How Being Ignored by Dad -- & Not So Much Mom -- Negatively Affects Kids

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It's no secret that parents play an essential role in in their kids' development. This doesn't just mean physically or education wise but also socially as well. According to new scientific findings, there are other negative effects that bad parenting can have on children that many don't realize. A recent study suggests that kids who are rejected by their fathers have a more difficult time forming friendships with their peers. 


Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence explored whether or not parental rejection can have a significant outcome on things like social anxiety and the formation of friendships. In their study, researchers found that kids who had been rejected by their fathers had more social anxiety than children who had not endured this paternal rejected. 

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Scientists also found that this social anxiety made it significantly harder for the kids to form meaningful, lasting friendship as children as well as later in life. "We found that father rejection predicted increases in adolescents' social anxiety, even when we controlled for social anxiety at an earlier time. In turn, this predicted increases in loneliness later on," study conductor Hio Wa "Grace" Mak told Science Daily. "This suggests that fathers' rejecting attitudes toward their adolescent children may make them more nervous about approaching social situations, which in turn is related to more social isolation and feelings of loneliness."

To conduct their study, scientists combed over data from 687 two-parent families who had kids in middle school. They assessed the families three different times, while the children were in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Ultimately they found that rejection by both mother and the father definitely made children feel more lonely but it was only the father's rejection that resulted in social anxiety. 

"We found that mother rejection, father rejection and the overall family climate all affect adolescents' friendship quality and loneliness," said Mak. "Additionally, we found that father rejection, but not mother rejection, predicted changes in social anxiety. Fathers aren't usually included in family research, so it's important to know more about fathers and how they influence adolescent friendship and loneliness."

Researchers believe that rejection from fathers leads kids to feel afraid of rejection from their peers. This, coupled with the growing social anxiety, can seriously hinder the development of interpersonal relationships in young teens. 

Although this study is certainly an important look at not commonly addressed family dynamics, the authors of the study want to use the information to create improved intervention strategies. Researchers believe that extending better help and resources to adolescents with social anxiety as well as reinforcing the importance of father, child relationships, can seriously help curb these issues. 

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Additionally, they seek to find ways to help kids struggling with these issues build better relationships with their peers. "Often, when we try to intervene and help promote positive peer relationships, we focus on the school setting, where a lot of these friendships are taking place," said study co-author Gregory M. Fosco. "I think these findings suggest that we should also reach out to families to help them support this sense of belonging and connection. We might be overlooking the family as an important piece of cultivating these healthy peer relationships."

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