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.
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