Absent Fatherhood: Finding Male Role Models

It’s not at all uncommon to grow up in a single-parent home. In fact, an estimated 18.3 million American children live without their dad at home—that’s 1 in every 4 kids. 80% of all single-parent homes are led by single moms. If the absence of a father figure in the home is such a universal experience, why does it feel so daunting to find positive male role models who can give you what you’re looking for?

On top of that, what if seeking out male role models makes the incredible women who are working hard to raise you feel like they’re not doing enough? That’s a fair concern, but let’s take a look at how good male role models might be able to help you learn, grow, and feel supported.

How Absent Fathers Impact Their Children

Absence of Fathers: Effects on Sons

You may have heard the term “daddy issues,” usually about girls, but sons can be just as impacted by a lack of relationship with their dads as daughters.

  • Essential Life Skills: When it comes to skills stereotypically taught by men, you may feel like you’re missing out. While your friends may have learned how to tie a tie, how to change the oil in their cars, or how to shave their mustaches from their fathers, you feel like you’re on a learning curve with things like that. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and isolation if you feel too embarrassed to ask for help.
  • Relationship Challenges: You either have no model at home for how a man should interact with other people in his life, or you have a model for how a man shouldn’t treat people. Either way, you sometimes feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants when it comes to the fundamental values expected of you in your friendships and romantic connections.
  • Poor Sense of Self: You may find yourself looking for guidance, support, and camaraderie anywhere you can. This could look like engaging in high-risk behaviors just to look cool in front of the people you want to impress. A poor sense of self could also result in exhibiting signs of anger issues or unhealthy emotional expression without knowing exactly why, and not having a clear sense of who you are or what you want in life.

Absence of Fathers: Effects on Daughters

Many effects of an absent father look similar regardless of whether you’re a son or daughter, but if you’re a girl growing up without an involved father or if he’s totally absent, see if any of these ring true for you:

  • Self-Esteem Issues: Do you find yourself seeking validation or attention in unhealthy ways? It could be that you’re missing the support you would get from having a solid relationship with a good dad. That doesn’t mean you need to run right out and call up your dad if he’s not a healthy person to invite into your life, but it’s something to be aware of when you notice your self-esteem is low. You can find other ways to give it a boost!
  • Relationship Challenges: Do you struggle with dating and relationships? If you didn’t have anyone around growing up who gave you a good example of what it looked like for a man to treat you with respect and care, it might be tough to imagine what that looks like now. Cut yourself some slack and allow yourself to grow. You may be on a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to healthy relationships, but nobody’s an expert. And remember you are worthy of respect!
  • Higher Risk Behaviors: Girls who grow up without a dad are statistically at higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors, such as early sexual activity and substance abuse. However, there are exceptions to every rule, so don’t panic! Just be mindful of whether you’re making wise decisions or seeking that feeling of belonging and validation in unhealthy ways.

Finding Male Role Models

Now that we know how the lack of a father figure in your life might impact you, let’s look at the importance of having good male role models and where to find them. Having one can help you feel secure, safe, confident, and worthy of positive, healthy relationships with men. It can also provide guidance and perspective you might not otherwise be getting. But where are you supposed to find these elusive male role models if you don’t have the classic “father figure” to turn to at home?

Extended Family

If they’re healthy and safe options, uncles, grandfathers, and cousins can be instrumental sources of support and guidance. Ask to spend time with them!

Community Involvement

Get involved in community programs or organizations that offer mentorships. That could help you connect to men who are interested in the same things as you, which is a great starting point for a positive relationship.

Teachers and Coaches

Male teachers and coaches can serve as mentors and role models, too. If you want a closer relationship with one of yours, try talking to them. It’s important to remember that sometimes teachers and coaches need to stick to boundaries for their jobs to keep relationships with students fair and appropriate, so don’t take it personally if they’re not open to getting closer to you. But if you need advice about something from a male perspective and trust a particular male coach or teacher, don’t be afraid to ask.

Religious Communities

Many of the adults who get involved in religious organizations do so with the specific goal of providing support and mentorship to the youth. If you’re a member at a local church, or even if you’re just visiting one, keep an eye out for men you respect. You may be able to approach them about mentoring you.

Get Creative

Did you know some experts suggest that not all “good male role models” even need to be male? While it’s fantastic to have solid male role models, you can learn a lot about how to “be a man” from women. Watch how your moms, female teachers, and sisters interact with the men in their lives. Do you like or dislike how certain men treat them? Why? On top of that, there are PLENTY of women who can teach you things like how to change the oil in your car or tie a tie. Don’t be afraid to learn things you think you “should” have learned from Dad from someone unexpected.

You can also learn a lot from fictional men—are there any characters in your favorite comics, books, or TV shows who help you to understand how a “good man” behaves? And consider public figures you admire to be role models, too. Though you can’t have a personal relationship with fictional or famous men, you can be intentional about who you follow on social media and who’s worthy of your respect.  Whether you admire Terry Crews, Uncle Iroh, Pedro Pascal, King T'Challa, Tom Hanks, or Samwise Gamgee… ask yourself how they would handle a situation.

There Are Great Guys Out There

The absence of a father, whether it’s due to separation, divorce, or other reasons, may leave you feeling a little bit abandoned and unloved, but don’t lose heart. It doesn’t have to be your biological father who shows up to give you the love and guidance you’ve been longing for. Whether through extended family, community involvement, teachers, coaches, or mentors, you can find decent men out there to be part of your life. Keep an eye out for the ones who are present, treat you and others with kindness and respect, follow through on their commitments, and aren’t afraid to tell you they love you.

If you’re feeling like a fatherless child and aren’t sure what to do, you can always turn to the most famous father figure of all time for a bit of support and comfort. If you want to know more about God’s role as our Heavenly Father, please reach out to one of our Hope Coaches. We’re always here to listen without judgment, and we’d love to connect you with more resources to help you find good male role models.

After childhood abandonment, it’s hard to know how to have good relationships. If you feel abandoned by your father, find out how to build new relationships.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
Keep Reading
Start Your Hope Journey Now!
Step 1:  Choose a topic
Step 2: Explore our resources
Step 3: Chat with a hope coach

More Like This

Subscribe Now

We will not share your information and we will only send you stuff that matters!
Quick Links

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Tired of The Problem?  Try the Solution.

Privacy Policy / Terms of Use
© 2024 TheHopeLine, Inc. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-1198064
© 2021 core.oxyninja.com. Powered by OxyNinja Core