Creating security and building a child’s self-confidence is an essential task of every parent. A child’s development isn’t limited to just physical and mental growth. They must also be nurtured so they can emotionally mature as well.
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A new study confirms that absentee parenting can lead to some seriously negative impacts on a child’s mental health. Many parents concern themselves with their children’s physical wellbeing or educational development and don’t realize that mental health is a part of healthy development as well. The study found that children who are rejected by their fathers have a harder time making friends.
Being rejected by dad negatively impacts a child’s mental health.
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania conducted the research and then published their findings in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Their goal was to examine what impact rejection had on children.
They found that social anxiety and an inability to form friendships were common in children who had experienced rejection, specifically from their fathers. Children who had experienced rejection from dad also had higher levels of social anxiety than their peers.
Social anxiety results in difficulty in forming friendships.
Higher levels of social anxiety mean that children find it difficult making and maintaining friendships. Lasting friendships are integral to everyone’s mental health. Difficulty making friends extended from childhood into adulthood for kids who had experienced paternal rejection.
One of the authors of the study explained, “We found that father rejection predicted increases in adolescents’ social anxiety, even when we controlled for social anxiety at an earlier time. In turn, this predicted increases in loneliness later on,” Hio Wa ‘Grace’ Mak told Science Daily.
Mak elaborated further about the negative impact of a father’s rejection, “This suggests that fathers’ rejecting attitudes toward their adolescent children may make them more nervous about approaching social situations, which in turn is related to more social isolation and feelings of loneliness.”
The research looked at data from nearly 700 two-parent households.
The researches collected data from 687 two-parent households and checked in with the children three times. They assessed the children when they were in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The research found that rejection from mom or dad led to feelings of loneliness, but only the father’s rejection resulted in social anxiety.
“We found that mother rejection, father rejection, and the overall family climate all affect adolescents’ friendship quality and loneliness,” Mak explained further. “Additionally, we found that father rejection, but not mother rejection, predicted changes in social anxiety. Fathers aren’t usually included in family research, so it’s important to know more about fathers and how they influence adolescent friendship and loneliness.”
Researchers hope they can use the data to create intervention strategies.
Understanding that social anxiety makes it difficult for children to form friendships, the researches want to create ways to make interactions easier for children who’ve suffered rejection. By offering better resources and help to kids with social anxiety, the researches hope they can help kids build friendships more easily.
“Often, when we try to intervene and help promote positive peer relationships, we focus on the school setting, where a lot of these friendships are taking place,” said another author of the study, Gregory M. Fosco. “I think these findings suggest that we should also reach out to families to help them support this sense of belonging and connection. We might be overlooking the family as an important piece of cultivating these healthy peer relationships.”
We sure hope these researchers can create ways to meaningfully impact children’s ability to make friends that will lead to happy, healthy lives.
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