How Does a Parent's Absence Affect Teens?

A teen benefits from a healthful relationship with both of her parents, but circumstances can make it impossible for both parents to be involved. A death, divorce or other event can leave a teen with one parent. If parents are diligent in dealing with the emotional effects this can have on a teen, it might ease the long-term effects of a one-parent household. Counseling, peer support groups, or support of extended family can ease the effects on a teen. A teen can experience everything from cognitive development issues to anxiety when raised in a one-parent household.

Troubled Relationships

When a teen is missing a parent, it affects her relationships with others, too. One issue prevalent in teens without a father is having troubled relationships, according to Edward Kruk, associated professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, writing at He says a teen who feels abandoned by her father develops a poor self-image, and becomes increasingly resentful and afraid of further abandonment. This girl is more likely to engage in premarital sex, aggressive behavior, and use drugs and alcohol.

Cognitive Effects

A teen growing up in a two-parent household performs better academically than a teen who has an absentee parent. Single-parent households are more likely to have teens with lower cognitive ability, according to a 2001 study in the "Journal of Human Resources." A contributing factor to decreased cognition in teens with an absentee parent is lesser parental involvement in a teen's education. One way to combat these factors is by finding support through community involvement, family support or counseling.

Aggression Issues

A teen who is missing a parent might be dealing with resentment, which can show itself in the form of aggression. A fatherly influence in a child's earlier years, which often includes playing and rough-housing with a child, teaches them the appropriate responses and actions for dealing with aggression, according to a 2006 study published on the Child Welfare Information Gateway. When a father is absent, these lessons can go unlearned, and when the child is a teen, he is more likely to be left with an inability to appropriately deal with his own aggression.


A teen living in an absentee-mother household might be prone to bouts of anxiety. A Science Daily article titled, "Absent Mothers Can Cause Hyperactivity and Anxiety in Offspring Later in Life, Mouse Study Finds," suggests that when a child is removed from a mother's care too early in life, anxiety issues develop later. The study involved mice, and early weaning and removal from the mother's care. The thought is that a teen without a mother has not had the nurturing and closeness that a healthy mother-child relationship provides. Along with hyperactivity, anxiety issues are linked to maternal separation. For teens, this can lead to problems with academic performance and social problem.