Being rejected by your father can do greater, long-lasting emotional damage than being rejected by your mother, research finds.
While rejection by either parent is traumatising for children, fathers often have higher prestige and/or power.
Therefore, children can take their father’s rejection harder.
Professor Ronald Rohner, co-author of the study, said:
“In our half-century of international research, we’ve not found any other class of experience that has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does the experience of rejection, especially by parents in childhood.
Children and adults everywhere — regardless of differences in race, culture, and gender — tend to respond in exactly the same way when they perceived themselves to be rejected by their caregivers and other attachment figures.”
Rejection by either parent, or both, has a huge effect on children’s personality.
They tend to become more anxious and insecure.
They may also become more hostile and aggressive towards others.
The pain of rejection often lingers into adulthood, preventing people making strong, trusting relationships with other adults.
The emotional pain can be considerable.
The same parts of the brain are activated for emotional pain as for physical pain, other research has found.
Professor Rohner said:
“Unlike physical pain, however, people can psychologically re-live the emotional pain of rejection over and over for years.”
The results come from a review of over 500 studies.
The studies help to emphasise how inaccurate it is to simply ‘blame the mother’ for children’s behaviour problems.
Professor Rohner said:
“The great emphasis on mothers and mothering in America has led to an inappropriate tendency to blame mothers for children’s behavior problems and maladjustment when, in fact, fathers are often more implicated than mothers in the development of problems such as these.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review (Khaleque & Rohner, 2012).