How Can Fatherless Children Survive the Odds?

Updated on April 30, 2018
MsDora profile image

MsDora—parent, grandparent, Christian counselor—offers suggestions on raising confident, conscientious, responsible, productive children.

We cannot overemphasize the significance of fathers and the havoc that their absence can cause in the lives of their children. However, it seems only fair that alongside the reports that seem to predict prison and hell for the fatherless, we offer hope to those who are determined to survive the odds.


My father died soon after I was born and there never was a father figure in my home. Dozens of my cousins knew who their fathers were, but never benefited from their presence. Most of us experienced extreme poverty in our early years and some succumbed to teen sex and pregnancies. Yet, most of us progressed socially and academically, avoided criminal activity and have become productive citizens and responsible parents.

From our experiences and outcomes, five assets surface which helped us survive the pitfalls in the table below. They are listed after the table and can help prevent single mothers and fatherless children from surrendering to despair.

General Profile of Fatherless Children

Area of Study
Reports from 2000-2012
a) Poverty
Four times more likely to be poor.
b) Drug and Alcohol Abuse
At a dramatically greater risk.
c) Physical and Emotional Health
Show higher levels of aggressive behavior.
d) Educational Achievement
More likely to be truant from school, less likely to attain academic and professional qualifications.
e) Crime
Less fathers in neighborhood; increase in acts of teen violence.
f) Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy
More likely to report being sexually active.
Extracted from "The Consequences of Fatherlessness" at National Center for Fathering (

1) Community

At whatever age the father disappears, a community is the best resource for the child’s well-being. Grandmothers, aunts, and other female nurtures cannot compensate for the male influence; but even in its absence, they can empower the child’s self-worth and sense of direction. Male support from grandfathers, stepfathers, teachers, and uncles can focus on teaching skills and model positive behaviors. Conversation can intentionally highlight positives in the past and present rather than the deprivations caused by the absence of fathers.

Former US President Barack Obama writes in Dreams from My Father, “As a child, I knew him [my father] only through the stories my mother and grandparents told.” When his grandfather told him about the time his father sang at an International Music Festival, he ended the story with, “Now there’s something you can learn from your dad . . . Confidence. The secret to a man’s success.”

Mentioning just one good quality in the missing father will add to the child's sense of pride. Instead of underscoring that his father is no-good, nourish the child's sense of worth and help change his profile from at risk to promising.

2) Acceptance

At age five, Drexel Deal’s father abandoned his family, then returned and tried to kill them. Angry and rebellious, Deal joined a violent gang. After losing his sight in a gang fight, he looked inward and determined to seek after a better life. In his book, The Fight of My Life Is Wrapped Up in My Father he interviewed gang leaders and other criminals and determined that violence was not necessary.

Such destructive behavior could be avoided by accepting that the situation is what it is. Accept that there will be more challenges, struggles, pains and setbacks. Decide that the struggle to overcome will lead upward not downward, because the fight to get revenge is no easier than the fight to resist the urge.


In Deal’s book, Shelton ‘Apples’ Burrows reformed gang leader states, “Before I was born my father disowned me. You know those ones who get the females pregnant, and then say the baby is not theirs? He rejected me, told my mother that I am not his child, so I never had a relationship with my father.”

Hopefully, many fatherless children will understand and accept from Burrows' experience that their problem is not unique, and that if overcoming is possible for one, it is possible for others.

3) Purpose

Education is a prerequisite for surviving the odds, but it is more likely that purpose will inspire desire for education, rather than the other way around. Without a sense of purpose, fatherless children can easily get accustomed to the merry-go-round which their history built for them. Sometimes, because they do not see examples of individuals operating in their area of giftedness, they overlook their capabilities.

On the other hand, if they receive help in discovering their strengths and mentoring guidance in maximizing those strengths, they may be better able to choose appropriate academic paths to successful careers.

They need mentors who will steer them into associations which provide academic and vocational training, leading to legitimate economic opportunities.

4) Faith


Father to the fatherless . . . this is God. (Psalm 68:5)

Commenting on this Bible verse, Barnes Notes proposes, “Nothing suggests more strikingly a state of helplessness and dependence than the condition of orphan children . . . Nothing, therefore, conveys a more affecting description of the character of God . . . than to say that he will take the place of the parent.”

This verse does not excuse the fatherless child from contributing to his well-being or his community from offering its support. It promises that God’s parental attributes—love, nurture, guidance, protection, provision and all others are available to be dispensed in cooperation with human effort. In the same way that children expect help from their earthly parents, children without fathers can trust God to stand in the gap.

Fatherless children who develop faith in God and look to Him to fulfill His promises will find many reasons to give Him credit.

5) Forgiveness


My childhood dream was for children with an active father in their lives. At first, it was so, but when my son’s father did not show up for his wedding, I wished that my son never knew him. But how would my son and I benefit from resenting his father? True, the wedding event was a significant moment, but it was still only one moment of an entire lifetime.

Better to be grateful for the positives which fathers contribute in whatever measure, rather than identify them by their pointless acts. Their absences create emotional hurdles, which do not have to become permanent burdens on their children’s progress. The energy spent in keeping grudges can be better spent in forgiving and moving forward.

NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal was in his forties when he spoke to his father for the first time. His father had spent time incarcerated on drug charges. Shaq told him, "I don’t hate you. I had a good life.”

Forgiveness unties the child from the link to his father's offenses and frees him to choose his own directions. It frees him to embrace his own blessings, including forgiveness for his own mistakes.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Dora Weithers


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      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks,Tamarajo. "It is not hopeless." So glad that God brought you through.

      • Tamarajo profile image

        Tamarajo 2 weeks ago

        Hi Dora,

        A well needed to be addressed topic. It is one I am well familiar with. I grew up from a very young age in a divorced home that presented a very incomplete father experience. I lived my late teen and early adult years as the statistics predicted I would. But God...! It was in discovering God the Father that my image and experience became complete, the healing began, and my life began to change.

        You are right Dora. It is not hopeless!

        I hope that your article also inspires fathers to discover and embrace how truly valuable and important they are in the lives of their families.

        Beautifully presented

        God bless!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Bill. Hoping with you, that those who need it will read. Even those who think they don't need it can share.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Devika. Being fatherless myself, and having survived the odds, I believe that we need to share more hope to fatherless.

      • lifegate profile image

        William Kovacic 2 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

        Some powerful thoughts, Dora. They would literally change lives if they were practiced. I hope many will read and consider their part in the healing process.

      • profile image

        DDE 3 weeks ago

        It is sad for fatherless children to not be in contact with their gathers and verse vice. The bond is none and forgiveness is difficult. You shared a valuable hub.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Yves. We have to do our best with the sad situation that it is, and yes, forgiveness is a great asset. I appreciate the affirmation.

      • savvydating profile image

        Yves 3 weeks ago

        Forgiveness is key, but it takes a long time to get there. Boys so badly need a male influence and it makes me sad that so many fathers are absent. However, you've provided some real solutions. Thank you for that, Ms.Dora

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Jackie. I wonder if reading through this article would help your friend. So sorry that she is having such a hard time. She is blessed to have your friendship.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 3 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

        I know someone very dear to me Dora that I was just talking about today concerning this. She has a father but he did not choose to be a part of her life and that has to be so very sad and hard to understand. I know she suffers from depression and the truth is her mom would win no best mom awards so that makes it bad too.

        Just breaks our hearts for those we just cannot take the burden from, doesn't it? But wish we could help them find the One who can.

        My heart feels a great happiness to know you did have that One and made it through what may have been a bad experience. You are a true inspiration to us all.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Ann, thanks for your kind words. I do feel that parading some of the successful fatherless children will go a long way in helping the situation.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 3 weeks ago from SW England

        Superb, Dora! Every family and community needs someone like you to dispense such wisdom. It is full of common sense and hope.


      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Frank. With so many negative expectations for the fatherless, faith and purpose are a absolutely necessary to start the uphill climb.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Cynthia. So happy when my readers approve.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 3 weeks ago from Shelton

        you choose a topic that is so common place nowadays and then you suggest faith, purpose.. those two words alone just helps anyone move forward... have a purpose and have faith just love those words.. awesome MsDora... and thank you for sharing your wisdom

      • techygran profile image

        Cynthia 3 weeks ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

        Sterling words of wisdom-- just what I expected!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Sean. I look forward to meeting my father and never having to separate from each other.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Ron, so glad you decided to forgive your absent father. Unforgiveness would have burdened you and crippled you from doing all the good that you do. Thanks for your input.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Flourish, you raise a very good point. Some fathers are present only physically, not emotionally. They also need to learn their responsibility.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Linda. My blessing was that my community spoke well of my father. I couldn't love him any more if I knew him, thanks to them.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Peg, thanks for sharing. Your cousin is a good example of the longing children for their fathers, regardless of who the fathers are. The attachment is ingrown.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Louise, thanks for sharing. You are blessed indeed to have grown up with the love of an earthly father, plus the greater love of the Heavenly.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Natalie. We really should applaud those fathers who take care of their children. They deserve some appreciation.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Mary. Many fathers stand and their post and perform well. It is a challenge to increase that number; some men seem not to care.

      • Sean Dragon profile image

        Ioannis Arvanitis 3 weeks ago from Greece, Almyros

        I really admire the way you can fill your writings with the love of your noble heart, dear Sister.

        Thank you for this. I am sure that your father is proud of you seeing you from up there standing beside your other Father.

        Much Love Sister.


      • RonElFran profile image

        Ronald E Franklin 3 weeks ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

        I really identify with the need of forgiving the father who was not there. When I reached adulthood I began to understand some of what was lacking in my life because my father was never there. But I had to make the decision to forgive him in order to be free to overcome the obstacles his absence had put in my way. Otherwise that lack would have become my excuse for failure.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

        I’m sorry about your father and that your son’s father chose to skip such a significant family event. You end on such a positive note of forgiveness and reconciliation. Many fathers who are physically present are unfortunately not emotionally present. I am very thankful that my husband has been a good father to our daughter.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        You've included some great information and advice in this article, Dora. I'm sorry that you didn't know your father.

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 3 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

        This important topic is the subject of much discussion these days. I'm glad to read your points here and the quotes from those who suffered in fatherless homes. We can never know the full impact of that loss of role model, example and nurturing parent. I'm sorry to hear that your son's father was absent at such an important event in his life, also, that you lost your own father so young.

        The issue really came home to me when I talked to my cousin a few years my senior whose father was absent all her life. She confessed to having taken my dad's photo with her to school and telling her peers that it was her father. I never realized the impact it had on her, spanning decades, even as an adult. She also said she resented her mother (my mom's sister) for not letting her communicate with him during her childhood. He was an alcoholic and an abusive husband.

        Thanks for this insight into a serious subject that has such an impact on many.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 3 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        I can only imagine what it's like to live in a fatherless home. I'm very sorry to hear about your father. I'm so blessed that I still have my lovely Father in my life, but this article will touch so many people and relate to so many.

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 3 weeks ago from Chicago, IL

        This is a fabulous article. It's a mix of research and personal experience that definitely makes a statement. I have several male friends who have made a point of being tbere for a couple of female friends trying to raise children without the father. I think it makes a big difference when fatherless children have a male role model on their lives. Thanks for a very thought provoking article.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 3 weeks ago from Brazil

        You've touched on many positive ways of coping without a father in the life of a child. So many times, the man is spoken of negatively and this, in my opinion, makes the situation worse. Community, extended family, and kind words help fill a void. I wonder how many men underestimate their importance in a child's life.

        Another thought-provoking article.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Bill, thanks for your input. Love is essential in every aspect of life, especially from adults in adult-child relationships. Thanks for underscoring that.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Eric. Happy that your life turned out well. You have become a good fathering model. Kudos to men like Emmet Dijon who intentionally empower fatherless kids by mentoring. Thanks for sharing this story!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Mary. Even fatherless girls can do very well with good community support. Great to belong to a nurturing community.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 3 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks, Mike. Your story proves that fatherless children can become responsible fathers. So glad, that it turned out that way for your dad.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        It takes a strong woman to raise a fatherless you mentioned, it also takes a community to aid in that parenting...great article, Dora...above all, it seems to me, it takes love.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Wonderful article. After my dad left my mom always got a mentor in my life. My Godfather was the best. When I was quite young Emmet Dijon was a wonderful Cajun black man who took me under his wing. He was a true man's man. Marine to the core. There were so many great figures. And my dad and I stayed in touch throughout and were best friends at the time of his death. Wow was I blessed. Thank you for the reminder that all do not have it so well.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 3 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        Am sad that your father died early. My father died when I was 18 and my youngest sister was only 3 then and had no chance to really experience what it is to have a father. Thank God she has done very well. Just like your family, we have an extended family and that is where support comes from. Nowadays, many fathers have to find work abroad to support their families so many are absent.

      • Readmikenow profile image

        Readmikenow 3 weeks ago

        Very nice article. Due to a tragic set of circumstances, my father became an orphan at the age of five. I can remember him telling me he didn't want me to experience life without a father. He would do anything to keep me from being put in an orphanage. So, I really believe your article has a lot of merit. Enjoyed reading it.


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