Our parents are not only responsible for bringing us into the world, but they also play a significant role in the kinds of children — later adults — that we become. And though free will and critical thinking (and downright luck) surely affect how we fare in life, one new study suggests that there’s one experience that can radically influence our development and sense of self. That life-changing experience: rejection from a father.
A new study (via The Vancouver Sun) brings together more than 35 international research projects around the globe and involves nearly 11,000 parents and children. The resulting analysis indicates that kids who endured rejection, or perceived rejection, from a father are more susceptible to behavioural issues, substance abuse problems and unhappy personality traits.
Paternal rejection was linked to anger and hostility issues, aggression, low self-esteem, emotional instability, and a pessimistic worldview, to name a few side effects. This unhappy correlation was even more pronounced in homes in which fathers were viewed as having elevated status or prestige.
Conversely, paternal acceptance was linked to a range of positive characteristics including a sense of independence, healthy self-esteem, emotional stability and responsiveness, and a positive worldview.
Study co-author Ronald Rohner emphasized the significance of this association in a statement. Said Rohner, a professor of family studies at the University of Connecticut, “In our half-century of international research, we’ve not found any other class of experience that has as strong and consistent an effect on personality as does the experience of rejection — especially by parents in childhood.”
Doting mothers may want to avert their gaze for this next bit, however. The study also suggests that perceived rejection from a mother wasn’t as significant in terms of its effect on a child’s personality or sense of self.
Said Rohner, “In many instances, fathers are as important developmentally as mothers. In some instances, they turn out to be even more important developmentally than mothers. And what we find extraordinary is that, sometimes, a mother’s influence drops out altogether.”
For researchers and various experts on family life and childhood development, the study acts as a call to both fathers and mothers to recognize the great influence they wield over their offspring — either by their presence or their absence.
Social worker Gary Direnfeld told The Sun, “We all want well-rounded children. Well, children are a product of two parents and both should be meaningfully involved wherever possible.”