It has been acknowledged that attachments developed in childhood and adolescence (especially parent-child relationships) have a significant impact on individuals’ ability to develop relationships with other people (especially when it comes to partnerships) (DelPriore & Hill, 2013). Nonetheless, there are still various gaps in this area. This qualitative study will examine the impact paternal absence has on the way females (who were abandoned by their fathers in their childhood or adolescence) develop their intimate relationships.
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The target population of this research will be African women aged between 25 and 40. The eligible participants will have lower and middle socioeconomic status. Clearly, the females who have experienced fatherlessness will take part in the study. At that, those having mental health symptoms or emotional trauma will not be eligible for this study to avoid certain ethical issues.
It is necessary to note that this research is of considerable significance to the field of General Psychology. First, it addresses some aspects of the individual’s development as well as people’s behavior, needs, and beliefs. Furthermore, the qualitative study will refine such theoretical frameworks as Attachment Theory, Erikson’s Psychological Development Theory, and Social Learning Theory, as well as the way these frameworks can be applied in the case under consideration.
Finally, new insights into people’s attitudes and perspectives will be voiced, which can facilitate the scholarly discussion of issues associated with this research topic. The central concepts of this research are intimate relationships and paternal absence. Intimate relationships can be defined as a union of two people that is characterized by the stability and satisfaction of the two individuals who often try to achieve certain mutual outcomes (Johnson & Anderson, 2015). Paternal absence can be defined as the absence of the biological father (as well as any man in the role of a father) in the life of the child, which can be a result of a divorce, separation (when the parents cohabited), or even short-term intimate relationship (Pougnet, Serbin, Stack, Ledingham, & Schwartzman, 2012).
As has been mentioned above, researchers have addressed the issues associated with paternal absences and females’ ability to develop intimate relationships. Makusha, Richter, Knight, Van Rooyen, and Bhana (2013) claim that the paternal absence may affect adult females’ expectations in their own intimate relationships, but women tend to be also influenced by certain social, cultural, and economic aspects.
DelPriore and Hill (2013) explore the way the absence of a father affects the sexual behavior of adult females. It is also clear that the fear of being abandoned (just like their mothers were) shapes the way adult women develop their intimate relationships. Nonetheless, the exact strategy chosen by females has received little attention so far. For instance, it is unclear why women who have experienced their father’s absence tend to avoid or sabotage their intimate relationships, move from relationship to relationship, and seek for flaws in their partners. It is also important to shed more light on particular challenges these women face in their intimate relationships due to parental absence.
Research Problem Background
The review of the literature shows that researchers have examined various facets and aspects of such concepts as paternal absence and its impact on adult people’s emotional and psychological state, behavior, and perspectives. It is noteworthy that Culpin, Heron, Araya, Melotti, and Joinson (2013) stress that the paternal absence should be regarded as a multifaceted phenomenon that includes preceding and following socioeconomic and other circumstances rather than be confined to the emotional response to the absence of the father.
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This view is consistent with the findings provided by Nduna, Jewkes, Dunkle, Jama Shai, and Colman (2012) who claim that parental absence is not necessarily the major factor contributing to the development of depressive symptoms in females. Halford and Sweeper (2013) reveal the correlation between experiences associated with parental absence and such psychological states as anxiety and depression. Wallerstein, Lewis, and Packer Rosenthal (2013) state that absent father issues often result in delinquent behavior in adolescence that may persist into adulthood if mothers do not start paying closer attention to their daughters.
As far as the correlation between parental absence and intimate relationship development, this area has been explored from different angles. For example, DelPriore and Hill (2013) claim that the absence of a father negatively affects adult women’s sexual decision making. Pougnet et al. (2012) state that experiencing parental absence is often associated with similar behavior in people’s adulthood as many abandoned daughters become single mothers. Rutten et al. (2015) also state that the experiences associated with the absence of a father affect the way adult women develop their attachments, which has a considerable impact on their intimate relationships. Doron et al. (2012) emphasize that childhood experiences may affect females’ attachment patterns.
Finally, the parental absence and development of intimate relationships are viewed from a wider perspective. Researchers pay attention to the way societies affect females’ choices. For instance, Makusha et al. (2013) stress that women who have been abandoned by their fathers are often affected by these experiences, but societal norms, as well as some economic and cultural factors, influence their behaviors and attitudes towards intimate relationships development. Jamieson (2012) also argues that the shift in societies’ attitudes towards the nature of intimate relationships has a significant effect on women’s choices.
This study addresses a number of concepts, which require the use of several theoretical frameworks as the theoretical foundation of the research. Clearly, Attachment Theory is the central theoretical paradigm that will be utilized. It has been acknowledged that the attachment patterns developed in people’s childhood often affect the way individuals develop attachments in their adult life. Rutten et al. (2015) concentrate on the development of attachments in adulthood and claim that they influence people’s connectedness and autonomy. Doron et al. (2012) also explore the peculiarities of adult attachments with a focus on attachment-related avoidance and anxiety.
Another obvious choice is Erikson’s Psychological Development Theory that describes eight stages in people’s life. The stages of trust/mistrust, autonomy/doubt, and intimacy/isolation are specifically relevant to this study. La Guardia, Nelson, and Lertora (2014) employ Erikson’s framework and claim that daughters who have been abandoned by their fathers may lose their ability to trust males in their adult lives. Clearly, experiences associated with the absent father affect the stage of intimacy vs. isolation.
Apart from these theories focusing on the individual level, it is possible to use a broader perspective to unveil the way societal norms affect women’s choices and attitudes concerning their intimate relationships. The Social Learning Theory will be instrumental in addressing this aspect. This theory holds it that people’s behavior and attitudes are considerably shaped by the existing societal norms. Jamieson (2012) uses this theoretical framework and states that females often develop certain views on such issues as intimate relationships, childbearing, and so on in terms of the values and traditions existing in their societies. Makusha et al. (2013) also find the correlation between social factors and females’ choices associated with their intimate relationships.
Contributions to Theory
It is possible to note that this study will not test any existing theories or generate a new theoretical framework. However, this research will contribute to theory by refining some theoretical paradigms within the scope of General Psychology. Attachment Theory will be refined through the focus on attachment development in adulthood that has appeared in the lenses of some researchers (such as Rutten et al. (2015), Doron et al. (2012), and others).
This study will also explore the link between attachment formation and some issues associated with stages of the individual’s development. Erikson’s theory will also be refined through further examination of the link between such stages as trust vs. mistrust and intimacy vs. isolation. Besides, the link between the three theoretical paradigms can be found as this study will look into the balance between individual experiences and social factors.
As for the theoretical implications of this study, it is necessary to point out that the balance between the use of quite different theoretical frameworks can be found. The literature review shows that researchers tend to use either attachment theory (or some developmental paradigms) or social learning theory. For instance, Rutten et al. (2015) use the former while Makusha et al. (2013) employ the concepts of social learning theory. This study will combine the concepts of individual development and the social development of theoretical frameworks.
Apart from the theoretical implications mentioned above, this study is associated with some practical implications. For example, this research can be the first step in developing particular strategies for practitioners who will help females address their issues related to the development of intimate relationships. Johnson and Anderson (2015) stress that practitioners may help couples and females avoid or address conflicts to improve or maintain their intimate relationships.
This study can also provide insights into the way relationships can be improved. The major effect can be achieved by enabling females to identify their behaviors and attitudes that have adverse effects on their intimate relationships. In a broader context, this study can be instrumental in increasing the number of healthy relationships nationwide or even globally.
Any scholarly research should be consistent with the corresponding ethical codes and regulations. This study follows all the major ethical regulations. For instance, the participants will be provided with the Informed consent form that will include some relevant information concerning the research. All participants will be ensured that they have an opportunity to withdraw from the study at any point. Furthermore, the participants will have the opportunity to ask any questions or address the researcher on any issue related to the research after the completion of interviews. The bias associated with the data analysis in qualitative research is addressed through bracketing.
Tufford and Newman (2012) claim that bracketing ensures that the researcher’s personal experiences and biases do not affect the research. Clearly, data collection and analysis, as well as reporting and plagiarism-associated, issues will be addressed through compliance with ethical codes and regulations. Finally, it is clear that some questions can be challenging for females who have been abandoned by their fathers as the interview can bring sadly or even painful memories. Nonetheless, the participants will be informed about the purpose and possible outcomes of the study, which may encourage females to share and focus on the implications of the research rather than past painful emotions and experiences.
Culpin, I., Heron, J., Araya, R., Melotti, R., & Joinson, C. (2013). Father absence and depressive symptoms in adolescence: Findings from a UK cohort. Psychological Medicine, 43(12), 2615-2626.
DelPriore, D.J., & Hill, S.E. (2013). The effects of paternal disengagement on women’s sexual decision making: An experimental approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(2), 234-246.
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Doron, G., Moulding, R., Nedeljkovic, M., Kyrios, M., Mikulincer, M., & Sar-El, D. (2012). Adult attachment insecurities are associated with obsessive compulsive disorder. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 85(2), 163-178.
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