get much better with money in my 20s either, because I never got to see anyone save money or really make money.

As mentioned before, children without fathers in the home are more likely to grow up in poverty and be poor as adults. Even if I had never seen this stat, my experience and observations tell me how accurate this is.

While I never let myself be completely broke or reliant on the system, it wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I developed a healthy relationship with money.

Even now, I still don’t quite respect the ideas of saving and investing, but I’m improving as I get around positive role models and I try to make my life better.

[Read my article where I break down what I learned from this experience—>How to stop being poor]

No idea how to have a relationship

I once dated a girl and she made an interesting observation.

She remarked that I had no idea what a good relationship looks like because I grew up with a single mother. At the time, the comment annoyed me, but as I got older I realized that there was a lot of truth in what she said. 

Not only was there a lot of truth, but it also affected how I conducted myself in every relationship that I had, and that effect was never positive.

This effect is well documented by the statistics.

  • A study using a sample of 1409 rural southern adolescents (851 females and 558 males) aged 11 – 18 years revealed that adolescents in father-absence homes were more likely to report being sexually active compared to adolescents living with their fathers. (Source)
  • Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree. (Source)
  • For girls, father absence in developed societies is consistently associated with earlier maturation, earlier onset of sexual activity, and earlier first childbirth. (Source)
  • For boys, father’s absence is associated with later puberty, later marriage, but earlier reproduction. (Source)

Having a father around seems to provide a protective effect for children against getting into situations that results in promiscuity, poor decision making, and poor outcomes in relationship. This is in addition to serving as a role model for what a man should be and how he should care, for young children.

No confidence

It’s easy for kids from broken, fatherless homes to make themselves the center of attention. It’s a lot harder for them to behave in a manner that makes them respectable. 

For most of my life, I confused being liked with being respected. The problem with this confusion is that when you’re a child, the distinction isn’t particularly important or even noticeable. However, as you become a young adult and grow into maturity, being respected is far more important. 

The problem is that when you come from a broken home and the environment that tends to accompany it, you rarely see examples of respectable behavior. Instead, what you see are examples of behaviors to become popular. 

This is why children from homes without fathers are more likely to break the law, use drugs, and abuse alcohol. These often provide a coping mechanism for low confidence by either distracting them from it or giving them a way to fit in.

[Read my lessons from sobriety here—>Lessons from 8 years of sobriety]

Sons of absent fathers focus on the wrong metrics of life

When you’re a young man in this environment and you’re seeking approval, you chase the lowest common denominator. This comes back to choosing to be liked or respected.

We take the path of being liked because it requires less but comes with the false promise of getting more. When you have the wrong focus, that promise is adoration from people you don’t even want to be like.

What I mean by this is that young men from broken homes tend to grow up chasing women as a source of approval. One of the most common insults in the hood is “I get more bitches than you.” The idea is that your value is determined solely by the amount of (usually low quality) women you can attract.

Since these women are from the same area, they have low standards for the men they get with, which perpetuates the same detrimental traits amongst the men. This unfortunately perpetuates the cycle of single motherhood and broken homes.

How to fix yourself after being raised without your father

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Play sports

Athletics are one of the few areas where masculine values are encouraged and celebrated.

You quickly learn the value of sacrifice and hard work if you want to excel. You become accountable to teammates or to a coach (for those involved in non-team sports). You learn how to get control of your emotions.

You learn to practice when you don’t want to practice. You learn to shut up when you think you’re right. Above all other things, you learn that your feelings about a situation do not matter. All that matters is the obstacle in front of you and what you’re going to do about it.

Many young men from fatherless homes never see the value of a long-term investment in something. They don’t see it financially or in any relationships. Sports are the easiest way for a young man to see what’s possible when you stick to something and invest time into it.

By observing the physical changes that take place within the respect gained from those around him for his performance, you learn what happens when you stick with something longer than the temporal pleasure and excitement that comes with approval.

Learn chess and poker

I chose these games for two reasons. First, the cost barrier is low. It’s cheap and easy to come across a chess set or deck of cards. However, they have a tremendous return on investment.

The second reason is that chess and poker are wonderful for developing some key components of masculinity that you don’t get a chance to expose yourself to if your father isn’t around.

In chess, we learn how to think and deliberate over an action. There is no luck in chance in the sense that there is nothing that influences the game that is beyond your control.

Even a sport like boxing–where one could argue that has the greatest burden of responsibility and least interference of luck–doesn’t have the feature where both participants are in complete control of all elements of the game. This means that if you lose a chess match, then it’s because you didn’t consider something. It’s up to you to learn from this so that it doesn’t happen the next time.

[What’s it like boxing? I’ve broken down many aspects of my amateur and professional boxing career in these articles—>Boxing lessons]

We learn poker for almost the exact opposite reason. 

A man has to learn how to deal with the weight of frustration and disappointment of things turning out badly even when he does his best.

Poker is one of those games where you can do all the right things and still lose. You can, on occasion, do all the wrong things and still win. The latter scenario can teach you just as much as the former but for entirely different reasons.

Granted, you can get these lessons in many places and through many experiences, but learning them the hard way is not ideal because you may not survive the test in a condition to reap the benefits.

These are proxy games where your emotions and mindset are sharpened in a way that even the best school can’t accomplish. And realistically, the schools that guys from this kind of home can attend aren’t typically that great to begin with.

Work in customer service and sales

This is an important step. No matter what you end up doing in life, holding these two types of jobs will shape you in two crucial areas that broken homes tend to neglect.

Customer service

First, in customer service, you learn how to be humble and diligent in the face of degenerate treatment. While every customer service job doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be treated like trash by the customers and employees, it is a guarantee that you’ll be paid a low wage, have no control over the people you have to interact with, and—if you want to keep your job—do it with a smile. 

Working in customer service is a paid internship in emotional discipline. This should make you ambitious in a way that simply being impoverished simply can’t. 

We’ve already established that coming from a fatherless home leaves you without financial and emotional role models. However, it also does nothing to make you ambitious enough to escape that world. 

Sales

If customer service doesn’t remind you of the drudgery and lack of options that come from not developing yourself, a sales job will single-handedly show you what’s possible when you “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

When you work in sales, you live on an “eat what you kill” basis. This is the closest thing to a rite of passage that many men will ever go through.

[Without a rite of passage, you need to know what traits make you a man. Read about the 9 traits of masculine every boy must develop here—>9 traits of masculinity]

Every other suggestion up until this point has been, more or less, a game.

Some of the games have been serious, but you always have the option to not play. This is not the case for work.

While you can choose the type of work that you engage in, you do not get to choose whether you earn a living or not. We take this necessary condition and turn it into a proving ground to develop masculinity.

Make friendships based on progress

It doesn’t matter if your friends are male or female, rich or poor, or from a balanced or broken home. What matters is that you want to make friends with other ambitious people.

Exactly what they’re ambitious about doesn’t matter. As long as it doesn’t take advantage of innocent people or break the law, it’s fine.

Spend time with people who want to improve, acquire, impact, or influence. They have a “never settle, I can always be better, give more and do more” attitude. If you’re doing things right, then you’ll attract these people, if for no other reason than you’ll repel everyone else.

This is going to be the most difficult part because when you’re from a fatherless home, the one thing you crave more than anything else is acceptance–even more so than a normal young person.

It’s much easier to fall in with groups who like you the way you are rather than ones that require you to build yourself into something respectable.

I have no friends from my childhood neighborhood. I don’t even keep in contact with some family members from my childhood.

All of my current friends are made through sports, chess, or my academic pursuits–not just school buddies. These people pushed me to be better and I learned a lot about life merely by being in their presence and continuing to behave in a manner that made me worthy of their friendship

[Most adults are terrible at making friends. If you want to change your social circle as an adult but are lost, read my article about this—>How to make friends as an adult]

Train, don’t just work out

As far as working out, it’s great for getting in shape. However, young men have the ability to train AND get in shape as well.

If you’re under the age of 30 and you have time to get to the gym consistently, train to take an amateur fight (Boxing or MMA) instead. You’ll get in much better shape and have your mind and emotions tested in a way that is not possible in our modern world.

It’s not that working out is a bad idea. It’s just that you’re forced to grow and develop if you take on a sport–preferably a combat one.

Dating

Having a relationship is nice but if you haven’t done the work on yourself, then it’s at best, a distraction and at worst, a liability.

Young Men

If you’re a young man raised without a father, you almost certainly view women in the wrong light. You either idolize or disdain them. Both of these positions set you up to have horrible relationships with women that hurt you as much as you hurt them.

However, I’d be naively foolish if I thought that you could just be a monk and ignore women until you get right, Instead, what I recommend is this.

Stay focused on what you’re doing and never sacrifice progress for pleasure. If you do this, a funny thing will happen: you’ll not only become more attractive, but you’ll also develop a more balanced perspective of women.

Young Women

If you’re a young woman raised without a father, you almost certainly desire attention and affection that you didn’t receive from your father. This makes it easier for men to manipulate and take advantage of your body.

Even if the statistics didn’t show this in the number of teen pregnancies of fatherless girls compared to girls with their father around, the phrase “daddy issues” didn’t come out of nowhere.

The challenge that a young girl raised without a father in her life is learning how to feel loved and accepted without getting it from a guy who is only using her. She has to do this while simultaneously not closing herself off to love or men who mean well.

The best way to do this is to focus on building solid friendships with women who have fathers in their lives. Do this while simultaneously learning what traits to look for in guys who have long-term dating potential.

[I wrote the following article about the major red flags in men. If you avoided just these traits, you’d pick a man much more likely to make sure that you don’t end up raising a child in a father-absent home.—>Major red flags in men]

In closing

The hardest part about being raised in a fatherless home is that you only get one gender’s perspective of the world. 

You’ll have to seek out guidance, responsibility, and your own personal rites of passage. You’ll have to learn emotional discipline and control because the world will punish you for lacking it way harder than it will punish a woman.

The deck is stacked against you but if you follow these suggestions, you’ve got a decent chance of making it through all of this.

The rest is up to you. 

 

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

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