Why Are There So Many Absent Fathers?

Fatherlessness is a growing problem in our society. This trend begs the unfortunate question: why are there so many absent fathers?

In the United States alone, 19.5 million children live without an adoptive, step, or biological father in their home. And while there are many reasons for this, one thing is clear: the impact of having an absent father is devastating and has severe negative consequences on a child’s life.

In this blog post, we will explore why there are so many absent fathers, the effects it has on their son’s or daughter’s life, and discuss some potential solutions to this problem.

The number of absent fathers is on the rise.

There are many reasons for the high number of absent fathers, but some of the most common include abandonment, divorce, incarceration, and, unfortunately, death.

According to a study by The Pew Research Center, “the share of children living without their biological father has more than doubled since 1960 – from 11% to 26% in 2010.”

That’s a 236% increase. This seems unbelievable. Unfortunately, it’s true.

And while the data from Pew is a bit dated, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows no sign of this trend slowing down.

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons in more detail.


While all of these reasons are heartbreaking, abandonment might be the worst one of all with almost one-third of fatherless children (i.e. children with their father living outside of their home) having no contact with their biological father.

Reasons for abandonment range from the father (usually unmarried) not having no involvement from the beginning to an inability to cover child support to a feeling that the child would be “better off” without the father’s involvement.


Married mothers and fathers have been the core of the nuclear family for thousands of years. Unfortunately, recent trends show this is rapidly crumbling and causing 15.3 million children to live with single mothers.

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • 36.6% of marriages end in divorce.
  • 50% of children will live through their parents’ divorce.


According to data published by Fatherhood.gov, of the 800,000 men in federal and state prisons, 92% of them are fathers.

With recidivism rates at roughly 70%, there is a statistically high likelihood that a father in the prison system will spend a significant amount of time away from their kids.

The consequences of fatherlessness are devastating.

Fatherlessness has a host of negative consequences for children. Below is a laundry list of some of the more heartbreaking statistics on fatherlessness and child development:

  • Children from fatherless homes are four times more likely to live in poverty.
  • Children with absent fathers are at a significantly higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Children who grow up without a dad are twice as likely to attempt suicide.
  • Children with absent fathers make up 71% of high school dropouts.
  • Children without fathers are significantly more likely to experience sexual abuse and child abuse.
  • Children from fatherless homes are more likely to engage in early sexual activity and have a teenage pregnancy.
  • Children without a father are twice as likely to be obese and have other health issues including psychological problems.

These are just a few of the negative consequences of fatherlessness on children’s developmental outcomes and wellbeing. (Data show that adolescent health is significantly impacted by fatherlessness, putting children between the ages of 8 and 14 at special risk.)

It’s clear that the impact of this problem is far-reaching and can be devastating for children and families, and overall community health.

We need to do more to help fathers stay involved in their children’s lives.

There are many things available and things we can do to reduce the likelihood that someone becomes an absent father and help fathers stay involved in their children’s lives. Some solutions include:

  • Parenting classes
  • Marital counseling
  • Financial assistance
  • Job training and placement programs
  • Mentorship programs
  • Child care services
  • Helping improve dad mental health

Fatherhood is an important role, and we need to do more to help fathers stay involved in their children’s lives. By providing programs and services that help fathers, we can make a positive difference in the lives of children and families, and have more calm and confident dads.

What else can dads do?

It is naive to think that fatherlessness can be completely eradicated. But there are things us dads can do to help the situation.

  1. Act as a father figure for fatherless kids. Whether it’s being the “neighborhood dad” to your children’s friends or volunteering with various organizations, we can step up to help fill the void.
  2. Support each other. If we have friends or family members going through rough patches, we can be there to support them and help them to maintain their relationship with their children.
  3. Be vocal about the importance of fatherhood. One example is Dad Twitter, a group of guys with a growing presence on the social platform. We spend a fair amount of time talking about the importance of being a good and present dad.

Conclusion – Why are there so many absent fathers?

The sad fact is we live in a time when absent fathers are an epidemic.

Whether it’s through abandonment, divorce, or incarceration, millions of children do not have the benefit of living with a dad in the home. And the ripple effects are enormous and heartbreaking.

Despite this, there is still hope for fatherless children and the families that love them.

With more resources and programs to help keep fathers in the home and absent fathers stay involved with their children’s lives, we can make a difference in the lives of families everywhere.

Fatherhood is incredibly important. We need to emphasize this importance so that fathers stick around, children don’t feel abandoned, and families stay together.

Improve families and improve the world.