"Like an Uncle But More, But Less Than a Father" -- Irish Children's Relationships With Nonresident Fathers.

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Journal Name
Journal of Family Psychology
Journal Volume
26
Journal Issue
3
Page Count
10
Year Published
2012
Author (Individual)
Nixon, Elizabeth.
Greene, Sheila.
Hogan, Diane.
Resource Type
Journal Article
Resource Format
PDF
Although previous research has highlighted the importance of the quality of nonresident father-child relationships for children's well-being, little is known about children's perspectives on what underpins feelings of closeness to their nonresident fathers. This qualitative study explored the processes that facilitate or constrain children's feelings of closeness to their nonresident fathers. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 27 children (ages 8 to 17) who had grown up in a single-mother household, where fathers were nonresident from early in the child's life. Findings revealed the fragility of children's ties with their nonresident fathers and the risk that nonresidence from the outset placed upon these relationships. Children's experiences of closeness to fathers were related to perceptions of their fathers' commitment to their relationship and his obligation to his parenting role, and to a sense of connection to and familiarity with their fathers. It was a challenge for children to feel connected to their fathers when contact arrangements were detached from caregiving activities and precluded immersion in each other's daily lives. Lack of effort on the part of fathers to maintain contact or failure to keep arrangements constrained children's feelings of closeness and gave rise to feelings of disappointment and anger. Children demonstrated their capacity to act as agents within their families as they made sense of these relationships for themselves and accepted or rejected their father as a person who could play a meaningful role in their lives. The implications of the findings for promoting positive relationships with nonresident fathers are discussed. (Author abstract)

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