1. People & Relationships
Cathy Meyer

What Happens to Boys When Fathers Don't Care?

By January 16, 2013

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A few weeks ago my son came into my office, "Mom, let me show you a video. I think of Dad every time I hear it." He pulled up Youtube and Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know. Have you ever listened to the lyrics?

"But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

Now you're just somebody that I used to know
Now you're just somebody that I used to know"

Ouch!! I'm a mother, I know how I feel about my ex's apparent disregard for our children's feelings and needs. I will never "walk a mile" in my son's shoes, never be able to comprehend the pain that comes with parental abandonment. I've been a witness to the suffering both of my sons have taken on due to their father's absence from their life. I wish, with all my heart that it was me who was doing the suffering instead of them.

They, in my opinion are too good to have ever been the recipients of such blatant dismissal. But aren't all boys? Boys who will grow to one day be daddies themselves have a right to daddies who set a positive example of how to father. Many, like my boys weren't taught by their fathers that they were worthy of love and concern. And it is important to understand, as I do from first-hand experience, that fathers who don't care do extreme harm to boys.

What happens to boys who don't get enough attention, time, acceptance, encouragement, tenderness, discipline, stability, security, guidance, love or wisdom from a father?

  • They are two to three times as likely to seriously consider suicide.
  • They are more likely to have mental health issues including anxiety, aggression, withdrawal, inattention, peer popularity, and impulse control and mood disorders.
  • They have a higher incidence of major depressive episodes.
  • They have problems establishing love relationships with girls.
  • Their grades and school performance suffers putting them at risk of educational deficits.
  • They are 10 times more likely to use drugs and 32 times more likely to run away from home.
  • They have a higher risk of ending up in juvenile dentition or prison.

Fathers who find themselves contemplating leaving their children need to stop and think. Fathers may feel confusion, they may feel they can't deal with the constant reminders of what they lost due to divorce but they must never put their own discomfort before the needs of their sons. The simple fact is, boys need fathers and fathers need their boys.

Resources for Fathers:

A Father's Rights and Responsibilities During and After Divorce

How to Restore Your Relationship With Your Child

Have Your Children Been Alienated or Did You Behave Badly?



January 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm
(1) Lisa says:

I cannot imagine ever not being involved in my kids’ life. But my ex husband does not see his girls but a few times a year. My 14 year old doesn’t even want to talk with him anymore and he doesn’t understand why. My 11 year old still wants to be involved with him and asks constantly if he has called but he doesn’t. It breaks my heart because one has anger and doesn’t want to be a part of his life and the other wants to and he doesn’t bother. These are 2 young girls that will never know a father’s love, being “daddy’s girl”, feeling that protection and guidance that girls come to understand from their father. Their grandfather lives with us and he has been more of a father figure than their father. It’s sad. I just can’t come to understand how you not be involved in your children’s lives.

January 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm
(2) Beverly says:

Ever thought that it is kind of your responsibility as their mother to help them get their needs met with their absent father. Which means, maybe you should be the “adult” and pick up the phone to their father and hand it over to your daughters AND also, encourage them to use the phone to call him too. The phone works more than one way. Also, therapy options are good too when you are talking about alienation of a parent. How much do you “bad talk” your ex? That adds in it too. It is hard for fathers (and mothers) who are not the primary caregiver when there is a lot of that going on. Be honest with yourself. How much do you encourage it?

It disturbs me that you can place all the blame on someone you used to love and act like a victim in this way. I am sure your daughters learned from you. Help them get over it, act with love and kindness. Helping your daughters will help you in the future.

February 1, 2013 at 8:57 am
(3) Nancy says:


You sure are assuming a great deal about poor Lisa. You don’t know that she isn’t already doing all or at least some of what you mention. Your words were really harsh and unfeeling. Lisa is clearly voicing a pain that would be felt by even the most perfect and proactive divorced mother with an ex that is so self-centered. Way to be supportive.


I feel your pain. I have my kids in therapy, I do my best not to bad mouth my soon to be ex, and I encourage my kids to call him all the time. But, the truth is that the man is very self-absorbed and immature. He is busy setting up his new family. and has little to no time for the family he has discarded. There is no excusing it and there is no more that I can do to keep my children from that pain–and as a mother there is nothing I want more.

Know that by being the best and healthiest mother you can be for them, will give them the best opportunity to grow and flourish. Many great people have come from “broken” homes and many sad and useless people have been the product of “healthy and whole” families. You cannot feel your children’s pain for them nor take it away. Allow them to have it and they will be the stronger for it.

I wish you peace within and encourage you to continue to share your feelings despite fools suffered.

March 6, 2013 at 9:15 am
(4) Miles says:

My dad is a troll.
I fit all the stereotypes to a tee.
Have been doing growth work for about 10 years and just made a breakthrough in “fear” as my core issue. I’m still in an uncomfortable part of that cleansing but aware that the disgust I hold for the rest of my family is only an appetizer to the feelings I have for my father.
Just trying to work through them now. Fear is the pervasive emotion and it bowled me over the other day. I’m grateful for the clear awareness but the flood of new emotions and insights is unpleasant and overwhelming.
Life is hard and this world sucks for most or all of us. Having a d-bag for a father is just another special treat that makes it all the more unbearable. Thankfully I know how to deal with my emotions and that is what I will do but if you’re listening, don’t have kids until you’re ready. Otherwise you’re going to have people out there that want you dead.

April 30, 2013 at 11:58 am
(5) Corinna says:

My ex husband and I had a tumultuous relationship and my son was very affected. He was out of his life for 10 months and my son had a lot of difficulty coping with that. My ex husband will not even speak to me to co parent our child and uses his girlfriend as a 3rd party for communication, I only share the bare minimum. My ex husband has told me many times in the past that if I don’t let him do what he wants he will sign over rights to my son. Currently he sees my son 1x per week and an occasional visit to relatives. My son needs more of a role model and I sympathize with anyone who has a child with limited parent involvement

June 7, 2013 at 10:48 pm
(6) guest says:

@ Beverly

I think you’re a mean person and you know it.

My 15 year old son is deeply hurt that his father isn’t the ‘father’ he needs and wants. My son doesn’t even want to talk to nor visit his father much anymore and I don’t blame him. Not with the way he’s been treated by his father and step mother. His father, errr I mean ‘sperm donor’ isn’t capable of even slightly understanding the damage he’s caused his own son in all of 15 years. That ‘pathway’ doesn’t exist in his fathers’ brain. He doesn’t care about my son. All he cares about is getting at me.

So ya there’s a lot of deadbeat arseclowns out there and it isn’t always the fault of the childs’ mother for not encouraging the father and child to have a relationship.

Also, there isn’t always the right kind of help in every area of the world for these poor boys.

July 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm
(7) Robert says:

•They have problems establishing love relationships with girls.
•Their grades and school performance suffers putting them at risk of educational deficits.

This istrue since I’ve dealt with these issues throught my life. I was able to stay out of trouble, thanks to mom. I graduated from college with a BA degree. But, I’m a shorter man than most and my confidence is below standards. My dad never taught me to swim or ride a bike, so my confidence is off and on. I’m good physical shape. I just wished women weren’t so damn picky when comes to choosing a man. Women still have looks and money is their system as a requirement. So, guys who don’t stack up against the Jones’s type really lose! It’s disgusting and women who don’t understand are evil! “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra — I love that song!

November 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm
(8) Peter says:

My dad was a control freak and tried hurting my mother by constantly hiding us from her. Later on, my dad took us to another country to which he found another woman whom he wanted to marry but wanted to give my brother and I back to my mom (she refused, I wouldn’t blame her). My aunt’s (from my dad’s side) husband really hated me for no apparent reason whatsoever so he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about me. Later on my mom’s boyfriend (a psychotic drunkard) whom was later chased out of the house by my brother, for complaining like a little b#tch and doing little for the household, so yeah, makes alot of sense. Not one role model for me to look up to and the majority of the points stated actually point to me. Three damn useless role models, I think that they have given me an idea of which directions not to head. (All three of them had really poor social skills) So I had to become sociable (All three of them complain like bitches) so I try my best not to complain (All three of them treat women like dirt, one cheated on his wife) so I try not to hurt them (though the majority of the ones I meet really deserve to be treated like that). Sad to say I’ve become quite a perfectionist, but really, with no guidance from my “fathers”, I find it quite sad that God actually gave these people wives when they don’t know how to be dads. So sad

February 24, 2014 at 5:00 pm
(9) vicki says:

my little boy is 13 months now and his “dad” has messed him around and abandoned him again. he first walked out when my son was 3 weeks old, he saw him every saturday but it was more because he had to and to find opportunities to wind me up and manipulate me than it was because he wanted to have him and be a proper “daddy”. anyway after 3 months of being a total sh*tand never doing anything for my son i had to cut contact with him, i had pnd and needed to get better quickly for my child because lets face it i was all he had parent wise, and my ex was stopping me from getting better with all his crap. so i cut him out of our lives and he didnt try to fight me on it, i got better and it was all good. 3/4 months later ex came crawling back,begging to be part of sons life, claiming he was so sorry and a changed man and that all he wanted to do was to be our lads daddy and to always be there for him etc….initially i told him in very strong words to stay away coz i was so scared of him letting my son down again especially after we had gotten ourselves sorted and happy, BUT i looked at my son a few days later nd decided that i owed it to my son to give ex a chance to be a dad, and if it went wrong at least id b able to lookmy son in the eye when hes older and say i tried….one month later the ex was making up lies about someone being seriously ill in hospital and therefore he had to cut short a visit with son, then around christmas time said the guy had died and that he couldnt visit son because he couldnt get over because of what had apparently happened…i found out in january that it was all lies..i called him out on it and hes blanked me since…no txts or phone calls to see how son it or nothing

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