Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Disrupted Relationships: Adult Daughters and Father Absence

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Disrupted Relationships: Adult Daughters and Father Absence

Article excerpt


Single parent families are among the fastest growing family types in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS) 2003a). These families are typically headed by women; hence there is an increase in the number of children and adolescents who are growing up in father absent homes (ABS 2003a).The growing number of single parent families indicates an increase in the number of children experiencing parental breakdown (ABS 2004). In Australia in 2003, 50% of divorces involved families with predominately young children, and just under 50,000 children were affected (ABS 2003b). Following parental relationship breakdown variable contact between the non-custodial parent (usually the father) and the child occurs. According to the ABS (2000), in 1997 of 978,000 children living in single parent homes, 36% had direct contact with their absent parent only once annually or less and 42% had at least fortnightly contact which usually declined with age.

Health workers have long recognised the importance of close and supportive family structures and their powerful influence on healthy growth and development. So too is there recognition that family adversity can impact all individuals both positively and/or negatively. Children are greatly affected by divorce and family breakdown. The stressors that are often associated with family breakdown, such as parental emotional turmoil, new living arrangements and separation from one parent, all contribute to the stress and emotional turbulence that is frequently felt by children (Wong et al. 2002). Children often feel confused, frightened, abandoned, angry, hurt, and lonely, and may blame themselves for their parent's separation. These emotions can influence both the physical and psychological wellbeing of children (Wong et al. 2002). Further, previous research has posited that children of single parent families demonstrate greater maladaptive behaviour and have poorer academic achievement compared with children and adolescents from dyadic families (Govind & Stein 2004; Hetherington et al. 1998). Additionally, it has been reported that the female children of father absent families (children and adolescents whose fathers do not reside in the family home) have higher rates of teenage pregnancy and earlier sexual activity than father present girls and may be more vulnerable to peer influences that can lead to adverse behavioural choices (Ellis et al. 2003; Farrell & White 1998). However, it must also be acknowledged that family breakdown and separation between a child and parent may be positive, if factors such as violence and abuse were present prior to the parental separation.

Nurses are at the front line of family support and in order to provide effective care for children, young people and families it is important to have understanding of the lived experience of those people who are directly affected by family breakdown. Yet, despite the existence of a number of studies that explore various aspects of children's outcomes in the context of father absence, little is known about the experiential aspects of father absence from the perspective of young people themselves. This study sought to explore the perspective of women that experienced father absence due to breakdown of the parental relationship during their childhood and/or adolescent years.


This paper reports part of a larger study that aimed to develop deep understandings into the meanings and experiences of father-daughter relationships, from the perspectives of a group of young women who experienced father absence due to the breakdown of their parental relationships during their childhood and/or adolescence. This paper explores the perceptions and experiences of a group of adult daughters about their relationships with their absent fathers from the time of the separation (which occurred in their childhoods/adolescence) to the present time.



Recruitment of participants was achieved through word of mouth, a media release in local papers and poster advertisement in which women meeting the inclusion criteria were invited to participate in this study. …

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