The Father’s Role in a Child’s Drug Abuse and Addiction

Many psychologists today are happy to broach the subject of how parenting affects children. However, where here has been a major shift in the American family as of late, our culture often times does not wish to delve into the negative aspects of the dissolve of the nuclear family. There are many aspects to the reasons of susceptibility for a person’s psyche to drugs. Biological and environmental aspects of life are addressed, however, fatherless children are statistically shown to have a myriad of behavioral problems, this, naturally, includes drug abuse.

It is indubitable that the family as a unit has changed in the United States over the past few decades. “Most of the children born outside of marriage grow up fatherless in single-parent households. About 37% of all children now live in single-parent households, and an estimated 60% of U.S. youngsters will spend a fraction of their youth with only one biological parent” (Keller, 2001). However, one may wonder how this affects a child behaviorally, if at all. The statistical evidence is overwhelming how children who grow up with the father not present, or as a visiting role only, do not fare as well as children who are privileged enough to have a father in attendance. This means a less chance of finishing high school and attending college, lower test scores, higher pregnancy rates, higher crime risk, and above all, an increased susceptibility for drug and alcohol use.

Other risk factors are certainly a possibility when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse. There are certain personality types that are more prone to be attracted to the high of foreign substances than others. Furthermore, the issue of socioeconomic class distinction may also be prevalent. However, the consistency of the fatherless connection and abuse cannot be ignored. “Parental deprivation occurs at all socioeconomic levels, but it is especially common among poor families. Although the problems encountered by poor families are quite complex, they typically illustrate the combined costs of poverty and lack of positive father involvement” (Biller, 1993). Without father involvement, children suffer academically and socially. This may lead to children growing into adults who are not confident in their selves, and are looking for an escape. Drugs and alcohol offer this means to an end for them, but often times leads to a downward spiral that spoils the best laid intensions.

There are also biological factors to consider to diffuse finger pointing in the father’s direction for intervention of drug abuse in his progeny. However, with research psychologists have found that nature cannot be the only factor in determining character, and what that individual will make concerning life choices. Nurture, or environmental factors, such as a caring or not caring household, will also add to the equation. “Children are influenced by many factors including their own biological individuality, but the way that parents treat them can have an especially significant impactâÂ?¦if parents are not being constructive role models of kind and considerate behavior, they may be a contributing source to their child’s emotional and behavioral difficulties or at the least be increasing the likelihood of future family problems” (Biller 1993).

Societal influences are prevalent in the drug abuser’s origins; however, the impact of the community will effect a child without a father differently than one without. “In a society where ‘My Daddy can beat up your daddy’ is still a credible threat, having a strong father versus a weak one, or having a father versus not having one, can have important repercussions on a child’s status in the peer group and therefore (according to group socialization theory) can have long-term effects on a child’s personality” (Harris, 1998). If one thinks back to prehistoric times, the father figure would be the individual more than likely to protect the family unit from hostile forces, and the common taunt of a schoolchild, although we still hear it today, would have held a lot more meaning. However, this does not eliminate the hidden message behind the words. Children need to feel protected from the outside world, and a strong home environment can provide this. One would think, particularly with modern societies attitudes of today that a single parent would be able to suffice. However, this does not seem to be the case, with statistical evidence looming in the public’s face. “75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes” (, 2001). It is hard for us, as Americans, to admit that the single mother household has failed to raise children without running a high risk of substance abuse. However, the numbers to the contrary are irrefutable.

To conclude, most people know that parenting significantly effects children’s behavior and outcomes in life. However, many people still refuse to realize the influence of the shift in the American family. The reasons of susceptibility for a person’s psyche toward drugs may never be fully know. With the examination of biological, and societal standards, nevertheless, evidence still points toward the father playing a key role in the path towards addiction. Fatherless children are statistically shown to have a higher probability towards abuse, and these numbers cannot be ignored. For behind each number is a face of a person with a disease, that perhaps only societal intervention can repair.

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