Friday, December 28, 2012

Janice Woods - Effects on Kids Linger Long After Father’s Death

I am living proof of this research finding, having lost my father to a heart attack when I was 13 years old. The researcher here, Mary Shenk, Ph.D., found that older children and adolescents (ages 11 and 15) showed the largest decrease in later success. Those who had the best outcomes were the boys who were younger than 5 and older than 20.

[By the way, I highly recommend the book pictured above, Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads, by Neil Chethik.]

In my life, my first attempt at college was failure due to drugs and drinking - didn't even make it through the first quarter. In the following months I hit a serious bottom before getting clean and trying to rebuild my life. Still, I made poor choices that left me in low-paying jobs for much of my 20s. In my late 20s and early thirties things shifted for the better (with the help of therapy and Buddhism), but then I left Seattle to move to Tucson and was back to crappy pay in a town with few employment options.

Everything shifted again when I reached a point of near-emotional shutdown in a bad relationship and a terrible job (a job with way more responsibility than my pay would indicate and which in other cities would have paid quite well). I was in therapy again at that point, and it helped me clarify my life (thanks Maude!).

I decided that any work I do in the future must be of service to others.

I became a personal trainer, then last year I became a certified clinical counselor, as well as writing and editing for other people who also work in the health, psychology, or personal growth realms. I do all three of these jobs now, and although I will never get rich, I have never been happier.

So I am an example of what this research shows, AND I am also proof that these things are not destiny - they can be worked through and overcome.

Effects on Kids Linger Long After Father’s Death

By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 28, 2012

A father’s death can have long-term effects on a child’s later success in life and can be particularly harmful if the father passes away during a child’s late childhood or early adolescence, according to new research.

Recognizing the impact that a father’s death can have on adolescents could lead to improved counseling and assistance programs, especially for needy families in the developing world, said Mary Shenk, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri.

“Certain negative effects of a father’s death can’t be compensated for by the mother or other relatives,” she said.

“The loss of a father can result in lower adult living standards for the bereaved children. Not only is a child emotionally affected, but the lack of a father’s earning power can cause children to get married younger or drop out of school in order to work.”

“Earlier studies have focused on how the absence or death of a father affects children in the United States and other wealthier parts of the world,” Shenk said. “Our study looked at the developing world where father death is much more common.”

For her study, Shenk interviewed 403 older men and women of Bangalore, India, about their families and examined the effects of death on their 1,112 children.

The death of the father before a child reached 25 years old correlated with lower educational achievement, younger ages at marriage and smaller income later in life, the researcher reports.

However, the effects were significantly smaller for children who lost their fathers when they were younger than 5 years old or older than 20.

Older children and adolescents between 11 and 15 years of age showed the largest decrease in later success.

“For young children who lose their fathers, other factors can take over to compensate,” Shenk said. “Infants and young children often don’t remember their lost fathers, and in many cases another family member may step in to care for them.

“Also, since young children are not yet in school, their educations don’t suffer as much.”

Source: University of Missouri

Boy and mother at a gravesite photo by shutterstock.

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