Emotionally Unavailable Father: Understanding the Impact on Child Development
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Emotionally Unavailable Father: Understanding the Impact on Child Development

What is an Emotionally Unavailable Father?

An emotionally unavailable father is a term used to describe a father who is physically present but emotionally distant in the relationship with their child. This type of father may not be actively involved in the child’s daily life and may not show interest or engagement in the child’s emotional needs or well-being. An emotionally unavailable father may not provide emotional support, validation, or affection to the child, leaving the child feeling neglected and unloved. This can result in a range of negative consequences for the child’s emotional and mental well-being, such as low self-esteem, difficulty forming healthy relationships, and feelings of abandonment and rejection. The term “absent father syndrome” is also often used to describe the negative impact of an emotionally distant dad on child development.


In-Depth Analysis


Identifying and Recognizing Emotionally Unavailable Fathers

father emotionally unavailable

  • A father who is physically present but emotionally distant rarely engages with his children or shows interest in their lives. This type of father may not be involved in the child’s daily life and may not attend school events or extracurricular activities.


  • A father who is always working and unavailable to spend time with his children. This type of father may prioritize his career over his family and may not make time for his children.


  • A father who is preoccupied with his own problems and unable to provide emotional support to his children. This type of father may struggle with mental health issues or addiction, and as a result, may not be able to emotionally support his children.


  • A father who is emotionally or physically abusive causes trauma and emotional distance in the relationship. This type of father may use verbal or physical abuse to control and intimidate the child, leading to a fear of expressing emotions and a lack of trust in the relationship.


Six Types of Emotionally Absent Fathers

emotionally absent father who is overwhelmed

It’s important to note that emotional unavailability can also be affected by different factors such as mental health, trauma and many other personal issues.

There are many types of unavailable fathers, each with their own set of potential effects on children. In this blog post, we’ll explore the six types of unavailable fathers and their impact on children.

  1. The ABSENT Father

The absent father is physically or emotionally absent from their child’s life. They may have left the family, passed away, or simply be emotionally distant. Children with absent fathers can struggle with feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and insecurity.

  1. The ABUSIVE Father

The abusive father may be physically or emotionally abusive towards their child. They may use power and control to dominate their child, leading to feelings of fear and inadequacy. Children with abusive fathers can experience long-term emotional and psychological trauma.

  1. The PASSIVE Father

The passive father is emotionally unavailable or disengaged from their child’s life. They may not provide emotional support or guidance, leaving the child feeling unsupported and alone. Children with passive fathers can struggle with a lack of confidence and self-esteem.


The performance-based father places a high value on achievement and success, leading their child to feel like they must constantly perform and achieve to gain their father’s approval. Children with performance-based fathers can struggle with a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt if they feel they cannot meet their father’s expectations.

  1. The ANTAGONISTIC Father

The antagonistic father may be hostile or competitive towards their child, leading to feelings of insecurity and resentment. Children with antagonistic fathers can struggle with a lack of trust in others and feelings of resentment.

  1. The EMPOWERING Father

The empowering father provides emotional support, guidance, and encouragement to their child. They empower their child to develop a positive sense of self and achieve their goals. Children with empowering fathers can develop a sense of self-confidence and a belief in their own abilities.

It’s important to note that every family situation is unique, and the impact of a father’s behavior can vary from child to child. It’s important for fathers to be aware of their behavior and the potential impact it can have on their children.


Effects of Emotionally Unavailable Father on Child’s Development

Impact on Child Development distant father

Trust Issues

Children who are raised by emotionally unavailable fathers may struggle to form healthy relationships in adulthood. They may have trouble trusting others and may find it difficult to open up and be vulnerable. This can lead to a lack of close friendships and romantic relationships, as well as problems with intimacy. This lack of trust and difficulty in forming healthy relationships can also lead to a higher likelihood of being in emotionally or physically abusive relationships.

Low self-esteem

An emotionally distant dad may also contribute to a child’s low self-esteem. Children who do not receive emotional support or validation from their dad may not feel valued or respected. This can lead to a lack of confidence and self-worth, which can have a negative impact on their overall well-being. Children may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which can lead to self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-harm.

Feelings of abandonments

Children of emotionally unavailable fathers may also struggle with feelings of abandonment and rejection. They may feel that their father does not care about them and may have a hard time understanding why he is emotionally distant. This can lead to feelings of anger and resentment, which can be difficult to process and move past. These feelings of abandonment can also lead to a lack of self-worth and feeling undeserving of love and affection.

Impact on child’s mental health

An emotionally distant dad can also have a negative impact on a child’s mental health. Children who do not receive emotional support or guidance may struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They may also struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can further exacerbate their mental health issues.


How to Heal from an Emotionally Unavailable Father?

It is important to understand that healing from an emotionally unavailable father is a process and it will take time. It is also important to note that healing is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, there are some steps that can be taken to begin the healing process.

Seek therapy or counselling

One way to start healing is by seeking therapy or counselling. A therapist can help you process your feelings and provide you with the tools you need to cope with the emotional impact of an emotionally unavailable father. They can also help you to develop healthy coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with difficult emotions. Therapy can also help individuals understand the impact of their childhood experiences and how they may have shaped their current coping mechanisms and relationships.

Join support group

Another way to heal is by connecting with others who have experienced similar issues. Joining a support group can be a great way to connect with others who understand what you are going through. It can also be a helpful way to gain new perspectives and find encouragement and support. Support groups can also provide a safe space to share feelings and experiences, which can help individuals feel less alone in their struggles.


It is also important to practice self-care and self-compassion. This can include activities such as exercise, journaling, mindfulness, and hobbies that bring joy and relaxation. Engaging in self-care practices can help individuals cope with difficult emotions and improve overall well-being.


Emotionally Distant Dad- Video

Video Credits: Kati Morton


Help for Emotionally Unavailable Father

help for emotionally unavailable father

There are several organizations in Singapore that provide support and resources for parents and fathers who may be struggling with emotional unavailability or other related issues. Some of these organizations include:

  • The Family Service Centre: This organization provides counseling and support services for families, including parenting programs and workshops to help fathers develop strong, healthy relationships with their children.


  • The Counselling and Care Centre: This organization offers counseling and therapy services for individuals and families, including parenting support and guidance.



  • Silver Ribbon (Singapore): This organization provides support and resources for individuals and families dealing with mental health issues, including emotional unavailability.

It’s important to note that some of these organizations may have waiting lists or limited availability, and it’s always best to check with the organization directly for the most up-to-date information and resources.

It’s also worth mentioning that these organizations can provide help not only for the fathers but also for the mothers and families who are struggling with the emotional unavailability of a parent, as well as other related issues.

Also Read our blog on 12 Effects Emotionally Distant Fathers Have on Their Daughters



Growing up with an emotionally unavailable father can be challenging, but it is possible to heal and move forward. It’s important to understand that the issue is not your fault and that you deserve to be loved and supported. By seeking therapy and connecting with others, practising self-care, and understanding the impact of the emotionally unavailable father on child development, you can learn to cope with the emotional impact and build a healthier and happier life for yourself.


Written by: Maryam
Preschool Teacher
BA Early Childhood Education with Psychology

1 Comment

  • Martin December 27, 2023

    The way I coped with my emotionally absent father was to look around for a substitute. Every Sunday, my dad used to drop me off at a swimming pool and then go to the pub. From the age of 8, I would look forward to this. I would quickly try to latch onto a group or family with a father figure in the group, I would seek physical contact especially because I was never hugged by my dad. This put me in a very vulnerable position several times, and I remember once an abuse incident.

    Still, at the age of 60, I attach to men I see as confident and strong/supportive and this can cause problems. I can expect too much from relationships. I have worked hard in therapy to deal with this feeling of loss inside me, but I remember clearly how desperate I felt to gain the approval of another man, because my father rejected me, so I rejected him back.

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