Child abandonment is a reality. The reasons for this tragic occurrence are as diverse and unique as the people involved. Even though it is evident that nothing more could be as devastating for a child, the motivating factors aren’t always wholly ununderstandable. So why do parents abandon their children?
The definition of child abandonment
The abandonment of a child takes place where a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child deserts a child entirely without regard to the child’s physical health, safety, and welfare. Child abandonment also occurs when the parents do not provide the child under their same roof with the care required. While child abandonment typically involves physical abandonment, such as leaving a child at a stranger’s doorstep when no one is home, it may also include extreme cases of emotional abandonment and child neglect, such as when a “work-a-holic” parent offers little or no physical contact or emotional support over long periods of time.
Most common reasons for child abandonment
Another A common cause for child abandonment would be unwanted pregnancies—the most significant factor being rape and pregnancy in minors. Women and girls frequently feel alone and uncertain about what to do in such circumstances. And when it comes to this, parents often react differently to unwanted pregnancy. While one parent may be okay about having or keeping the baby, the other parent just would not be able to accept the baby. They would eventually want to leave the situation sooner or later. The parents of the parents may also be a big factor when it comes to unwanted pregnancies. Especially in the asian society, unwanted pregnancies is seen as very much negative and usually,
Parents who don’t want to be “tied down.”
Some of those who become parents cannot cope with a child emotionally and do not have the emotional maturity to have a child. After all, it’s an immense responsibility and obligation that’s almost impossible to prepare for. Even if you were parents who actively and consciously plan and to have a child, the reality and experience of being a parent can be extremely daunting as a first-timer. Although it can happen anytime, on average, even before the child’s first birthday, child abandonment is more likely to happen. Parents might choose to pick up and leave their responsibilities behind even if the child has grown up to be four or ten years old.
Abandonment as a way to start over for parents with relationship problems
It is important to look at parent relationship issues as a potentially root cause to gain a full understanding of child abandonment. Separations, cheating, complicated divorce proceedings, and conflicts over child support and custody disputes often become so daunting that a parent decides to leave.
Parents having a history of mental health problems.
On another thought, we can’t possibly put the whole blame on the parents because they might be struggling with mental illness. For example, parental mental illness may have come full circle of how their parents raised them with the possibility of the parents being a result of child abandonment or neglect as well. With this history, it may be a complex cycle for the parents to escape because that’s how their parents raised them, and that’s the only way they know how to raise a child. Another factor of mental health that can lead to child abandonment may be depression or post-pregnancy depression, leading to the parents being less caring or affectionate towards their kids.
Lower Socio-Economic status like poverty, marginalisation, and a lack of resources are common reasons why one or both parents would succumb to abandon their child. Financial stress may cause child abandonment as a finality. Still, it may also bring out anger issues from the parents that would negatively and dangerously impact the children, leading to abuse. In some cases, parents genuinely may have no other choice but to pick and choose for the sake of survival. Unfortunately, when they can’t afford to give the appropriate healthcare and education their children deserve, this is still categorised as child neglect.
Drug abuse and alcoholism
Abuse of drugs and social exclusion seems to go hand in hand. If either or both parents struggle with their alcohol or drug consumption, they may also challenge their children’s circumstances. Unfortunately, two forms of abandonment occur in children with alcoholic parents. The first being neglect at home, and sometimes comes the alcohol-related abuse and aggression. The second is physical abandonment.
Effects of abandonment on children
A lack of parental love and care leaves a big void in a child’s life and a painful scar that can last for their lifetime. These are just some of the effects that can stick with the child throughout his or her life as a result of child abandonment and neglect.
- Abusive relationship
- Anxiety Disorders or symptoms
- Attachment Disorders
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Care-taking and Codependency
- Chaotic Lifestyle
- Clingy/needy behaviour
- Compulsive behaviours may develop
- Desperate relationships/relationships that happen too fast
- Disturbances of mood, cannot self-regulate and experiences emotions in extreme
- Extreme jealousy and possessiveness
- Lack of confidence, self-esteem issue
- May be poor at self-soothing
- People-pleasing behaviours to the detriment of self.
- Poor coping strategies
- Relationship problems
- Trust issues
How do we prevent and combat this issue?
Good practices to help prevent child abandonment include providing access to sex education and family planning resources, like contraception.
An NGO like OrphanCare can assist in parental counselling, post-natal support, mental health services, and other community support services such as hosting Reproductive Health talks to youths. These services are for parents at a higher risk of abandoning their children because of age, support, physical ability, mental illness, or financial stress. Some countries also provide several actions to combat child abandonment issue:
- Social assistance
- Day-care facilities
- Mother-baby units
- Family planning services
- Counselling services for the mother or the whole family
- Financial support
- Programmes that focus on high-risk families and child identity
- Parent’ training centres.’
- Helplines to support mothers in need
- Guidance on preventing child abandonment at maternity units
- Social workers in maternity units
- Training hospital staff to recognise and manage these situations and lead them to or provide counselling.