9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

The absence of the absent father and the presence of the present mother, seen from a childĀ“s perspective

In this paper we discuss some findings from a research project on children in families where there is none or little contact between the father and the children . Research on children of divorce has shown that these children are more exposed to develop problems related to for instance health and school-adjustment. The risk factors are reduced, however, according to the level of conflict between the parents and the amount of parental involvement in the daily lives of the children. Children with an absent parent are consequently in a vulnerable situation. In most cases, by far, it is the father who is absent.
The project-approach is explorative and qualitative, generating data from individual, "life-form" interviews with mothers and children from 8 families. Our primary interest in the project is to gain knowledge about how this situation is experienced by the children.
The discussion in this paper will concentrate on (1) how the relationships between the children and the mother and father respectively are constructed, (2) how their roles are negotiated, and (3) how the children construct paternal images. As the title indicates we find that the absent father leaves a void which "content" is a matter of concern for the mothers. The relationship between the mother and the child is very close and intimate in the particular families, which might be regarded as a compensation for the paternal void. Hence the children construct alternative paternal images to their own fathers.