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The cost of absentee fatherhood on your child’s development

Readers Lounge By Brian Otieno
The roles of parents in the family unit go beyond the 'provider' role of the father and the 'care-giver' role of the mother (Shutterstock)

Raising a child is a 24-hour job. For single parents though, it can be an arduous task demanding twice the effort.

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In recent times, there appears to be an upward surge in the number of single parents, owing to a number of factors, one of which is neglect and abandonment.

Single mothers in Kenya have for a long time borne the brunt of ridicule from an unforgiving misogynistic society that has seemed too eager to judge.

The Kenyan society, for instance, upholds marriage as a sacred institution, pegged on religious and cultural beliefs. And while single parenthood is somewhat common, it still remains abominable, more so if occasioned by other reasons beside the death of a spouse.

In the traditional African set-up, the father is considered head of the family and all the responsibility of providing for the family are vested on him. But times have changed and the roles are increasingly being shared by both man and woman.

The family unit in the African context is well-defined with clear-cut roles. These roles, however, go beyond the 'provider' role of the father and the 'care-giver' role of the mother.

Several studies have concluded that children emulate their parents. It is on this premise that the Swahili people of East Africa coined the phrase: Mtoto umleavyo, ndivyo akuavyo, which loosely translates to "a child will grow up to be what they were raised to be".

The phrase underscores the critical role played by a parent in their child's upbringing. Fathers, for instance, play a significant part in determining the kind of adult a child will grow up to be, socially and emotionally.

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While single parenthood is somewhat common, it remains abominable, more so if occasioned by other reasons beside the death of a spouse (Shutterstock)

According to psychologist Emmanuel Masheti, a father-figure is necessary in an ideal family set-up and determine their children's character.

"Young girls depend on their fathers for security and emotional support. If the father is loving and gentle, the daughter will, most likely, look for those qualities in choosing a partner," he says.

He adds, "Boys will seek approval from their fathers from a very young age. If a father is caring and treats people with respect, the young boy will grow up much the same. When a father is absent, they will look to other male figures on how to behave."

Masheti believes children with present and supportive fathers are more likely to be mentally and emotionally stable.

"Affectionate fathers positively affect a child's cognitive and social development, hence instilling an overall sense of well-being and self-confidence," he adds, "the patterns a father sets in his relationship with his child dictates their child's relationship with others."

Jeff Dindi, who runs the YouTube channel 'Present Fatherhood', hopes to inspire young fathers like himself to be present in their children's lives and believes that his presence would help mould his children into respectable adults.

"The presence of a father is vital. Children learn by emulating others and they cannot emulate someone who is absent," says Jeff.

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Jeff also believes that through setting an example for his children, he can help break societal prejudices and make them more alive to the realities of the ever-changing world.

"I do house chores that are traditionally tasked to women. As they watch, they grow up acknowledging that these roles can be shared, hence they learn to respect women which, in the long run, helps promote gender equality," he adds.

While many would wish to raise children in complete family set-ups, many find themselves without that option. Even so, it is important that they have a father figure with desirable qualities that can be emulated, lest they end up in the wrong company.?

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