7708 Old Alexandria Ferry Road Clinton, MD 20735


Monday - Friday 06:00 am - 06:30 pm

The Psychological Effects of Parental Absence on Children


Nowadays, parental absence is a topic that ought to be discussed often. Day after day, young children encounter and suffer the consequences of circumstances that originate from neglectful parenting style. It is dangerous when a parent shows little or no concern for the activities and abilities of a child because it can lead to the child’s emotional depression or mental disorder.

Parenting brings about a series of changes in the life of parents and children. However, transition to parenting includes changes in life roles and taking necessary steps to manage such changes. For example, a new mother or father can learn what it means to have responsibilities.

Conversely, in some cases, it is the inability to realize this responsibility that causes neglectful parenting. Therefore, this article explains the psychological effects of parental absence on children.

Table of Contents

What is Parenting?

Parenting is a procedure or activity where a person nurtures and raises a child/children into adulthood. Also, it is a stage of recognition and accountability, where a mother and/or father take full responsibility for their child in all areas. Therefore, parenting is not just about rearing children, but more about taking good care of the children.

Parenting stimulates a child’s psychological, physical, and social growth from his early stages to later life. Typically, the details of raising a child may not be solely dependent on biological relationships between mothers and fathers.  Although a mother and a father are universally the ultimate caretakers in parenthood, yet other types of parenting can ensue from;

  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Aunties or/and uncles
  • Cousins
  • Nephews and/or nieces
  • Governmental organizations
  • Non-governmental organizations

Styles of Parenting

Every parent has various ways of raising their children. Parenting styles connotes the set of policies that parents use when nurturing their children. Hence, according to Diane Baumrind, there are four major parenting styles, and they include;

Permissive or Indulgent Parenting Style

To be indulgent or permissive indicates being lenient with a person. Hence, parents who belong to this category often allow their children to do whatever they like with little supervision and control. As a result, there is usually a high level of friendship between such children and their parents.

Furthermore, they possess a liberal form of discipline, they are more nurturing and flexible, and their expectations may not be that high.

The Authoritative Style

The authoritative parenting style is like a combination of the disciplinarian parenting style and permissive parenting style. Thus, parents who are in this category often nurture, support, and respond to their children. Nonetheless, they establish rigid regulations for their children and ensure they communicate rules to them for better interpretation and understanding.

In essence, they are simultaneously strict and nurturing.  Although, the parents usually have high expectations, nevertheless with vivid descriptions.

Authoritarian or Disciplinarian Parenting Style

As the name implies, these are parents that make sure their children follow their rules strictly. In this category, punishment can be attached in case of disobedience. Also, the parents may be less nurturing and very rigid.

Uninvolved/Neglectful Parenting Style or Parental Absence

Our major focus on this discourse, which is parental absence often occurs as a result of neglectful parenting style. Also, it occurs because of several reasons including;

  • divorce cases between parents
  • Death of a parent or both
  • Long distance between parents and children.

Mostly, parents who are neglectful prefer to stay out of their children’s way. This could be because circumstances have made them lose interest in parenthood or they just lack the ability to care. On an important note, parental absence may not imply physical unavailability of parents, rather, it could as well denote;

  • emotional unavaibility of parents or a parent
  • lack of support
  • inability to nurture
  • Lack of capability to take responsibility

Causes of Parental Absence

Sad parents. Parental absence
Sad parents


An environment can be a powerful developmental force. Similarly, if a child grows in a family environment where conflict is constant, there is a high tendency for the child to face parental unavailability. This is because the constant conflict between parents can depreciate the love in a family. It can steer up emotional chaos and emotional unavailability which can affect children psychologically.

Typically, a certain survey declares that children who grow in conflicting homes can possess;

  • Poor relational skills
  • Low or zero problem-solving capabilities
  • Dormant social proficiency
  • Low self-esteem

Separation or Divorce

The rate at which separation and divorce are increasing in marriages have become very alarming, especially in this 20th century. However, the most throbbing consequence of this is the psychological effect it places on children. Children who experience situations like this often come into contact with;

  • Academic catastrophe  
  • Exposure to perilous sexual activity
  • Nonmarital birth
  • Early marriages
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Seperation and divorce in their later lives

Non-marital Births

Nonmarital births are births that happen among parents who are not married. This form of birth is another issue that is becoming a norm in most societies today. Sometimes, births like these come from unprotected sex that eventually leads to unwanted pregnancy.

Also, in rare cases, it happens as a result of rape. No matter which way it occurs, this may affect the child because of several reasons. One, the parent may not be financially buoyant enough to nurture the child properly. Secondly, each or one of the parents may not be psychologically balanced enough to care for the child.

Research illustrates that nonmarital births can lead to infant mortality. Typically, it states that “pregnant younger women are more likely to encounter premature birth or miscarriages.”

The Psychological Effects of Parental Absence on Children  

sad girl. Parental absence
A child looking sad

Parental absence does not only mean the involvement of either of a child’s parents. It also defines parents who stay away from children for long due to business, career, and the likes. Communication is an important tool in parenthood. In essence, parents who rarely communicate with their children are indirectly causing harm to their psychological growth.

Therefore, the following explains the psychological effect of parental absence on a child.

Poor Performance

A particular survey carried out by frontiers in education revealed that;

“parenthood plays a major role in the academic performance of children in several ways. For example, the academic achievements of parents, aspiration of parents, the interaction between parents and their children, among others are part of major contributors.

Parental absence can affect a child’s performance mentally, socially, and academically. For instance, if a parent refuses to respond to a child emotionally, such can have a negative effect on the child’s cognitive ability. The child’s activities can become very low because he is not able to focus properly.

Normally, a teacher or an academic instructor is responsible for the academic progress of a child. Nevertheless, the primary custodian of a child’s academic development is his parents. For example, as a parent, if your child is given an assignment from school, you are the one who can enlighten him on how to go about solving it.

Poor Childhood Development

Nothing compares to a person who has been attached to his two parents from early childhood.

When parents nurture their children, it affects their psychological wellbeing positively, and vice versa. Hence, parental absence can lead to the poor development of a child. In essence, a child who is being nurtured cannot be compared to one who is not (it will obviously be seen in their physical growth).

The involvement of both parents in the life of a child often results in the healthy physical, emotional, and cognitive development of a child. When both parents bring good ideas into parenting, it often produces better nurturing.


Delinquency means a behavior(mostly exercised by young people) that is against the permissible or ethical standards of society. Such behavior includes stealing, violence, killing, among others.

When parents are absent, nurturing will be ignored, and a child may eventually become delinquent. This is because parental absence leads to neglectfulness. In essence, the child’s day to day activities may not be properly supervised, causing him to make most decisions on his own (which may be dangerous).

The child may not understand the consequences of making some decisions. For example, he may decide to move with friends that introduce him to stealing or drugs or other criminal activity. Typically, juvenile delinquency can be a result of bad friendship influence. Nevertheless, the foundational cause can be traced to the child’s home.


At Perfect Angels Learning Center, we believe that parental availability is important for a child’s growth and development. In spite of any difficulty involved, it is important that new or expectant parents prepare for parenting by considering skills, tasks, experiences and resources that can assist in becoming good parents.

Parental absence denotes uninvolved or neglectful parenting, which is often characterized by a lack of responsiveness to a child’s needs. In essence, such parents are dismissive and indifferent towards the activities of their children. Quite frankly, parents have roles to play in shaping a child’s psychological, social, academic, and physical development through nurturing.