THE IMPACT OF ABSENTEE PARENTHOOD ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT
Children’ indiscipline is a problem that has become common in most of Nigerian primary schools. However, discipline of the children in primary schools is not an aspect of the school systems alone. Parents have a role to play in shaping child’s development through the process of nurturing. However, many parents remain absent from their children as they engage in other activities. Using the attachment theory as proposed by John Bowlby, the study explored the relationship between absentee parenthood and the development of children in primary schools in Lagos State-Nigeria. The study used the correlational study design and the target population was all child with a record of indiscipline in Lagos State. The sample population was obtained by stratified random sampling whereby, 200 children were selected from ten primary schools in different classes in the State. The researcher used a questionnaire as a tool for data collection. Both descriptive and inferential methods of data analysis were used to analyze data. The findings of the study show that younger participants in forms one and two were affected by the absence of their parents more than those in forms three and four. Majority of participants as represented by 35.7% who expressed emotional parental neglect also expressed hatred for school rules and elders, and reported having engaged in different forms of indiscipline while in school. The study found strong positive correlation coefficients of 0.853 with a p-value of 0.013 which is less than 0.05 at 95% confidence level between absentee parenthood and the challenges faced by the respondents. It was expected that the findings of this study would be useful in making parents understand the need to accord their children more quality time while at home. Based on the findings, it was recommended that, employers, social organizations and churches should educate parents on the need to create more quality time by being emotionally present to their children.
1.1. Background to the Study
Primary schools in Nigeria are the aboard of thousands of children, whose needs cannot be ignored or wished away without future dire consequences to both the children and the world at large. Cases of misbehavior in primary schools have become very common and although school administrators are doing a lot to contain the situation, there is still much more that need to be accomplished in order to reduce misbehavior in Nigerian primary schools to negligible levels. Cases of homosexuality, lesbianism, truancy, sexual immorality, delinquency, drug abuse, devil worship and many other cases of misbehavior have become very common in our primary schools in spite of the efforts being made by the school administrators, (Biu, 2011).
Misbehavior in schools is not a new phenomenon. From a global perspective children have manifested cases of misbehavior in various parts of the world. Holland and Cavanaugh (2000) noted there was a high rate of misbehavior in schools in the U.S., especially among the children of between 16 and 17 years, whom he claimed were at their peak of adolescence. The school administration was concerned with the high rate of children taking drugs and involved in sex. Serious cases of bullying in primary schools drove Olweus (1993) to conduct a study in a Swedish university with approximately 21000 children to establish the possible causes of such high rate of indiscipline in Swedish schools. He found out that 60% of boys involved in bullying had unstable backgrounds.
In Nigeria there have been cases of indiscipline in primary schools ranging from school absconding, name calling of teachers by children, fights among children and theft to serious cases of misbehavior such as riots in and outside the school compounds, drug abuse, sexual immorality, rape, bullying of other children and especially new comers, truancy, burning of schools and even murder of fellow children. A case in point; in Upper hill Primary School in Abuja- Nigeria, a deputy school captain perished while trying to save his fellow children from a burning dormitory that was believed to have been set on fire by the children. At Nyeri high school, some school children locked prefects in their cubicle, poured petrol and set the room on fire, killing four of them, (Biu, 2011).
In Lagos State, 68 children died in an arson attack at Kyanguli Primary school in 2001 that was orchestrated by other children in the same school. In2008, children from Tala Boys in Lagos State stormed the neighboring Mackenzie Educational Centre and beat up its children. In the same year, Lagos School children attacked Kithaayoni Mixed School and injured a number of children. In September 2012, girls from Mua primary connived with boys of Ngelani primary school and successfully sneaked them into the dormitories at night where a sexual orgy ensued from around seven in the evening until the early hours of the following day, (Biu, 2011).
However, it is not only the schools that have the responsibility of inculcating and maintaining good behavior among the children. Parents too have the responsibility to ensure that their children are well behaved. In their role as nurturers, the parents are expected to instill discipline into their children particularly by being emotionally present to them and avoiding as much as possible to reward negative behaviors. Parents are being faced with a serious challenge when it comes to bringing up their children, and as it was observed by Skinner (1969), most human behavior is learned through operant conditioning, just as a sculptor shapes a lump of clay. Parents therefore play a major role in determining the discipline of their child once in primary school. Parental emotional presence to growing children has been established by many theorists like Mahler (1975) and Ainsworth (1978) as a very powerful force in shaping the character of children.
John Bowlby’s attachment theory (2009) is significant in revealing the need for parental emotional warmth to children and shows how its absence may breed children with serious emotional imbalances. According to Bowlby, parental emotional presence to children involves availing quality time, being passionate and expressing keen interest to their needs and being present to them by providing the necessary warmth, tender care and love; protecting them from emotional and psychological pain and being kind and supportive to them. This means it is not so much the amount of time the parent stays with the child, but how loving and caring the parent is to the child while they are together. Proponents of this theory encourage parents to spend as much time as possible with their children, and the encounter to be as loving, caring and indicative of parental emotional presence as possible.
In a longitudinal research conducted in the United States by Santrock (2008) on the need for children whose parents were always away revealed that, parents with poor working conditions such as long working hours and lack of autonomy at work are likely to be more irritable at home. According to Santrock such parents may engage in less effective parenting skills than their counterparts who have better working conditions or who stay at home with their children. Such parents, although physically present, may not accord the warmth necessary for the positive growth of their children. Their presence could be abusive thus impacting negatively on the children and was detrimental to their growth. However, his finding did not have a direct link between the child’s development who lacked parental emotional presence and the discipline of children in primary schools.
Researching in Uganda for his doctoral dissertation, Kiyingi (2012) found out that, boys who lacked parental emotional presence missed the parental warmth which has a unique role in their lives. The parents’ presence, according to Kiyingi, enhances in the boy child the confidence and masculine skills which are crucial for adult life. On the contrary lack of a warm relationship between the parent and his children could breed adults who are less confident and with an insecure personality. In Nigeria, similar views are expressed by Biu (2011) who states that, the absentee parenthood to children may cause them serious psychological imbalances. From her research in some Nigerian primary schools, Biu (2011) concurs with Mahler and Ainsworth on the need for parental emotional presence in molding a holistic adult. She laments that, Nigerian parents have become so preoccupied in the pursuit for wealth that being emotionally present to their children has become a huge challenge. Biu feels that, Nigerian parents are so much intent on amassing much wealth in order to leave their children “comfortable”, when they die, but most of these children squander all the wealth soon after their parents are dead. For Biu, what matters is not what we leave for our children, but what we leave in our children; parental emotional love.
Of concern therefore in this study is to establish whether the absentee parenthood to children has any impact of the behaviour of child in primary schools. This research therefore aims at determining the impact off absentee parenthood and how it influences the character of children during their adolescence period in primary schools.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
Misbehavior in primary is on the rise and efforts to contain it do not seem to bear much fruit. Due many socio-economical strains being experienced in families today, many parents have become absent from their children. Yet parents play a significant role in shaping the children’s behavior. From attachment theories emotional attachment mediates in child’s development. However, few studies have looked at the relationship between absentee parenthood and the indiscipline of the children.
Studies that have been conducted have been general without specific focus on behavior. For example Kiyingi (2012) focused on how lack of paternal affection affect child boys, while Biu (20 11) examined general causes of indiscipline in primary schools. This research therefore sought to find out the impact off absentee parenthood on the child’s development in primary schools in Lagos State. If this problem remains unresolved it may lead to children who misbehave in primary schools.
1.3. Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to establish whether absentee parenthood to children has any effect on the child’s development in primary schools in with an aim of establishing what can be done to improve on the parental emotional presences.
1.4. Objectives of the Study
The objectives of the study were:
- To establish if there are children with absent parents in primary schools of Lagos State.
- To find out the challenges faced by children in primary schools with absent parents.
- To find out the impact of parental absence on the child’s development in primary schools in Lagos.
- To establish what can be done to encourage emotional presence of parents to their children
1.5. Research Questions
The following research questions were pertinent to this study:
- To what extent are parents absent to their children?
- What challenges do children with absent parent face in primary schools?
- In what ways does absence of parents affect child’s development in Lagos State?
- How can parents of Lagos State be encouraged to be emotionally present for their child?
1.6. Significance of the Study
Children who grow up in a warm environment where parents accord them quality time express more emotional stability and are likely to maintain discipline in the schools contributing to their good performance. On the contrary those who lack emotional care in their earlier years manifest various forms of maladjustments, which may lead to indiscipline later as children, leading to poor performance and antisocial behaviour. However, this can only be achieved through empirical study. This research that aims at establishing the relationship between absentee parenthood and the behaviour of child is therefore justified.
From the findings of this study, important information on how parents should relate with their children and how school administrators should deal with child who manifest weird characteristics could be established. This knowledge could help parents see the need to be more present to their children. The findings could also help the school administrators handle cases of indiscipline among the child child with more objectivity. The Ministry of education may also use these findings to enhance the teacher- child rapport in primary schools; empower the Counseling Department in schools with more resources and help them to create a better leaning environment for the children in their schools. This study may help the children in their child age to understand some of the psychological complications they experience during their adolescence could be the outcome of the lack of emotional support from their parents prior to or during their adolescence period.
1.7. Scope and Limitations of the Study
The study was carried out only on children in primary schools in Lagos. The study mainly concentrated on cases of indiscipline perceived to be occasioned by emotional parental absence to their child only in the state of Lagos. The researcher limited his population to only children in primary schools. The instrument for interviews was formulated in way that it controlled for all other extraneous variables