What Is Father Hunger & How To Address It

Whether you grew up without your father in your life, lost him after an illness or accident, or are isolated from him after a divorce, father hunger can feel overwhelming – and it may put you at risk for harmful behavior. TheHopeLine helps many people face father hunger and regain a sense of connection to people important to them.

What is Father Hunger?

Father hunger refers to the emotional distress people experience throughout their lives due to actual or emotional father absence (also called father deficit). According to the Kentucky School of Alcohol and Drug Studies, father hunger is, “A lack of sufficient fathering due to death, emotional unavailability or desertion and the child’s yearning for this fathering, often throughout their life span.”

It’s important to know that father hunger can affect children of any age and any gender, at any time. It can happen between biological fathers and children, or you could yearn for a connection with your stepfather or adopted father. No matter your situation, you should not feel ashamed that you yearn for the presence of your father, or for someone who can give you the affection and quality time your father was unwilling or unable to give you.

Who Experiences Father Hunger?

Sometimes people ask us, “Why do I still experience father hunger, even though my dad is unkind to me or to other members in my family?” While these are complicated emotions, they are understandable. Father hunger is not about whether or not your dad made good choices. It’s rooted in a longing for relationship and connection that is a natural part of most parent-child relationships.

People experience father hunger for different reasons, but it most often happens when:

  • You are fatherless and grieve the loss of your father.
  • You feel abandoned (either by your father’s choice or by court-ordered terms of a divorce and separation).
  • You live with an abusive father.
  • Your father has an addiction that isolates him from relationships.

If your father is still living, and if he is legally permitted to see or contact you, it may be possible to repair, rebuild, or restore a relationship with him. If that’s not possible, you can still develop healthy relationships with people who can give you guidance and support.

Father Hunger Help: Caring for Your Deeper Needs

It’s important not to let father hunger go unaddressed because it can lead to choices and behaviors that put your safety and well-being at risk, including:

  • Addictive behaviors such as cutting/self harm, substance abuse, or eating disorders
  • Surrounding yourself with toxic or abusive friends and/or romantic relationships
  • Having sex before you want to, when you don’t feel ready, or being at increased risk for sexual assault
  • Low self-esteem and hating yourself

If you experience father hunger, there is always hope. But it is important to reach out to someone who can help understand your deeper needs and face your feelings of longing without resorting to harmful behavior.

TheHopeLine offers free and confidential support to help you understand and overcome father hunger. Our mentors are available via live chat, or you can request an email. You can rebuild meaningful connections with people you love, starting today.

Want to learn more about father hunger? Search our library of ebooks, podcasts, and more for answers to questions like:

  • Should I talk to my father if he’s abusive?
  • How do I practice self-care when I feel abandoned?
  • How do I deal with trust issues in relationships?

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