Daughters without fathers: Effects on subsequent intimate relationships
A study of the long-term effects of voluntary father absence, resulting from parental divorce, was conducted with 144 college women, ages 18 through 22. Adhering to Erik Erikson's developmental theory, focus was on the impact of father absence during adolescence (ages 12-16), on identity formation and ability to establish intimate heterosexual relationships. Sixty-two women from divorced families whose fathers permanently left their home prior to their twelfth birthday were compared with eighty-two demographically similar women who were from intact, father-present homes.
Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, the Erikson Psychosocial Stage Inventory, and the Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationships Inventory. It was hypothesized that the two groups would differ significantly in their resolution of Erikson's identity and intimacy stages and in their level of emotional and sexual intimacy. Age at time of father's departure and amount of interaction with him were expected to relate significantly to the overall adjustment of women from father-absent homes.
The level of identity development among the father-absent group was significantly higher than that of the father-present group (p $<$.01). The father-absent group also demonstrated slightly higher sexual intimacy scores and slightly lower emotional intimacy scores than did the father-present group. Age at time of father's departure and amount of interaction with father did not relate to adjustment. However, a significant relationship was identified between the father-absent group's perceptions of their fathers and the level of emotional intimacy these women experienced in heterosexual relationships.
The results are discussed as they pertain to the findings of current divorce research. Directions for further research are offered and implications for treatment are discussed.
Families & family life;
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships