Parental Experiences of Men Raised Without Fathers or Father Figures: A Phenomenological Study

Lilleth Harper 1, Melanie Shaw 2 *

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 63-84

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Paternal parenting affects child development; hence, the father’s absence has a deleterious effect on the male child. The literature on parenting shows limited focus on how parenting impacts children by gender. This qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological study investigated the key question, “How does a father’s absence during childhood influence a man’s subsequent parenting of his son(s)?” An integrated theoretical framework was used to guide the study: Parenting Style Theory, Social-Cognitive Theory, and Bioecological Systems Theory. Nine Trinidadian males aged 20 to 35 years who were parenting sons were recruited to participate using snowball sampling. Data on men’s adverse childhood experiences were gathered using semi-structured interviews. Content and thematic analyses were done using DELVE software. Key findings include the influence of stereotypical cultural constructs, the church’s critical role in addressing childhood trauma, the transmission of father absence across generations, and the relationship between neurodevelopment and adverse childhood experiences. Implications of these findings will benefit child and adolescent advocacy, inform policymaking, aid professional intervention in mental health and education, and strengthen familial systems and ecclesiastical contexts. Future research should explore the lived experiences of men who crave emotional connection with their sons yet struggle with the stereotypical cultural perception of manhood.

Keywords: father absence, brain development, childhood trauma, intergenerational, the transmission of behavior.