Father absence harms children with economically devastating impacts at the state and national level. The consequences of father absence on children include alcohol and substance abuse, child abuse, crime, low educational attainment, emotional and behavioral problems, physical health, poverty, early sexual activity, teen pregnancy, and suicide, reports the latest research from the 2019 National Fatherhood Initiative’s Father Facts. For every father absence there are familial, community and societal costs.
Father involvement is associated with a range of physical, emotional, and mental benefits related to child well-being. These benefits start early during the prenatal period and extend into adulthood. When fathers are absent children and families suffer. The impact of father absence is felt not only at the individual and community levels, it is also felt at the societal level.
Research on government spending on assistance programs shows the societal costs of father absence. Government assistance programs spend a large amount of their total expenditures assisting single-mother households. Several national and state specific studies, including the National Fatherhood Initiative’s The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man study, present research on the number of single-mother households that rely on government assistance programs, and the indirect health care and mental health costs caused by father absence.
The initiative states that the federal government spent about $99.8 billion dollars in assistance to father-absent families in 2006, including, Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child support enforcement, food and nutrition programs, housing programs, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP). The programs with the greatest areas of expenses for fatherless families include Medicaid ($22.6 billion), TANF ($15.0 billion), and EITC ($14.9 billion).
There are also indirect societal costs of father absence. Children of fatherless families use mental health services at higher rates than their peers from two-parent households. They have more behavioral issues at school and are more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system. Higher usage of substances, alcohol, and tobacco in addition to poorer health outcomes for children from father- absent homes increase the need for medical services as compared to their peers. Children from father absent families are also more likely to be incarcerated, as well as earn lower wages. Suicide is also linked to weak paternal bonds, including father-child conflict, and to father absence.
Researchers found several prevalent factors in father absence—including divorce, lack of work flexibility, depression, substance abuse, poor mother-father relationships (e.g. intimate partner violence and low marital satisfaction), maternal re-partnering, and restrictive maternal gatekeeping.
Father involvement is also decreased by a father’s history of substance abuse and intimate partner violence. In these cases, fathers have a limited capacity to think about the thoughts and feelings of their children. Depressed fathers are also more likely to spank their young children, and less likely to read to their children at least 3 days in a typical week.
Using data from the Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers concluded that a poor parental bond with one’s father was highly predictive of depression, a well-known predictor of alcohol abuse. The data also showed that father absence is a predictor for child engagement in criminal activity.
Family structure impacts the likelihood of victimization of children. More than 1 in 17 U.S. children experienced some form of neglect in the past year, and more than 1 in 7 experienced neglect at some point in their lives. Supervisory neglect (failure to provide adequate adult monitoring), due to parental incapacitation or parental absence, was the most common factor.
The absence of a father also has educational ramifications and is associated with lower levels of children’s educational attainment. Youth who had experienced divorce, separation, or a nonunion birth had significantly higher levels of behavioral problems in school. Family structure is a significant predictor of children’s cognitive development, emotional well-being, and health. Father absence is also associated with low birth weight, infant mortality rates, and decreased cellular function. It is also connected to a range of poor health outcomes, including higher risk for obesity and injury.
Boys raised in father-absent homes are more likely to become absent fathers.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017, 41.4% of Hispanic children lived in a father-absent home.
Latina Republic Responsible Fatherhood Initiative
Orange County, California
Latina Republic is a nonprofit organization focused on family empowerment in southern California’s Orange County. We are located in a diverse region of the United States marked by high cost of living and housing, a large Hispanic and foreign-born population, a high number of youths under 18, a language other than English spoken at home, and numerous families living without health insurance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Orange County’s total population as of July 2019 is 3,175,692, out of which 34.2% is Hispanic and 10.5% of the total population lives in poverty. Per capita income is $39,590; 22% are under 18 and 30% are foreign born persons. In Orange County, 45% of residents speak a language other than English and 8% are without health insurance.
Orange County is the 6th most populous county in the country and it is also home to the 4th largest foreign-born population. Orange County’s foreign-born population of 980,532 accounts for 2.2% of the total foreign-born population nationally and 9.1% of California’s total foreign-born population. Currently, 14.1% of the total population in the United States is foreign born. In California, this percentage is 28.2%, double the national average. In Orange County, 31.5% of the total population is foreign born.
Orange County’s foreign-born population originates from at least 149 different countries and territories.The top five countries of origin are Mexico (36.9% of Orange County’s foreign-born population), Vietnam (14.6%), Korea (7.0%), the Philippines (5.7%), and India (3.2%). Orange County’s immigrant communities come from every region of the world. Asia accounts for 45.2% of Orange County’s foreignborn population and Latin America accounts for 44.8% of Orange County’s foreign-born population. Otherwise put, 9 out of every 10 foreign-born persons who live in Orange County are from Asia or Latin America.
Through its Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, Latina Republic seeks to provide bilingual and culturally appropriate, responsible fatherhood activities, curriculum, resources and information. Our goals are to empower Orange County fathers to improve relationships with spouses, significant others, and their children and to reach self-reliance.
We believe that integrated and empowered immigrant communities build stronger families and economies.
 Source: Nock, S., & Einolf, C. (2008). The one hundred-billion-dollar man: The annual public costs of father absence. Germantown, MD: National Fatherhood Initiative. Source: De Luca, S. M., Wyman, P., & Warren, K. (2012). Latina adolescent suicide ideations and attempts: Associations with connectedness to parents, peers, and teachers. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 42(6), 672-683.
 Source: Davis, RN, Davis, M.M., Freed, G.L., & Clark, S.J. (2011). Fathers’ depression related to positive and negative parenting behaviors with 1-year-old children. Pediatrics, 127, 612-618.
 Source: Brook, D. W., Brook, J. S., Rubenstone, E., Zhang, C., & Gerochi, C. (2006). Cigarette smoking in the adolescent children of drug- abusing fathers. Pediatrics, 117, 1339-1347.
 Source: Gillette, M. T., & Gudmunson, C. G. (2014). Processes linking father absence to educational attainment among African American females. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24(2), 309-321.