The father's role in child development and in the etiology of child maltreatment is examined in the context of families with absent fathers. Child maltreatment is defined, including subtle forms of emotional abuse and neglect, with an emphasis on the importance of the father's function in the family, which is generally ignored in the child abuse literature. The causes and consequences of paternal neglect or absence are contrasted with those of effective fathering. Not only do fathers have an influence--positive or negative--on how their children grow up, but they can affect the mother's ability to function adequately; thus, fathers can contribute to abuse even when they are absent. The development of sex-role behavior and cognitive and social functioning in children is discussed. Suggestions are presented for intervention in families with absent or abusive fathers, and guidelines are provided for training fathers in effective parenting. 1,122 references.
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