Today is Fathers Day. I am moved to right this post on the importance of African American Fathers in the lives of their children in general and specifically as prevention of early heavy substance use and early intervention. I have spent the past 5 years counseling African American adolescents and emerging adults with Substance Use Disorders. Nearly 100% percent of the young men I work with have early onset heavy marijuana use (before age 16). Nearly 100% of them have a poor to no relationship with their father. Is this coincidental?
In the book, I Don't Want To Talk About It, author Terrence Real indicates that the absence of fathers in son’s lives can play a major role in the son developing "Male Depression." The early symptom of male depression includes: anger; rage; and heavy substance use. The substances are used to medicate the anger and rage. The young men I work with could easily meet the criteria for male depression.
What about the importance of fathers in the life of African American Daughters? In the book, What Ever Happened To Daddy's Little Girl?: The Impact Of Fatherlessness On Black Women, author Jonetta Rose Barras describes the impact of fatherless on daughters. According to Barras, young daughters often go through "the search." each time the doorbell or phone rings she wonders and is hoping that it is her father reaching out. As she grows older there may be a period of promiscuity. According to Barras, the promiscuity is not so much about sex, it’s about magical thinking. "If my father discovers how desirable I am, maybe he will come back into my life." This period is often followed by dating older partners as an unconscious desire to be near her father. Unfortunately, relationships with older partners could be the teen girls’ premature entry into adulthood, including: early sex, teen pregnancy and drug use. It is also well documented that the absence of fathers also increases the risk of incest and/or childhood sexual abuse for young daughters. Many teen girls may start to use drugs early to cope with the emotional pain of the absence of her father and the consequences of that absence as discussed in this paragraph.
Addictions counselor reading this post should put efforts into involving fathers in the addictions treatment of teens seeking recovery and make sure the impact of fatherlessness, where it exists, is discussed in treatment.