How Boomerang Fathers Effect Depression Symptoms In Teens

boomerang 25796 1280 Having supportive parents who are constantly present in a child’s life is obviously the ideal situation for any child. However, sometimes life gets in the way and parents may not see their children as much as they would like. A recent study published in the National Council on Family Relations, Journal of Marriage and Family, discusses the lasting impact of absent or semi-absent fathers on depression symptoms in teens.

The “boomerang” father: Stability staves off depression symptoms in teens

This study found that the so called “boomerang father”, or a father who cycles in and out of their child’s life, provides more stability in a child’s life than an absent father. Teens in the study who had boomerang fathers were less likely to experience the same intensity of depression symptoms in teens than those who had absent fathers, as well.
In previous studies, instability in the home has shown to increase the risk of developing symptoms of depression. However, in this study even fathers who come in and out of a teen’s life can provide enough stability to stave off symptoms of depression in teen girls.

What were other findings of this study?

Researchers looked at the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youthand the Young Adult files which surveyed approximately four thousand adolescents who had turned 18 by 2010 along with more than 3,300 mothers. Nearly ⅓ of the girls sampled had experienced instability with their fathers. Some had never lived with their father or had experienced boomerang fathering.
The findings included:

  • There was not a large amount of difference between symptoms of depression in girls who had lived with their father since birth until the age of 18 and those who had experienced boomerang fathering.
  • Those who had experienced boomerang fathers had much less symptoms of depression than girls who had completely absent fathers.
  • Boomerang fathering had very little effect on teen boys.


What does this mean?

So what should we take out of this study? The researchers of this study suggested that instability within families may be more fluid than many people once thought. During times of family turmoil, an increase in family support may help prevent mental health struggles like depression from occurring in the first place.

Trails Carolina can help

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for struggling teens, ages 10-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, and other behavioral challenges.
For more information  about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303 today.

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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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