A few years ago, I can recall striking up a social chat at a wedding ceremony with a 27 year old mother of two children, ages 3 and 5.
After almost an hour of talking about children and relationships, certain statements she made subsequently forced me to question where her children’s father may be.
Her answer was that she didn’t know where he was, while indicating that she have not seen or heard from him in almost two years.
A few months later, at a family forum I ended up chatting with another 23 year old mother of a two year old child, and inadvertently had to ask her the same question. Interestingly, her answer was the same as the first girl. She did not know where her child’s father was and had not spoken to him in over 10 months.
Back then, the two situations had seemed rather absurd to me, because I could not had fathom why and how can a potentially good father be deliberately absent from his child’s life.
Thereafter, I had served as a sort of aggressor against parental absenteeism until a few months ago when I actually found myself unwittingly drifting into the same circle of inadvertent absenteeism from one of my child’s life.
Ironically, I am actually completing a book named “Finding Aimee” with a related theme where a Syrian father spent years battling cultural and legal hurdles to find a daughter that he had unexplainably abandoned during the country’s civil war.
So when I found myself drifting away, my first thought went to my book.
I was trying to decipher whether my evolving behavior was provoked by the fictional elements that had formed in my mind during my writing of that book.
Because in order to pen works of fiction, a writer usually forms an imaginary life of each character in his mind, and can sometimes virtually live that life within his mindset until he completes the book.
It is usually the only way in which the author can properly write the story.
Therefore, theoretically, a psychological reaction to elements of the book had seemed like a potentially probably excuse, even though it would not had been seen as a reasonably acceptable logic to most people.
But that was promptly ruled out; because, while the theme of “Finding Aimee” has a related vibe, the circumstances and even the storyline itself actually consist of a flow that is completely different from my situation.
Therefore, I had to take a more practical and broad base approach to the subject matter.
In my quest to unlock the root of my evolving parental phobia, I first compiled a list of cases where this may had occurred to other fathers, while accepting that my issue (and that of other fathers in similar situations) may either be a social or psychological problem.
Self conscious of this, I further consulted with a child psychologist who was coincidentally helping me to put together the thoughts of the child character in the said book (Finding Aimee), even though it is partially a work of fiction.
The answers that she had provided subsequently provoked me into further researching this parental dilemma in a bid to unearth actual and evidential reasons why some fathers becomes unexplainably estranged from their children.
So with her help, and the support of two research students from the University of Rotterdam, I set out in August of 2015 to identify the primary reason for parental absenteeism and child abandonment by seemingly normal fathers.
As part of the research project, I conducted a simple social survey targeting a number of women across different demographics; and who would have borne children that do not enjoy any real connection to their fathers.
After more than two months, my research found that an average of 4 out of ten mothers either deliberately or unintentionally had no parent to parent relationship with the father of their child or children.
In other words, four out of ten fathers in the Western Hemisphere are practically estranged from their child or children (for this is or some other reason).
The research also seems to suggest that at least 8 out of every 10 affected child were concentrated in outside relationships or unions where the mother and father shares no social relation or any other form of connection.
Thinking that a bad parent to parent relationship was the culprit, we set out with an initially one-track mind to prove this, probably also out of prejudice for my own thoughts. But in the end, we were wrong.
Further professional scrutiny of the research data had showed us that while a bad parent to parent relationship can be a factor, it was the least among several others that were identified as the primary reasons why fathers can become estrange from the lives of their children.
And surprisingly, one of the first reasons was overwhelmingly psychological in nature, as is explained below.
1 – ITAP Syndrome
ITAP (Unexplained Inability to Adapt to Parenthood Syndrome), which may also be known by other related clinical name variations; is a psychological condition in which one parent (mostly the father) becomes unexplainably fearful of adapting to their newfound parental responsibilities.
Though it can occur to men who have fathered children before, it is often experienced mostly by some men who have become a father for the first time.
Regrettably, a man or a medical professional cannot determine in advance if he may suffer from ITAP, since it is a psychological condition that can be triggered at anytime within the first three years of their child’s life.
In most cases, the man would generally display all of the required tendencies of fatherhood during pregnancy and immediately after birth; but will suddenly become withdrawn from as little as a few days after birth, or up to several years into the child’s life.
While my research was unable to identify a clear cause of this parental condition, most of the respondents appeared to be men who came from broken homes, men with a gender identity crisis, men who have fathered children with multiple partners, and men who are suffering from socioeconomic fears.
As such, diagnosis is only possible after the fact, with no known clinical treatment, except for a prolong period of parental counseling.
2 – Social and external relationship pressures
Some men are often forced by circumstances to become estrange from their child.
These circumstances are usually tied to social pressures or parent to parent relationship pressures that is created by external factors.
For example, the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts might have serious objections about their daughter (or relative), subjecting themselves to a relationship with their child’s father for various reasons.
In these circumstances, the father of the child can be forced out from playing any social role in their upbringing, and/or is restricted from inquiring into the interest of the child.
In such a case, fear or frustration can force him to gradually become withdrawn from the child, and may show little or no parental affection for the child thereafter.
3 – Paternity conflicts
Paternity conflict is one of the most common reasons (or excuses) why men can become estrange from their child or children.
This occurs when a man has doubts as to whether he is the biological father of a child or children.
His doubts can be openly known or he can simply keep it to himself before abruptly becoming estranged from a child.
In these cases, estrangement can occur prior to the birth of a child or several years into the life of a child.
Scientific recourse such as a paternity testing is generally the only way to resolve this issue. Otherwise, a father can quickly become permanently detached from the child, and may no longer have any form of affection for him/ her.
4 – Requirements of another relationship
In some cases, a father can become withdrawn from a child by force being applied to him by the person that he is involved with, or because of the requirement of the child’s mother if she is similarly involved in another relationship.
Often times, because of emotional issues a man or a woman tends to mistakenly give precedence to their respective relationships, and wanting to satisfy the requirements of that relationship even if it means unintentionally derailing the interest of their child.
In such a case, the mother if often forced to make the child estranged from the father because of a direct or indirect requirement from her spouse. Similarly, the father can be forced by his spouse to severe any relationship with the child.
But in either case, most fathers tend to give up their parental right, and may no longer see themselves as the paternal father of the child.
While a resolve to these scenarios may appear simple, realistically they are not. This is because most fathers would often lost trust in the true elements of their paternal connection, and can be directly or indirectly reluctant to resume a relationship with the child.
This may be reliant on a number of factors, and can only be effectively addressed where the problematic factors are clearly identified as fixable.
Like ITAP sufferers, extended counseling may also be required.
While other factors such as separation by migration, divorce, war, legal processes, parental vendetta, mental incompetence, financial circumstances, parental dysfunctional factors, racial segregation, and cultural situations, can also influence the causes for estrangement of a father from a child or his children, the prior mentioned four factors seem to be the primary reason (in my research) why this parental phenomenon continues to occur.
As a parent myself, I can probably resonate with a number of scenarios that can often provoke this. However, I have my own experiences, and as such, would not serve as the judge, jury or executioner of any man who may have probably fell into either of the above categories of evasive fathers.
After all, none of us is perfect.