There has been a long-standing notion that children with absentee fathers are more likely to engage in illicit behaviors–such as drug and alcohol abuse and criminal activity. And the statistics back this assumption up. However, the Journal of Adolescence released a recent study, which investigated this connection more scrupulously.
The study examined over 1,200 delinquent male youth across the country. It looked not just at whether or not each child’s father was present in their life, but if they were, what that relationship was like. If a father had a hostile relationship with his son, this study participant was categorized differently than a participant who had a supportive relationship with his father.
The study found that children with absentee fathers do tend to exhibit more delinquent tendencies than children with high-quality relationships with their fathers. However, of the three groups studied, children with hostile fathers were found to be the most likely to engage in illicit and criminal activity. The researchers also considered other factors, such as race and education level of the children and their parents, but no conclusive findings came from these characteristics.
The findings of this research have important implications on the connection between family and delinquency. There have been many efforts in recent years to promote relationships between absentee fathers and their children as a way of bringing crime rates down. However, engendering such a relationship does not automatically guarantee that it will be healthy and nurturing. This study indicates that if a child has no relationship with their father, they could be better off than if they had a bad relationship.