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General overview

Child abandonment is when one relinquishes their claim or interest in their children with the intention being that they don't want to continue taking care of them.

Causes of abandoning children

One of the major causes of child abandonment seems to be poverty. People find that they are not financially capable of looking after their offspring and ultimately end up abandoning them. This act can vary from leaving the child/children with relatives to selling their offspring off, or even worse.

Teenage pregnancies are also a reason for child abandonment as the parent may feel that they are unprepared to raise a child. Financial stressors may also have a major role to play in this decision.

A parent looking after a child may be suffering from a mental health condition themselves, and they may be experiencing abnormal behaviours which result in them abandoning their child/children.

One or both parents may feel overwhelmed with their responsibilities and decide to abandon the family and, ultimately, their offspring.

Other reasons for abandoning children may include superficial issues such as the appearance of the child, the gender of the child or due to the child having physical or mental handicaps.

What is the effect of abandonment on children

Children who have been abandoned do get hurt due to this action being taken by their parent(s).

The impact that this decision has on them is psychological and can include the following emotions:

  • Shock and confusion- especially if the abandonment was sudden and/or unexpected.
  • Shame - the child may feel unworthy and/or unloved and can ultimately suffer from low self-esteem.
  • Guilty - they feel that they may have done something wrong to cause their parent(s) to leave them and that they are at fault.
  • Fear - they worry that they may bond with their new caregiver(s) and they may also end up abandoning them.
  • Grief - they feel sad over the situation and that they may never reunite with their parent(s). Any unresolved grief may carry over when they become adults and can manifest in anxiety or mood disorders such as depression.
These combined emotions can lead to increased stress on the involved child and may result in resentment, general mistrust and anger which tend to carry over into adulthood. This can lead to physical altercations and other negative behaviours such as substance abuse. 

Gender-identity issues may also arise since a father and mother offer sons and daughters specific attributes while growing up. These include a father appreciating and affirming their daughter's femininity and a mother offering maternal moulding. A father needs to be an example to his son as he observes how a man behaves and how he treats women and other men.

Conclusion

Many reasons exist for parents abandoning their children and this can cause long-term effects which may need to be resolved with medication and/or psychotherapy. Any long-term psychological affects should be addressed as soon as possible.

It's very important that young children and adults who were abandoned as children remember that the decision taken by their parent(s) was not their fault and that they shouldn't blame themselves for the parent(s) actions.

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