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Dissertation Title:

The Impact of Fatherlessness on Women Who Experienced Paternal Abandonment in Early Childhood


Tori Zengel Mora

Date, Time & Place:

March 19, 2021 at 4:00 pm


Fatherlessness is an omnipresent and continually growing problem in the United States. The existing research has primarily focused on males. Variables to examine this problem have been imprecise. First, nonresident fathers have been combined with absent fathers. Second, the developmental stages of the abandoned children at the time of the loss have been grouped together. Third, the circumstances of the fathers’ departure have been grouped together as well, combining data from children who became fatherless through military deployment, death, incarceration, and transnational migrations with data from children who have been abandoned by their fathers. The purpose of this interpretative

phenomenological analysis (IPA; Smith et al., 2009) was to explore the lived experience of women who were abandoned by their fathers during early childhood, prior to age 3 years. The results of this study revealed five superordinate themes: Father’s Role in Child’s Life; Feeling Vulnerability in Relationship with Father; Impact of Relationship with Father; Grieving Father’s Absence; and Recommendations for Other Grieving Daughters. The results of this research support concepts from psychoanalytic, object relations, and attachment theories surrounding the connection between the father figure and the internal sense of self, as well as the impact of this primary relationship on future relationships throughout the lifespan. Findings in this study also point to the need for improved clinical responses to both ambiguous grief and father hunger in females.

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, A, 2015
  • Chair: Dr. Oksana Yakushko
  • Reader: Dr. Christine Lewis
  • External Reader: Dr. JoAnn Ponder
  • Keywords: Fatherlessness, Abandonment, Daughters, Childhood, Object Relations, Father Hunger, Ambiguous Grief